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Are Co-Working Spaces the Offices of Tomorrow?

Hands typing on the laptop
The idea of a “virtual office” is not as foreign as it sounds. For years, people have been going to coffee shops and other, non-traditional work spaces to get things done. For 11 years, Detroit-based engineer Michael Keith used to wrap up his days doing paperwork at a cafe.Now, technological advancements in telecommuting, like cloud computing, have made virtual office spaces more feasible, and more attractive. More people than ever are freelancing, choosing to work for themselves in virtual offices. In fact, 34% of the entire workforce — a whopping 53 million working Americans — are freelancing, according to a survey from research firm Edelman Berland.

Of these self-employed Americans, about 29.7 million — about 56% — are using virtual offices, as are 20% of wage and salary employees, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In order to meet the new, unique demand for virtual offices, co-working facilities have begun popping up all over. After using a virtual office for 11 years, Keith is now also building his ideal vision of a co-working site in Detroit. His idea, the Office Coffee Shop, will be a place where folks can grab a quick cup of coffee, or even rent an office for an hour for meetings or conference calls.

Across the nation, there are about 800 commercial co-working facilities. In 2011, there were only 300, and in 2008, there were only about 40.

These co-working spaces are quite simple in practice. Detroit’s Office Coffee Shop, for example, allows customers to come in, order drinks, and work, just like a normal cafe might. Those who don’t have an office, but need one, will also be able to rent rooms for just $15 an hour. The shop even has a conference room for rent capable of accommodating 10 to 20 people.

Though working virtually may seem like a preference, there are several benefits. According to Deskmag’s annual Global Coworking Survey, 71% of respondents reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space, 62% said that their standard of work improved in a coworking space, nearly 90% reported an increase in self-confidence, 70% of coworkers felt healthier than they did working in a traditional office, and 64% are better able to complete tasks on time.

As technological innovations continue to make work more accessible, virtual offices are likely to become more prominent, and as these advantages indicate, they may make the workforce even stronger.

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