The successful co-working formula of IWG’s centre Regus Belgium is now being replicated for students as it launches co-studying spaces for the summer
Co-studying is the current buzzword on the street as universities see a distinct rise in students opting to study together in a communal space rather than alone in their rooms. Following its successful model for corporate co-working spaces, IWG’s flexspace centre Regus Belgium became the company’s pioneer of co-studying spaces by opening up its flexible offices to students.
“Last summer, we opened our business lounge as a co-studying space for local students,” says William Willems, Regional General Manager of Regus Belgium and Luxembourg. “It was a really hot summer and I had heard that students were complaining about how hard it was to study in their rooms due to the heat. I spoke to our PR agency and said why don’t we open up our air-conditioned offices to students?”
From 15 July to 15 August 2018, Regus Belgium opened its business lounge to university students studying for their summer exams. “It was such a success that we’ve decided to do it again this year. In Belgium, many offices and industries close down for much of July and August, so it’s very quiet and the students actually bring some life back to our offices.”
To implement the scheme, Regus worked with student associations in the north of Belgium and, thanks to social media, the message spread across the country. “In some places, the concept was so popular, our centres had to turn people away,” says Willems.
Not only does the scheme offer a calm, controlled environment for students to study in, but it introduces them to a working office environment, which could benefit them when entering the jobs market. Willems doesn’t charge students and they get free internet, and tea, coffee and water in a nice, air-cooled office. “The students are fantastically well behaved. They are very quiet and polite. In fact, I found a Post-it Note on one of our stations and it just said, ‘What a place!’” he grins.
Could this new trend be a permanent fixture for Regus’ flexible offices and business centres? “The concept of the business centre has changed a lot since I started in 2000 and studies have shown that 30% of the market is now converting into flexible space,” explains Willems. “People have changed the way they work. They want flexibility, they want a community, they want to see each other and chat, so all of this is pushing the workplace in a different direction to what it was 20 years ago.”
Luckily, the move has been welcomed by the business community. “We’ve had very positive comments from the companies at our centres. Not only do they think it’s great to have students around, but they think that we are very clever because these are the people who are going to use Regus in years to come,” grins Willems.
It sounds like a win-win situation, but how do the universities find it? “Co-studying is becoming more and more popular,” says Dr Lode Godderis, a professor in occupational medicine at the
University of Leuven. “Here at Leuven, we see many students prefer to study outside of their room, in a separate space and with others.” Co-studying offers many benefits, including less distraction from social media, access to a wider network and all-important time away from a desk, which is good for their mental health. “Students need structure and social control to get motivated. Working in this kind of environment actually helps them to increase their concentration,” explains Dr Godderis. “They also have social support so they do not feel alone and, by studying together, it’s easier to stay focused.”
Godderis has seen a number of companies open up their doors to students to offer co-studying space, particularly companies who want to attract a specific skill set – for instance, IT students. “It might be the first contact that a student will have with a potential employer,” he says. “It can be a way of building up relationships so, from a company’s perspective, it’s a good way of getting in touch with a new generation.”
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