The coworking trend is growing worldwide, even seeing big corporations moving into coworking spaces. How can gyms and sports centres tap this growing resource?
How does coworking relate to gyms?
A 2017 study showed an increase of 115% in “telecommuting” between 2005 and 2017, while a Gallup poll from the same year revealed a 4% increase in remote working in the USA. Slack, a business chat room application popular with freelancers and home office workers, grew from 500,000 users in 2015 to over 6 million in 2017. And analysis from 2018 and early reports from 2019 show the continued growth of coworking across the globe, with May 2019 showing the industry at an all-time high. What’s more, the number of members of coworking spaces is projected to rise from 1.7 million at the end of 2018 to 2.2 million at the end of 2019 and go on to reach 5.1 million by 2022. So how does this apply to the fitness industry?
Well, most fitness enthusiasts are already aware of the link between exercise and productivity, and that regular exercise offers both long and short-term benefits. So it makes sense that another concept to have been quietly gaining traction over the past few years is the mixture of coworking and gyms.
Sports and leisure facilities have slowly begun to realise that many self-employed workers are happy to get their work done in public spaces like cafés and libraries, and are willing to take advantage of the facilities to take quick breaks and help increase productivity. And gyms offer themselves perfectly to this scenario, allowing workers to use the existing services; café, showers, sauna, weights, fitness classes. Digital nomads and freelancers only need a Wi-Fi connection to knuckle down, and are often grateful for outside stimulation such as a gym community to network with or a class to blow off steam.
“If I have an hour free, I can change real quick and I can spend it stretching, hitting the sauna,” Falcone says. “I can keep my body active so I can perform better.”
How does gym coworking work?
According to most sources, the pioneers of gym coworking are Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing facility that claims it aims to “foster community through rock climbing, fitness, arts&culture, active co-working, and events”. It seems a pretty extensive list for a gym at first glance, but it all started by offering free Wi-Fi. They then focused on customer experience and built up from there.
“We integrated a ‘Starbucks Experience’ into our retail area,” Pinn says. “Once the space was made, we could observe how people were using it, and that’s when we noticed that they were starting to camp out all day and take breaks every so often. We decided to customize the seating and add pull-up bars above standing desks to make the space as accommodating as possible for the lifestyle that we were co-creating with our members.”
And it’s not just freelancers and autonomous workers that are taking advantage of this new trend. Startups are making gyms their headquarters, showing the beneficial coexistence that disparate businesses have been able to carve out. Start-ups often aren’t able to provide perks that larger companies can to lure and retain employees, so being able to offer a gym membership is a competitive bonus while having the added benefit of helping employees to lead a healthier lifestyle. Meanwhile, gyms increase their revenue and take advantage of the extra space they tend to have available during the workdays, a win-win for both parties.
Why coworking in gyms?
Aside from corporate benefits, coworking offers formerly isolated autonomous workers the opportunity to network, with social media in turn offering a way for fitness studios to build communities online. This twin strategy revolutionises the idea of working from home, meaning freelancing is no longer synonymous with pyjama days and home offices. It also gives gyms the opportunity to build a core member network and enjoy increased loyalty.
Many proponents of gym coworking find that working in gyms has led them to meet like-minded people, with whom collaboration and partnership comes easily thanks to their common interests and passion for keeping in shape. People who have chosen a specific coworking site tend to have similar ideas about life and business, so those coworking in gyms often share ideals based around what constitutes work and play, an office, exercise and nutrition, etc, and these niches provide better networking.
Fitness classes such as PRAMA foster these networks, allowing people to work out in short, intense, condensed bursts, while pushing each other and improving relations during sessions. Outside class, people who have lifted, sweated, and shouted together meet up for a smoothie and a chat about market growth and consumer profiles. Working out in the same class every day leads to new introductions and strengthens and develops both existing friendships and business relations, as we know very well from our experience at Pavigym HQ.
If your place is the best place for networking, it goes without saying that it’s the best place to work out.
Some gyms have already started to put their own spin on the concept. SQUAD Hour, a gym based in a corporate building in Riga, installed a PRAMA studio to fit in with their philosophy of offering classes of less than one hour in order to cater to the surrounding market.
What’s more, with the increase of remote work there’s also the danger of isolation. Co-working isn’t all networking and business meetings and instagramming your work days. It’s a way for many to add much-needed structure, and more importantly socialisation, to a working day. Classes offer a routine around which workers can base their day, improving both productivity and organisation, but it’s also a way for people to interact in a way they wouldn’t in an office or working from home.
“It seemed like working from my house was going to be amazing,” Altemus, 50, says, until she realized that it could be isolating. “While I enjoyed the first couple days, I just needed the community aspect.”
The positive effects of exercise on mental health are well-documented, but what’s unclear is the effect that the upward trend of working autonomously will have on our minds. A coworking gym is the perfect place to combat those issues from both sides, keeping bodies active with regular exercise and the mind stimulated by the interesting community at the gym. Fitness studios and group classes are the perfect way to build this community, helping you take advantage of the gap in the market between traditional office-based work and the future of employment.
Group activities like PRAMA help establish a routine and encourage freelancers to down tools for 45 minutes in order to revitalise their working day. An intense, fun, workout run by a motivational trainer and performed alongside your peers is the perfect way to kickstart the brain and foster a positive working environment.
Work buddies who have spent the morning encouraging each other to knuckle down and get that email sent or update those spreadsheets now become workout buddies who push each other to put in that extra rep or get to the end of the set. The gym coworking community gives you an opportunity to cultivate a market that will manage and expand itself, fed by your studio classes and workout solutions.
Increased productivity, new networking opportunities, and combating isolation are crucial for freelancers and autonomous workers, issues that can be addressed via fairly simple, adaptable solutions. Gyms are well-equipped to meet the needs of this niche market with minimal disruption, enabling them to maximise their downtime and boosting their investment. What could be better than bringing two of the biggest global trends together in your gym?
Take advantage of your extra space! Read more about how PRAMA could help you increase your revenue, and don’t forget to share this article so others can join the coworking revolution!