Why coworking?
Jennifer L. Moseley-Mertz 
Interior designer and associate, DLR Group

Please identify one trend in your area to watch in the upcoming year.
Coworking, which involves working remotely outside of a typical office setting or working independently within a community space, is becoming increasingly popular. And not just with small startup companies, freelancers and independent professionals. Many established companies are looking for ways to offer coworking spaces, whether through private meeting rooms, open office or community spaces, or cafe-like break rooms. It’s fast becoming recognized as a benefit that can both attract new employees and retain existing ones.

Could you please explain the impact of that trend? 
The greatest pull in the shift toward coworking might be that it offers employees a greater amount of choice. Choice in when and how they work. Some employees prefer to come in early in the morning and leave early in the afternoon. Others want to begin work later in the day and continue into the evening. For some employees, it’s helpful to take an extended break in the middle of the day so they can recharge and then come back to finish their work. Because coworking spaces are generally operable 24/7, employees can tailor their work schedule to suit their individual needs and maximize their productivity. It may also be more convenient for an employee to work in a coworking space due to bad weather or familial needs.

One of the attractions of coworking is that it affords employees the chance to be part of the larger community, to work alongside others who have like-minded goals. Employees who choose to cowork do so among a diverse group of people, driving a culture of increased community, collaboration, learning and sustainability. These interactions allow for people with different skill sets to come together and learn from one another, helping to push a company’s goals forward.

Real estate as a recruiting tool
Abby Conley  
Project manager, JLL  a recruiting tool

Please identify one trend in your area to watch in the upcoming year. 
In Iowa, and specifically Des Moines, we have become quite comfortable finding ourselves on top of various “best-of” lists — most affordable place to live, best place for careers, best quality of life, etc. This has made Iowa an attractive place to invest, whether it’s an existing Iowa-based company growing their workforce or a national company expanding operations into Iowa. This growing investment in Iowa businesses, coupled with low unemployment, is forcing employers to think outside the box to attract the top talent in Des Moines. They are now using real estate as a weapon of mass recruitment. 

Could you please explain the impact of that trend?
It is no secret that the workplace has a big impact on employee attraction and fulfillment. As a result, some employers are now relying on the quality of their offices and amenities as a competitive differentiator. Building the coolest office space in town is a surefire way to attract and retain the best talent, especially the millennials and Generation Z. But you have to be smart about it. 

When it comes to workplace design, there are many things to consider. Do you build an open office with couches and foosball tables, or do you go with a traditional design with private offices? Are sit-stand desks worth the investment? What is a more attractive amenity — an on-site wellness center with locker rooms, or a meditation room? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, though, for workplace design. The answer to these questions will vary depending on your existing workforce and the type of talent you are trying to attract.  

With growing pressure to deliver an attractive and functional workplace, clients should rely on experienced partners and trusted advisers to help make the right decisions. There are many tools a commercial real estate expert can use to help make the process less painful for their clients: a laborshed analysis can assist with site selection and a client’s understanding of local demographics; a utilization study can help determine the right amount, type and configuration of workspaces; and your adviser’s network of contractors, architects and external vendors are invaluable resources to keep a project budget, schedule and scope on track.

What’s one trend to watch in the next 10 years?
Most people think about the impact technology will have on the future workforce — affecting everything from where people work to how they work. We imagine “smart workspaces,” where buildings act like butlers that guide you to the closest parking space and then assign an open workspace based on your tasks for the day.

Technological changes will continue to impact all facets of real estate, from the transaction through design and construction. The cloud will provide a paperless, transparent approach to sourcing deals and closing transactions. Virtual reality will allow us to take a virtual tour of a conceptual design. Artificial intelligence will allow us to analyze a job site and cross-check real-world construction with a digital model. These advancements will require everyone in the industry to become tech experts.

You may think some of this won’t happen in our working lifetime, but the pace of technological change is accelerating. This will make it crucial for companies to partner with someone in the commercial real estate industry that can help them understand and embrace the integration of technology and real estate — or they will very quickly be left behind.   

Coworking branching out
Geoff Wood 
Owner, Gravitate Coworking 

Please identify one trend in your area to watch in the upcoming year.
The modern coworking industry started in San Francisco and, like so many things associated with that city, it has always been identified as something for entrepreneurs and startup companies. While it is still true, the trend we’re watching now is established companies joining coworking communities (sometimes even ditching the idea of a traditional office).

Could you please explain the impact of that trend?
Our coworking community has always been comprised of a high percentage of remote workers. These are typically people who work for established companies in other markets but choose to live in the Des Moines area and recognize the human need to be around other people. As established companies have embraced coworking, we’re seeing them more open to paying for their remote employees' coworking memberships (something that these employees have previously done on their own). In 2018, we participated in a remote-work study, along with six other coworking communities in midsize U.S. cities, that found that 50 percent of remote workers have their membership fees covered by their company.

We’re seeing some established companies use coworking as a low-risk avenue to spin up a local office. In one recent instance, a California-based company that won a major contract in Des Moines has joined our community to provide a workspace for their team members. While they spend significant time on-site with their client, they’re able to test the idea of having a Des Moines presence that serves their other clients more broadly. They don’t have to worry about finding a property that will serve all their needs for the next 60 to 84 months, don’t have to jump through the logistical hoops of contracting for internet service and utilities or even have to purchase office furniture — their workspace is ready to go from day one.

What’s one trend to watch in the next 10 years?
I’m interested to see when/if the large venture-backed chain coworking operators enter our market. Regus has several locations in Iowa, but on the spectrum of shared workspaces their product is closer to “executive suite” than “coworking community.” Companies like WeWork and Industrious seem to have the most aggressive growth plans, yet they haven’t shown up in midsized Midwestern cities yet. They market and advertise their product on a global scale and their rates are far above what we currently see in Iowa. When they do arrive, I’d expect their presence to increase both the awareness of the industry and the revenue per member. It’s also likely that independent operators will see an overall revenue dip, at least initially.