Traditional workspaces have taken on a different form in recent years, due to increased connectivity and the rise in popularity of coworking spaces. According to a recent Research Gate study, people that opt to work from coworking spaces thrive more – averaging a 6 on a 7-point scale. This is one point higher than people working in traditional office environments.
At the Beirut Digital District (BDD), coworking spaces have been buzzing with creativity, new ideas, conversations, and brainstorming sessions, since they were founded. Defined as a “unique cluster of innovation for the digital and creative community”, the district is the sole of its kind in Lebanon. Walk past the allocated areas with hot desks, and hear the chatter of enticing conversations, ideas exchanged, the clicking of keyboards and the odd entrepreneur gazing out the window to take a break.
Beyond the desks and laptops, the coworking spaces at BDD were built around a grander vision. Firstly, the community of professionals is diverse and includes over 1,500 people, from different companies and industries. However, the team behind the masterplan went one step further, to offer people a space where they can work, but also enrich their lives. At any time during the year, sports and leisure activities are available on a schedule, for community members to take part in. In addition, social and chill zones offer professionals a break from work, with ample social spaces, a central garden area, a gaming area, and a Little Free Library, for book sharing and swapping.
Every month, events are hosted, marking national holidays, and catering to hobbies and ambitions that the BDD community shares. The networking and specialized events agenda is even more jam-packed, with international speakers and experts visiting BDD on a monthly basis, to bring global expertise to the local market.
At the core, however, coworking spaces offer people a platform to thrive, and BDD finds that it is primarily due to the diversity of people, companies, and projects that exist. Research shows that people feel freer to express themselves and allow their true personalities to surface, due to the lack of internal politics and confined cultures in these spaces. Everyone, it seems, has an interesting story to tell their coworking peers, and relationships between strangers can be fostered in this space.
To further delve into the popularity of shared spaces, individuals behind the brightest ideas and aspiring ventures at BDD’s coworking spaces were interviewed, to uncover the perceived benefits of coworking at BDD. Here are the top three findings:
1) An overall sense of wellbeing
The primary finding was that people in coworking spaces felt that the setting provided them with a healthy work/life balance, with the right amenities just a short walk away. In addition, the efficiency of the spaces, along with the spirit of collaboration helped fuel their projects. The trend that was apparent, is that people are spending less time working alone, and more time collaborating, socializing and learning.
2) Networking & collaboration top the charts for startups and freelancers
For startups and freelancers, the reason they choose coworking spaces was tied to two factors. Firstly, to collaborate with others and secondly, to network. The support activities provided at BDD and other coworking spaces aided in their growth trajectory.
3) Ideal coworking spaces mix open & quiet environments
However, not all coworking spaces are created equal. The BDD team asked individuals in the coworking facilities to envision what ideal spaces should be like. The majority were in favor of open environments but also wanted private spaces to focus. The availability of hybrid settings was a core requirement, which offers both amenities and a workspace beyond the traditional desk. This includes work cafes, quiet zones and of course, innovation hubs to be inspired.
Their happiest moments, however, were outside the office space, during organized happy hours, social events and sports competitions at BDD.
Since the BDD coworking space opened its desks to entrepreneurs and freelancers, like-minded people have gathered, sharing knowledge and expertise, and business opportunities have been created as a result. The masterplan is currently being realized, one phase at a time, to accommodate over 10,000 creative individuals, to live, work and play.