Having overtaken traditional office spaces by storm, co-working sites – at home and abroad – continue to facilitate start-ups, freelancers and organisations, providing benefits that far outweigh the conventional, old models that are fast becoming obsolete, post the pandemic. Best described as membership-based workspaces that relieve employees from the isolation and drudgery of work from home set-ups, spaces such as WeWork, Hubud, COLABS, Regus and many others are just some of the many notable players in the flexible workspace sphere. Co-working and flexible workspaces play a significant role in establishing a community of diverse individuals that share a similar work ethic and ambition, providing a sense of community among like-minded individuals. These facilities combine the work culture of every organization and accentuate it, motivating employees to be more productive, leading to a positive and constructive atmosphere within the co-working community. As a recent graduate working in a popular co-working space in Lahore, Colabs, I can attest to the positive energy and general vibe that you’re thrust into the moment you walk in. In fact, a peer once said that “it smells like a startup.” At Colabs, the community doesn’t just pay for the office space; they pay for networking opportunities, growth-centred workshops and potential collaborations that can propel their career or business. It’s exhilarating witnessing the growth of startups in Pakistan, even in the current climate. It truly is the survival of the fittest, and I’m eager to see what the next five years bring to the table. According to popular studies, individuals are thriving by an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. Unlike traditional workspaces, these spaces continuously improve their procedures and add value to the co-working experience. According to Harvard Business Review, a well-designed work environment can have higher levels of thriving members. They suggest that companies that provide a co-working experience should provide substantial autonomy and control to their employees, as more control enables employees to be their best selves and become more productive. Speaking with Ghafoor Ansari, the Manager Training & Events at Colabs, he stated that co-working and flexible workspaces are a “new form of hospitality service, where the ethos of customer satisfaction is generally the same; to provide hassle-free service and a pleasant customer experience.” Having been a part of the hospitality industry for over two decades, with notable terms at Avari, Pearl Continental and LUMS, Ansari believes that traditional hospitality has evolved since the advent of co-working spaces in Pakistan and that his years of experience have enabled him to bring the principles of renowned hotels, restaurants and lodgings to COLABS. Uniquely so, Colabs has managed to synchronize traditional hospitality and merge it to fit the startup culture of Pakistan. This results in operational excellence from the back-end processes of co-working spaces. While in conversation with Khurram Latif, the Organizational Development and Customer Experience Manager at Colabs, he stated that co-working spaces differ from conventional service industries, i.e., restaurants and coffee shops. Having had extensive experience in eateries such as McDonald’s, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Jhonny Jugnu, to name a few, Latif said that “dealing with the co-working community is a blend of customer satisfaction and customer relationship-building.” “I organize activities and workshops for our staff regularly. Monthly awards and incentives have also been introduced that have significantly boosted morale and motivation,” he elaborated. The future of co-working is exciting; as the nature of work continues to transform, newer work models are developed to cater to the changing needs of society. Major companies are now introducing co-working access passes to cater to the “digital nomad” trend, where people work and travel simultaneously. Other possible branches include virtual offices, flexible working and hybrid work models. In 2021, the global coworking space market value stood at $6.89 billion and it is predicted to reach USD 24.00 billion by 2030. As the future looks very promising for the future of ‘work,’ specific drivers play a heavy role in its fate. According to The Financial Times reports, global entrepreneurship saw a record growth as people opted to work on their businesses during the pandemic. The pandemic is also one of the biggest reasons we see a surge in unconventional working models, unheard of during the pre-pandemic era. As Pakistan is now home to one of the most active start-up ecosystems in South Asia, the surge in popularity of co-working spaces is observed to act as a facilitator for these startups. “There is a direct correlation between the startup ecosystem and co-working spaces. One of the reasons is that the co-working model boomed when startups started to pop up in the last 4 to five years,” said Yousaf Shahid, Senior Business Development Manager at PayPro. Shahid also expressed that the requirements of startups are well-matched with what co-working companies offer; diverse culture, ready-to-use offices, cool lounges and smart meeting rooms. Furthermore, in conversation with Danish Nazir, the VP at Ailaaj, he stated that co-working spaces are a great facilitator for the startup ecosystem, as it eliminates the many hindrances of working, allowing startups to focus and create impact. “It also has a trickle-down effect on talent and how policy-makers value the startup ecosystem,” emphasised Nazir. “The idea is to have COLABS set-up in every major city in Pakistan to help build a community of empowered entrepreneurs throughout Pakistan, which will in turn create a real impact on the economy,” said Omar Shah, the 33-year-old CEO and Co-founder of COLABS, regarding his views on national expansion and the future of his co-working space. “Post-COVID, flexible working is the future and due to that you see a lot of people transitioning to remote work.” While the world’s economic landscape continues to be on shaky footing, these spaces will continue to help freelancers, professionals and local businesses. Besides, co-working spaces stand as perfect stepping stones for the relatively young generation of entrepreneurs in Pakistan and abroad.