What Is Coworking? Everything You Need To Know About Coworking Spaces
As remote work and hybrid work arrangements gain more traction, more people are asking, “What exactly is a coworking space?” In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into the fundamentals of coworking spaces, how to choose a good one (including factors to consider and those to avoid), who can benefit from such spaces, and we’ll address any other common questions you may have.
What Is a Coworking Space?
In a general sense, coworking involves people gathering in a shared space to work independently on their own projects or collaboratively on shared ones. It distinguishes itself from conventional office environments by the fact that those in a coworking space often don’t belong to the same company.
Coworking spaces offer similar facilities to traditional offices, and then some. The key difference lies in flexibility, as there’s no need for a long-term lease in a coworking space.
These spaces usually come equipped with essential features such as WiFi, printers, and often a conference room. Some may also provide complimentary tea, coffee, and snacks.
More extensive coworking spaces can offer additional resources like access to digital assets, coaching, and advisory services, or even access to advanced technology like 3D printers. On the other end of the spectrum, more budget-conscious coworking spaces might be more basic, offering little more than a desk and WiFi.
What Types of Coworking Spaces are Available?
Coworking spaces come in diverse forms and sizes. When exploring different options, it’s crucial to consider various aspects such as the sense of community, available amenities, and the overall working environment, as these aspects can vary from one space to another. In this section, we’ll delve into the primary types of coworking spaces that exist.
Open workspaces are typically synonymous with the concept of coworking, as this is where coworking originally took root. In these types of workspaces, you’ll find hot desks or dedicated desks where individuals from different companies share communal areas.
On the other end of the spectrum, private workspaces are the complete opposite of open workspaces. These private areas can be in the form of individual offices or even custom suites tailored for larger teams. Members from a single company either share the dedicated room or a combination of areas that the company leases or rents.
Imagine the benefit of networking with individuals who share common interests and experiences. That’s precisely why industry-specific spaces were established. These spaces are designed for members working in the same industry. For instance, there are coworking spaces tailored specifically for creative professionals. These creative types, including graphic designers, artists, and videographers, can collaborate under one roof. It’s worth noting that these industry-specific spaces can offer a blend of both private and open workspaces.
Incubators or venture capital spaces represent some of the most exclusive coworking environments. The primary goal of these workspaces is to attract and support companies by providing the necessary resources for growth. Venture firms typically provide reduced rent or capital investment in exchange for equity in the companies they admit to their programs.
Beyond the types of workspaces available, there are also aesthetic considerations to keep in mind. Coworking spaces can range from a corporate and professional atmosphere to a more creative and relaxed one. It’s essential to select a space that aligns with your company’s culture. Furthermore, coworking spaces offer on-demand facilities such as meeting room bookings and virtual packages as add-ons to your plan.
The History Of Coworking
|1995||The first “coworking” space was founded by hackers in Berlin, focusing on sharing space, information, and thoughts among members. Seminars, classes, and social events were later added.|
|1995||Bernard DeKoven first used the term “coworking” to describe “working together as equals.” A flexible desk setting was introduced in a New York space the same year.|
|2002||The first coworking space opened in Schraubenfabrik, Vienna, initially as a community center for enterprises and later expanded to include freelancers and professionals using cell phones and laptops. This marked the beginning of the Konnex Communities network.|
|2005||The first San Francisco coworking space was launched by Brad Neuberg, offering desks, free Wi-Fi, shared lunches, and various activities. London saw the opening of 40 coworking spaces through a franchise network on five continents. St. Oberholz in Germany also started offering free internet and eventually a coworking space above its cafe.|
|2006||The Coworking Wiki space opened in San Francisco, with Chris Messina, one of the co-founders. The first full-time coworking space opened at the Hat Factory with co-founders Brad Neuber, Chris Messina, and Tara Hunt. Jellies, allowing idea exchange without commitment, emerged as a precursor to coworking spaces.|
|2007||The term “coworking” appeared on Google’s database for the first time, leading to increased searches and its recognition as a significant concept. It was added to the English version of Wikipedia.|
|2008/2009||Unofficial coworking meet-ups occurred, leading to the planning of the first Coworking conference in Brussels in 2010. The Coworking Visa was established, allowing members of different spaces to visit others for free. Cubes & Crayons, a coworking space with childcare facilities, was introduced.|
|2009||Germany’s Betahaus became the first official coworking space, gaining recognition in the Spiegel magazine. Germany adopted the term “coworking” according to Google trends.|
|2010||The first #CoworkingDay was celebrated, and the first European coworking conference took place in Brussels. The number of coworking spaces worldwide exceeded 600, with more than half located in North America.|
|2011||The first “Coworking Unconference” was held in Austin, Texas. Angel funding began for coworking networks, and large companies explored corporate coworking.|
|2012||The number of coworking spaces worldwide surpassed 2,000, with a significant increase in tweets with the hashtag “coworking.” Twitter and other media outlets played a role in its popularization.|
|2013||By the beginning of the year, about 100,000 members worked at coworking spaces. The 3,000th coworking space was founded mid-year. Some coworking spaces offered health insurance plans.|
|2015||The New York Times reported on coworking combined with the home office, citing the example of the Surf Office in Gran Canaria. This marked the concept of coworking and coliving.|
|2016||WeWork introduced WeLive, a residential coliving concept in New York City, while other coliving spaces closed their locations in New York and California.|
|2017||WeWork raised significant funding, becoming one of the most highly valued private tech companies in the US, alongside Uber and Airbnb. It was valued at $20 billion, and approximately 1.2 million people worldwide worked at coworking spaces.|
|2018||Various significant players, including Impact Hub, Venture X, and Serendipity, expanded in the coworking market, challenging WeWork’s dominance.|
|2019||WeWork’s unsuccessful IPO attempt resulted in SoftBank taking control of the company, reducing its valuation from $49 billion to $8 billion and leading to changes in its management team.|
|2019-2020||New coworking platforms like DropDesk emerged to bridge the gap between coworking software, spaces, and remote workers.|
The 5 Biggest Advantages of Coworking
We will explore many of these advantages of coworking spaces in detail throughout this article. However, here’s a summary of the primary reasons why people appreciate using coworking spaces:
- Motivation: Coworking spaces exude an atmosphere of productivity due to the presence of motivated individuals. It’s difficult to be unproductive in such an environment, and you’re likely to accomplish a lot.
