Why book a hotel when you can rent a whole apartment on Airbnb?
Why book a taxi when you can share an Uber Pool for a fraction of the price?
Today’s sharing economy has become the preference for many people. On the internet everything is for hire, making the exchange of goods not only accessible but also cost-effective. From clothes-sharing to flat-sharing – idle resources have been monetised to recast the consumer as both the provider and receiver of a growing range of assets. The result: the growth of new communities – because sharing’s caring, right?
To trace back to the beginning let’s rewind to 2006’s Time magazine’s selection of “You”. The magazine recognised the millions of people who contributed user-generated content to websites such as Facebook and YouTube, which was the start of a sharing economy based on building stronger communities and increasing trust between providers and users. Since then, PWC has projected growth of the sharing economy from $15 billion in 2014 to $335 billion in 2025, so it’s safe to say it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
However, ‘sharing’ is not a new concept for business – so why are so many people rethinking the value of ownership? The answer’s simple: technology. In a digital world, technology has enabled people to easily forge new connections, making transactions between consumers affordable, convenient and accessible. If people are at the heart of the sharing economy, then technology is the vehicle that makes it possible. Don Norman illustrated this transition point in The Invisible Computer in 1998 by stating “when technology delivers basic needs, user experience dominates”. In other words, technology has created experiences by enabling customers to do what they are already doing, but better.
So, how does this translate to the workplace?
It’s no secret that the sharing economy has directly impacted office spaces. Like booking an Uber or AirBnB, opting for a flexible office has become the default option for businesses of all sizes. Rather than location, location, location, coworking spaces have been redefined from a temporary option to a sought-after environment designed to increase productivity, innovation, and collaboration. Championing itself as a disruption revolutionary, WeWork has created ‘a world where people work to make a life, not just a living’. How? By placing the customer experience at the heart of the office ecosystem.
From WeWork’s Summer Camp to the exclusive events and services available to the Workspace community, digital nomads are stepping outside of conventional styles of working to blur the lines between work and life. As more than half of adults believe that access is the new ownership, this opens up an arena of possibility for flexible offices, but the focus must remain on creating better actual ‘experiences’ to attract and retain customers. Entering a building with a fob; accessing Wi-Fi in the lobby; hot-desking in your office; hosting a meeting with clients in the meeting room with video conferencing. None of these daily interactions would be possible without the advancement of technology. Yet, all these experiences are expected by businesses in flexible offices.
Experiences shaped by technology
So, it’s not about the technology, but how we use it to empower our people. Customer demands and preferences are evolving rapidly. As businesses, we need to change with it to attract and retain customers with seamless and intuitive digital interactions. Flexible offices must create an immersive digital journey with user experience at the core and technology must dissolve into the background to create seamless user experiences.
Does that mean that technology shouldn’t be the focus for shared offices? The opposite. Instead, business centres need to think like a tech company. You are not selling the fact that you have market-leading technology (that’s expected), you are selling the benefits that technology offers your customers. Some customers will require a dedicated 10GB circuit, others will simply want a plug and play solution that enables them to browser securely and at fast speeds. Whatever the demands of your customer base, your focus should not be on the amenities your office can offer, but how it will allow your customers to access, experience and share.