In the past office-sharing was chosen by those seeking a low-cost option. Now the concept is changing and is seen as helping startups and independent entrepreneurs to foster innovation.

Office-Sharing: Fostering Innovation and Improving Life Quality?

With 592 teleworking centres offering this type of service located throughout France, office-sharing and other types of co-working spaces seem to be on the rise in this country. Office-sharing services, which were initially designed as a low-cost solution for independent workers and small or medium-sized companies, are based on the principle that renting empty office space from larger companies through the mediation of office-sharing agencies, such as Bureaux à Partager, Buro'nomade and Bureau Mobile in France, provides self-employed professionals and small businesses with an economically viable physical space. It is however also interesting to see that this ‘cohabitation’ phenomenon, typically involving major corporations letting out their spare floor-space to startups and independent entrepreneurs, might also serve to encourage a process of open innovation and collaboration.

Office-sharing responds to a specific need…

This is the view of Clément Alteresco, founder of Paris-based Bureaux à Partager (‘Offices to Share’). He points out that “this type of service promotes synergies between staff from different companies. An employee will share and exchange ideas with his/her neighbours who have different skillsets, and this is a key success factor in office-sharing.” Jean-Christophe Uhl, founder of Bureau Mobile, a co-working space in Strasbourg, underlines that sharing an office suits the needs of entrepreneurs in several respects. “Our clients are really looking to optimise in all possible areas, because meeting new people can stimulate the creative process and improve the quality of life in the workplace,” he explains. But, stresses Délia Querbouet, co-founder of Buro'nomade, whom L’Atelier met recently at the Impact² event held on 11 April in Paris, the advantages of office-sharing go much further than that. “Sharing premises and teleworking centres helps to meet two fundamental goals – an environmental goal and a social goal,” she argues.

…but might also help solve wider issues

She points out that “in addition to helping creativity emerge, and building social links within a working space, office-sharing also responds to the issue of getting around in a congested urban environment, as it helps reduce commuter flows.” Jean-Christophe Uhl agrees, commenting: “we shouldn’t forget that we’re living in a period of crisis where even a very short journey has an impact on one’s purchasing power and thus puts restrictions on the number of possible journeys you can make.” Beyond the lifestyle quality factor however, the dominant issue is creating a sense of community. This is what initiatives such as La Cordée, in Lyon, and La Mutinerie, in Paris are striving to highlight. “Office-sharing will become an even more fascinating phenomenon in the future,” predicts Clément Alteresco, explaining: “Major companies that open up their premises to others will have to deal with various problems, including for example seeing  their company culture challenged and question marks over the security of their premises.”

By Guillaume Parodi