Open offices, deskless offices, and coworking aren't the only shake-ups companies are seeing in the modern work world. As more young people flock to cities in search of a place to plant roots, living spaces are getting a facelift, too. Intrepid companies like WeWork's new WeLive division and Common are breaking into co-living, and some employers have taken notice.

Communal Living

More and more real estate properties are becoming mixed-use. Between 2010 and 2014, just 28.8% of total apartment properties were zoned mixed-use, meaning commercial, retail, and residential all in one building. Projections are that by 2021, as much as 34.9% of these properties will cover the market, according to apartment research company AXIOMetrics.

Young entrepreneurs are finding expense-sharing the way to go in terms of living arrangements, but they're not just hanging "roommate wanted" flyers on the office bulletin board. Co-living is on the rise, where renters share magazine-worthy living space with their "suitemates" and enjoy the privacy of a bedroom/bathroom suite. The upside? Their rent covers furnished rooms, state-of-the-art WiFi access, shared laundry area, a professional kitchen that would make any chef happy, and weekly cleaning services. For the cash-strapped looking for affordable housing in cities with skyrocketing real estate prices, it's an elegant solution and far better than anything they could afford alone.

Introducing Work-Live Hybrid Spaces

This is where a new wave of office solutions comes in: the work-live space. Employers such as Facebook and Google are seizing on the opportunity to provide apartments in the same building as their office location, touting the many benefits therein:

  • Virtually no commute. When your office is an elevator ride away from your home, the stress of a long commute disappears, along with the expense of fuel and wear-and-tear on a vehicle.
  • Better work-life balance. An increasing number of workers are demanding better balance between their work and home lives. When they're home, they don't want to be a slave to their work email or job demands. At work, disruptions from things they didn't handle from home lower productivity and induce stress. While it seems living so close to the office could impede this balance, there's equal chance of the opposite effect. Punctuality would improve when traffic is removed from the equation. No hours-long drive home means workers could spend a few more minutes finalizing that project without worrying about working far into the evening. Then when they leave for home, they can relax knowing they're just minutes away and don't have to fight crowds on the roads.
  • Company provided perks. By offering living space in the same building, employers can give employees access to onsite gyms and other amenities such as prepared meals from the cafeteria or even the benefit of cleaning staff hired to cover the whole building. Even onsite childcare could improve the amount of time employees are away from their desks for family situations.
  • Financial assistance. Workers are tired of living paycheck to paycheck, and it's showing in the re-emergence of desire for financial perks, such as increased 401(k) contributions, tuition assistance, and better health insurance coverage. With the added option of contributing to a package deal on living expenses, employers have the chance to add another level of aid to their workforce portfolio. Knowing living expenses are covered month-to-month through their employer--through a discount on total rent and utilities, a portion of expenses reimbursed by the company, or access to amenities too rich for their current salary--could go a long way toward relieving financial stress.
  • More flexibility. Living in the same building as the office opens up doors to a new way to schedule meetings, appointments, or even time off. If there's no reason to be in the office until 9 a.m. or even later, an employee could spend a leisurely breakfast with their family before going down to their desk. On the flip side, if a client has a time-zone situation requiring an after hours conference call, the worker who can pop in for an hour from upstairs can get the job done with minimal fuss. A flexible approach to hours worked can free up personal time for employees who don't mind a different schedule to the usual daily grind, which in turn gives employers more coverage for the hours in a day.

Some may find living that close to the office more stressful, however. But for professionals--particularly career-minded individuals or young people just starting out--who find the blurred line between home and office solves a lot of problems, it could be just the thing. And with the communal living mindset cultivated by companies like Common and WeLive on the rise, the opportunities for employers to provide convenient group housing and life-related perks for a number of employees are also on the rise.

Published on: May 21, 2018