Co-working space or shared offices have become a popular solution for startups and freelancers. The Hong Kong Economic Journal recently sat down with Thomas Hui, co-founder of theDesk, a shared-office provider seeking to develop an inclusive professional community among its users, and he discussed how co-working space is shaping the office environment and culture.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
HKEJ: There has been a boom in the shared-office business in recent years, and many traditional real estate developers in Hong Kong have jumped on the bandwagon, launching co-working space on their premises. What do you think about the market at the moment?
A: The shared workspace is certainly setting a trend for the future. But I think the market is becoming polarized; co-working space operators need to understand the risk underlying their business.
For some players in the market, shared-office business seems like a way to make easy money: create a swanky, luxe environment, add a desk, and then rent it out. However, that’s not the way it works.
We think co-working space is not a real-estate business but it is closer to a community business. Apart from offering a flexible shared-office environment, we help users build strong links with our members, neighborhood, and other parties in the startup circle. We also aim to build valuable relationships among our members, large enterprises, and industry experts.
Q: We understand that you create your shared offices with modern and simple designs, and you are not so much into organizing social activities in your space. Why do you take a different approach?
A: There are many shared offices featuring plenty of places to eat, drink, chill out, and party; we call that “co-work 1.0″. What we are promoting now is “co-work 2.0″, as we have seen that the popularity of co-working space is no longer limited to startups and small businesses. More and more traditional businesses and big corporations are moving into it.
Co-working spaces are not only driving change in the office market, they are facilitating the transformation of organizational structure for businesses.
For now, a normal corporate structure consists of various departments organized according to the different functions in the company, akin to the production line design in a factory, where division of labor is adopted to promote efficiency with workers focusing on specific tasks.
I believe companies are switching their structure to become more flexible, organized into project-based teams, with individual employees forming groups according to their initiatives and talents. External collaboration, as well as internal communication, would be of increasing importance for the company’s success.
Our shared office is built and designed to facilitate the transformation, with fewer distractions from bars and ping-pong tables.
And we offer flexible plans and pricing for our users, who are charged monthly based on the number of employees using the office space. Users can decide and adjust the number of employees deployed in the office. We believe this would be a huge appeal for businesses and particularly startups which require a flexible arrangement to resolve challenges from economic fluctuations.
Q: The rise of internet and communication technologies renders the future workplace unrecognizable. What do you think of the remote working practice?
A: I believe businesses still need an office which enables people to work together; yet, people do not need to stay in a fixed location.
For example, a team of workers can easily set up an office in Southern District this month and then move to Central next month. In the future, we may see businesses working in different office locations in morning and afternoon sessions, collaborating with different parties on multiple projects in a single day.
Therefore, our role as a co-working space operator would be helping businesses to gain access to all kinds of talents and connect with suitable partners.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 26
Translation by Ben Ng
[Chinese version 中文版]
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