- Community: Coworking spaces foster a strong sense of community. In spaces with regular attendees and familiar faces, the community often goes above and beyond to support each other’s success.
- Flexibility: Coworking spaces offer more flexible arrangements than traditional long-term leases. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for startups with limited budgets and independent freelancers seeking cost-effective options.
- Getting Out of the Home: While working from home has its perks, it’s easy to fall into a routine. Being in the company of others can lift your spirits, keep you mentally sharp, and stimulate creativity.
- Networking: When like-minded individuals gather in one place, networking becomes inevitable. New opportunities and connections tend to emerge naturally in such an environment.
📚 Also Read: What Is Temporary Office Space?
Who Uses Coworking Spaces?
Coworking spaces have gained popularity within the startup and freelance communities. Initially, the mention of coworking spaces might have conjured images of extravagant office spaces where people rode unicycles and lounged on enormous bean bag chairs, often associated with startups. However, coworking is not exclusive to budget-conscious startups. So, who are the users of coworking spaces?
Freelancers or Remote Workers
For freelancers and self-employed individuals, the pay-as-you-go arrangement in coworking spaces can be a cost-saving boon. These spaces also serve as excellent networking hubs, attracting a diverse crowd of entrepreneurs and freelancers. Whether you’re a digital publisher, a creative freelancer, a programmer, or a multi-talented professional, you’re likely to find like-minded individuals in a coworking space. What’s more, you may encounter individuals who can provide valuable assistance in areas where you may need support.
With a mix of diverse talents sharing the same space, collaborative opportunities can flourish, even as everyone primarily focuses on their individual tasks. While coworking spaces aren’t just about constant project discussions, there are moments of downtime when you can engage in conversations while taking breaks. However, the real appeal of these spaces lies in the genuine and unwavering focus and motivation that permeate the environment. The energy of a room filled with motivated individuals all working towards realizing their dreams is truly inspiring.
Small businesses, seeking to avoid the burdensome overhead associated with traditional leases, have increasingly turned to coworking spaces. Given the minimal setup costs and the comprehensive amenities provided within a coworking membership, it’s no surprise that small businesses now constitute a significant portion of coworking space users.
Surprisingly, even large global enterprises like Nike have entered into partnerships with coworking companies to address their workspace requirements. Managing the office needs of thousands of employees worldwide can be a logistical challenge. These companies collaborate with coworking providers to create custom spaces or become the primary anchor tenants within these spaces.
Many coworking spaces extend non-profit arrangements or offer discounts. These cost-effective coworking options have appealed to non-profit organizations, which are often budget-conscious and benefit from the savings provided by coworking arrangements.
Coworking Vs Other Remote Work Alternatives
Working From Home
The conventional “office culture” comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Many entrepreneurs in online-based businesses choose self-employment to escape certain aspects of the typical corporate lifestyle and work environment. Remote work has opened up new possibilities for managing a business or working for someone else. While it brings numerous benefits, there are also some missed opportunities.
Working from home or hotel rooms has its perks. You have the freedom to set your own schedule, take breaks when it suits you, and even decide when to put on your pants. However, it can be easy to lose focus and drift off course. There’s something about the office setting that fosters motivation, keeps you on track, and helps you make the most of your time.
As a freelancer or someone who has control over your schedule, you enjoy the freedom of not having a boss constantly monitoring your every move and tracking your time. Yet, you’re still accountable to yourself. Working amidst other people, even if they aren’t directly related to your project, aren’t your colleagues, and you don’t exchange words with them, creates a sense of responsibility that can be a motivating factor.
