The idea of co-working has risen in popularity quite significantly in recent years, especially here in South Africa with firms like WeWork bringing its operations to the country, as well as the likes of Workshop 17 expanding its office locations across SA.

The latter views the role of the co-working office industry a bit differently from others, and says it can help foster greater growth for creative communities in South Africa.

This as local cultural and creative communities contribute an estimated R63 billion to the country’s economy each year. Given our recent slip into a recession, we’re certainly in dire need of more contributions in future.

“Workshop17 is in the business of nurturing the growth of local entrepreneurs and our investment in local designers is an extension of this commitment,” says Paul Keursten, CEO of Workshop17.

“We source the vast majority of our building design assets locally – that includes locally designed tables, chairs, crockery, light fixtures, cupboards and so much more. It would be very easy to import all of our resources more cheaply from the Far East, but we believe South African creatives are world-class and are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to designing the work spaces of the future,” he adds.

It’s not simply about buying local either, according to the firm, with the products designed by local creatives often utilising unique elements that South Africans working in the space will understand and appreciate.

“By working closely with local creatives, our workspaces can be designed to meet the unique needs of individual client members. Whether it’s the curating of specific style paintings or the installation of fit for purpose cabinets and colour coding there is the flexibility to create the ideal flexible workspace to members’ specifications,” says Nisha Parbhoo, lead architect in the design of Workshop17’s office space.

Nisha Parbhoo, lead architect at Workshop 17.

It cannot be overstated the sense of pride that also comes with working in a space which is primarily filled with products and designed with an emphasis on that country.

“It’s great to see organisations choosing to buy local and support local and making sure we grow the economy and that jobs are created locally instead of importing furniture. We have such a great pool of South African furniture designers and makers who don’t always get the jobs and opportunities. It has been amazing to see them appreciating and celebrating local,” highlights Houtlander co-founder, Phillip Hollander.

Co-working spaces are clearly here to stay and becoming increasing popular, that’s why it’s imperative that these spaces be filled with locally produced furniture, office solutions and artwork.

“In co-working.org’s recent analysis, South Africa is one of the top 25 major nations with the highest density of co-working spaces compared to their population. There is a huge opportunity in our industry to jobs and suppliers in the creative economy,” concludes Keursten.