It’s estimated this year freelancers in the U.S. make up 35% of the workforce, and total around 55 million people. In Europe, freelance employment has increased 45% percent since 2014.
Yoga, 3D printers, and ‘free-range’ co-working: the changing work environment today
Globally, PeoplePerHour, an online job site, predicts there will be an increase of at least 3-4 percent each year of the freelance workforce.
The gig economy is definitely on the rise and changing pretty much everything about how people work. Solo entrepreneurs do their own billing, set their schedules and often work at multiple locations. The freelance workstyle requires versatility and connectivity, tech savvy and the ability to wear multiple hats. Freelancers tend to be their own marketers, project managers and bookkeepers too.
On a day to day basis, it can be a lot for an individual to cover, and working alone doesn’t make it any easier. One major way the gig economy is shaping work is via the outcrop of new work environments. The new workspaces attempt to meet the needs of solopreneurs through a variety of creative and innovative methods.
Creative minds are developing alternative workplaces that capitalize on enabling work to happen while also fostering community and making certain lifestyle amenities available.
For example, NYC-based workspace Primary offers stylish, soundproofed, and modern workspaces along with yoga, meditation, spa services, and a full espresso menu. At their website, they have a Chief Wellness Officer who will answer questions 24/7.
At Primary, they have a living green wall. Green walls are a cornerstone of biophilic design—another fresh new trend. Biophilic design works from the idea that when we are in touch with nature in our environment, we thrive in many ways. Nature helps us reduce stress, focus more and gain a general sense of well-being.
Primary and other holistically minded spaces like it aim to create environments where solopreneurs can create their best work—peaceful and productive environments.
A space like Primary sounds heavenly; one may never want to leave, which is part of its effectiveness. Primary is a co-working space that offers a bespoke experience to their clients. Being able to provide something different than the competition is an important goal of co-working spaces today. In the future, it will probably be even more common for there to be niche co-working spaces, with specific amenities and also ones designed for distinct market sectors, like finance or tech.
A niche style of coworking space is one designed specifically for women. Hera Hub from San Diego is a self-described ‘spa-inspired’ space. It offers relaxing music, fountains, calming colors, inspirational quotes and aromatic candles. The founder wanted to create an environment that appeals to women and supports their entrepreneurial efforts. A place where women professionals, in particular, can flourish.
In Detroit, you can find arts co-working spaces like the 4731 that provide studios for artists and also a metal shop, woodshop and a gallery on location where they show their work.
Co-working spaces also exist that offer access to creative tech. At maker spaces like Matchbox Studio in Indiana, creatives can use the in-house 3D printer and laser cutting tools, gaining access to equipment they could probably not afford on their own.
Another new feature of innovative coworking spaces is the presence of additional business services. At some spaces a lawyer, accountant or notary is on the premises ready to advise the solopreneur on anything they need to know regarding their business.
Some co-working spaces even function as startup hubs and offer the services and features a start up needs—like administrative support staff or a VC on location. For startups who are budget-conscious, this can be an excellent way to cut costs, by sharing those initial expenses with other new companies.
Smart tech is also an up-and-coming feature of workspaces. The smart office is on its way—one will be able to survey the space from afar, have virtual meetings, or change the room temperature with a swipe of the phone.
DIY Work Spaces
For the thrifty freelancer, a DIY approach is gaining popularity in cities around the world. The trend took off in Sweden with Hoffice, a mostly ‘free-range’ coworking model where a group of freelancers band together and share their homes and office space on a set schedule.
Each person takes a turn hosting a small group of other workers. This approach is beneficial for individuals who don’t want the expense of other coworking spaces but want the benefits of community plus free coffee, snacks and Wi-Fi. The DIY co-working space is a sustainable and cost-saving solution for freelancers since they simply pool their resources by sharing space.
The more casual and relaxed atmosphere of working out of someone else’s home can also be quite fun for freelancers. In Sweden, they make sure to keep to a rigorous schedule but also leave time for stretching, walks and even small impromptu dance parties.
For something completely different, Cowork Adventures offers coworking camps and adventure trips for entrepreneurs. The goal of these trips is to share experience, exchange know-how, and gain insight from others. A coworking adventure like this may not produce the most work, but it can provide a way to learn about an industry and acquire a network of contacts.
For the more retiring freelancer, there are also websites that function as virtual co-working spaces. Freelancers Union’s Hives operates as a kind of “virtual watercooler.” At Dribbble, creatives can find a community of designers who are openly sharing their work and providing critique.
New work space solutions provide a lot for freelancers and continue to change and morph as the needs of the solopreneur and marketplace change. It will be interesting to see what the world of work looks like in a few years. One thing is for certain: these new spaces have moved past being just a fad, and may very soon be the default work environments.