We attended the Global Workspace Association (GWA) annual conference last week in Baltimore.
The GWA is a trade association for members of the workspace-as-a-service industry. Their members are folks from business centers, coworking facilities, executive suites, mobile workforce service providers and other vendors who serve this industry.
The conference sessions were excellent and very informative. But even better was the interaction at breaks. It was great being able to pick the brains of so many workspace-as-a-service owners and operators.
Here's a quick list of our key take aways from the conference:
1. The Consumerization of Workspaces is Happening - Just as employees are increasingly choosing the technology they use (the consumerization of IT), so too are they increasingly choosing where they work. There was an excellent panel discussion on this topic and this shift was discussed in one form or another in almost every session.
2. Large Corporations are Embracing Workspace-as-a-Service - Many examples of large corporations increasing their use of business centers and coworking facilities were presented at the conference. Accenture, for example, said they were planning to substantially increase their use of shared workspaces and announced that 1500 of their New York employees could choose to work from coworking facilities and/or business centers.
3. Hotels are Targeting the Workspace-as-a-Service Market - Marriott Hotels discussed their new meeting spaces they are developing with furniture company Steelcase. They're calling the project Workspring, and the meeting spaces are designed for small to medium sized group collaboration. We've posted in past about hotels pursuing this market and this is another example.
4. The Real Estate Industry is Discovering Workspace-as-a-Service - We met several real estate developers at the conference. They were clearly early adopters, but their presence - as well as other discussions we've been having with real estate professionals - shows that the real estate industry is starting to recognize that the office and workspace market are changing.
5. We Were Impressed by Baltimore - Ok, this is a bit off topic. But the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore is a fun and active area. This is a huge shift from what we remember from visiting Baltimore years ago, and another example of urban renewal happening across the U.S.
Our biggest "ah ha" from the conference was we may be underestimating how quickly large companies are moving to the office-as-a-service model.
We're going to do some more digging this, but it's clear large firms recognize both the economic and employee satsifaction advantages of moving to a more flexible and distributed real estate model.