What Uber Can Tell Us About the Future Workplace


It was only a few years ago that people had to call a cab in advance — sometimes an hour in anticipation of when they would want to be picked up to ensure they’d get a ride.

Then Uber came along and changed things for good. By offering cab service whenever and wherever customers needed, they created a new standard: businesses would have to cater to the schedules of consumers, rather than the other way around.

This is the defining characteristic of the new economy. We’ve seen it with Netflix and movies, with Hulu and TV. And the next major industry to follow this trend in the coming years, we think, is the workplace — with coworking spaces at the center of the shift.

The demand is already there: Freelancers comprised 34% of the workforce in 2014 and are expected to rise to 50% by 2020, and more companies experimenting with alternative workplace arrangements. And the expectations of employers and workers have changed: In 2014, a four-hour response time to emails was deemed good (the point at which about 80% of people were happy). By 2015, this had moved up to about one hour. In 2014, only 4% of people said they expected a response within 15 minutes; by 2015, 14.5% expected that.

Especially as technology makes the brick-and-mortar office and the idea of office hours superfluous, people are adapting to the idea that they do not need to shape their lives around them.

And it continues to make more sense on the employer end, too. Leasing office space is a major risk for companies — especially new ones. Coworking offers a solution, through lower rent and short-term leasing. As more large corporations start to experiment with coworking, office location becomes less centralized overall.

A decentralized office space could allow small companies to grow, and for large companies to meet their need for on-demand service without going overseas. It also means people can benefit from office spaces, like ours, that operate on the outskirts of cities rather than strictly within them.

As the corporate climate continues to move in this direction, there are still a lot of question marks — likely to be filled in by the next generation of Ubers in the world. But one thing seems fairly certain: Employers will have to cater to the 24/7 demands of today’s consumers in order to stay competitive and relevant. And in an economy where everyone expects everything on demand, we can expect the strengthening and widespread use of coworking spaces to ultimately change how we work, and how we live.