Hot Desks and Picket Fences: the rise of the Suburban Coworking Space

There’s little doubt at this point that coworking spaces have taken over the world, and it’s easy to see why: the benefits of coworking are numerous. When you think of a typical coworking space, you normally think of sprawling inner-city complexes, but more and more spaces are moving outwards into the suburbs. It doesn’t immediately make sense, but the more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes—many people start freelancing to reduce commute times and costs, and a building in the city-center is likely to be bad on both fronts. A lot of people want affordable coworking spaces closer to their homes, and service providers are happy to accommodate them. 

Inner-city growth is down all over the world, but growth in suburbs and satellite cities is shooting up. There are a few factors behind this: 

  • Inner-city housing prices have skyrocketed, and many simply can’t afford it. In many urban centers, a single family house actually inside the city is well over a million dollars on average. 
  • Many millenials are settling down to have families. They’re a very large generational cohort and they’re now mostly in their late 20s and early-mid 30s, and as they have children they’re seeking to escape hectic inner-city life and have a larger property in a more peaceful area. 
  • We’re spending more and more of our lives being monitored, and suburban properties are much more private and easier to assert control over. You have more space and there are less people, and that can be a crucial oasis for many from our panoptical world. 

It’s not that cities are unpopular (over the last 100 years, urban areas have gone from holding about 20% of the population to about 50%, and experts estimate it’ll be around 68% by 2050) it’s simply that they’re becoming harder to live in and many are choosing to play themselves inside the broader urban area without being in the city itself. 

Which means opportunities for flexible space operators—the same lower property prices and bigger spaces that are pulling new homeowners into the suburbs are extremely tempting. It’s much easier to snag a good deal on a lot of floor space, and your customers are there to make it work. 

Satellite cities are also incredibly popular choices: rather than being in Kolkata, there are now a myriad of coworking spaces in Bidhannagar, which is just outside of the main city. You get all the advantages of being in a city while the downsides are lessened, though it’s probably good to get in fast—in 20–30 years these areas will likely be fully-absorbed by the city around them and might start to suffer the same problems. Still, for now, they’re a happy medium for the coworker looking for something more manageable. 

I don’t think flexible office space is going to abandon the inner-city entirely: there are reasons people congregate there, and those reasons aren’t about to go away any time soon. What I think we’re going to see over the next 3–4 years is a slowdown from the urban flexible space boom we’ve been experiencing since 2014 (though it’ll still track upwards), and an increase in construction of—and demand for—spaces in city suburbs and satellite cities.  

Not everybody can afford Manhattan, but really, that doesn’t need to be a problem.

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