Working From Coffee Shops or Restaurants
The second most popular option, after working from home, is coffee shops and restaurants. Many emerging coworking models, as of 2017, have transformed these establishments into pop-up coworking spaces during their closed or less busy hours. Coffee shops are often considered makeshift workspaces due to the availability of tables and endless coffee refills. In addition, they offer benefits like high-speed Wi-Fi and a workspace for the modest cost of a cup of coffee. However, as with any advantages, there are drawbacks. Since these spaces are frequently open to transient customers, there is the potential for noise and other distractions that may hinder your productivity.
Tips to Consider When Choosing a Coworking Space
As we approach 2022, with the projection of more than 23,000 coworking spaces worldwide, the question arises: How do you go about selecting the most suitable coworking space to meet your requirements? Before making your choice, consider these top 6 tips for selecting a coworking space:
Selecting the ideal office space primarily hinges on its location. Opt for a space that lies within a reasonable commuting distance from your residence. Seek out locations that offer conveniences such as restaurants, parking availability, nearby shops, and easy access to public transit, which facilitates client visits.
Ensuring that the chosen space aligns with your team’s financial plan is essential. If you anticipate outgrowing the space within a few months, consider utilizing a flexible swing space. Establishing your budget in advance will help you eliminate spaces that are excessively costly, saving you both time and money.
3. Work Environment
Assess whether you require a dedicated office or can operate from a flexible hot desk while having access to meeting rooms. Be mindful of any legal requirements that may influence your business operations. It’s crucial to ensure that your chosen workspace fulfills your fundamental business needs.
Once you’ve ascertained that a space meets your practical requirements and financial constraints, delve into the more engaging aspects of the environment. Consider the type of community that aligns with your professional aspirations. Each coworking space cultivates a unique member base from the local community. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, you might prefer a space that accommodates other designers with whom you can collaborate. Beyond the business-related aspects, you want to feel motivated to come to work daily, network, and form new connections.
5. Short-Term or Long-Term?
Strategic planning for the future is integral to business success. Determine how long you intend to stay at your chosen coworking space. Are there plans for national or global expansion? Does the selected coworking space provide access to a network of locations? These are vital considerations that should be addressed before finalizing your choice.
While it may be considered the icing on the cake, opting for a coworking space with unique amenities is always a valuable extra. Beyond the standard offerings like complimentary coffee, Wi-Fi, and printing, a space that goes above and beyond in terms of amenities can significantly enhance your work experience.
The Future of Coworking
As the younger generation increasingly realizes that they aren’t bound to conform to more conventional career paths, it’s likely that we will witness a surge in the number of freelancers and entrepreneurs taking the leap. This shift will be driven by advancements in technology, growing awareness, and expanding opportunities. Coworking is poised to become the standard for those entering the workforce today.
It’s improbable that coworking will entirely replace traditional office buildings or that everyone will transition to freelancing. Large organizations will persist and new ones will emerge, but they may prioritize flexibility, such as remote work options, over central office locations whenever feasible. In 2017, there were approximately 57.3 million freelancers in the United States alone, and by 2027, it’s projected that the majority of the U.S. workforce will engage in some form of freelance work, whether as a side gig or part-time endeavor.
What exactly is a coworking space?
In essence, a coworking space is a shared workspace where individuals come together to work independently or collaboratively. Unlike traditional offices, coworkers in these spaces often represent different companies. These spaces provide flexible arrangements and typically offer facilities such as Wi-Fi, printers, conference rooms, and sometimes complimentary beverages.
What types of coworking spaces are available?
Coworking spaces come in various forms. You can find open workspaces with shared desks, private workspaces like individual offices, industry-specific spaces catering to professionals in specific fields, and venture capital spaces designed to support companies’ growth. Spaces also differ in terms of their atmosphere, from corporate to creative environments.
What are the advantages of coworking spaces?
Coworking spaces offer numerous benefits, including motivation from a productive atmosphere, a strong sense of community, cost-effective options for startups and freelancers, opportunities to collaborate with diverse professionals, and built-in networking. They also provide flexibility in workspace arrangements.
Who typically uses coworking spaces?
Coworking spaces are popular among freelancers, remote workers, small businesses seeking cost-effective solutions, and even large enterprises looking for flexible office arrangements. They can also be appealing to non-profit organizations aiming to save on workspace costs.
How do I choose the right coworking space?
When selecting a coworking space, consider factors like location, budget, work environment (open or private), community alignment with your professional goals, and whether you require short-term or long-term access. Unique amenities, in addition to standard offerings, can enhance your workspace experience.
Coworking spaces offer a dynamic work environment with flexibility, community, and numerous benefits. From their history to the types available, we’ve explored how these spaces cater to freelancers, small businesses, and even large enterprises. As we peer into the future, coworking is set to define the modern workforce, making its mark as a hub for innovation, collaboration, and the evolving face of success in our professional lives.