What Is Coworking? Everything You Need To Know About Coworking Spaces

As coworking continues to gain popularity, more and more people are raising the question, what exactly is a coworking space?

In this comprehensive article, we’ll talk about the basics of a coworking space, how to choose a good one (some things you should look for, some things you should avoid), what types of people can benefit from this sort of space, and we’ll go over any other common questions you might be thinking about.

Wondering if a coworking space is right for you?

It might be, it might not be… let’s find out.

What Is a Coworking Space?

 

Generally speaking, the definition of coworking is when people assemble in a neutral space to work independently on different projects, or in groups on the same projects. It’s different than a typical office workspace because the people in a coworking environment generally aren’t working for the same company.

Coworking spaces offer the same amenities you would find in a traditional office, along with a lot more. A major differentiator is flexibility, since you don’t need to sign a long-term lease in a coworking space.

Every coworking space will always have basics like WiFi, printers, usually some type of conference room… and some will have tea, coffee, and snacks available.

Some will have startup resources at your disposal ranging from digital assets, and even coaches and advisors. Some may have 3D printers and other tech that you may not always have access to. Some budget-conscious coworking spaces are more barebones, offering little more than a desk and WiFi.[dt_quote background=”fancy”]Wikipedia: Coworking is the situation in which several workers from different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructure, such as equipment, utilities, and receptionist and custodial services.

Is It “Coworking” or “Co-working”?

There has been an ongoing dispute on whether coworking should be hyphenated or not. So how did this come about? The main reason for the hyphenated term “co-working” was due to the AP Stylebook distributed to journalists worldwide. The Stylebook dictates their preferred spelling and punctuation of commonly used names and words.

Basically, the AP Stylebook is in favor of any prefix (like co-owner) and this has been passed down in publications to the term coworking. So, what is the final verdict? Since coworking is a new industry in itself that does not relate to more traditional terms, it should be spelled “coworking”.

 

The History Of Coworking

  • 1995 – the first “coworking” space was actually founded by hackers in Berlin.  The idea was to share thoughts, space and information to complete tasks to those who joined the membership. Presently, they have added seminars, classes and a variety of social events, helping with the trend to open up more community spaces.  There are hackerspaces in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Brooklyn and they keep growing.
  • 1995 – The word  “coworking” was first used by Bernard DeKoven, who described it as “working together as equals.”  Individuals who are self-employed or working for different employers but , can share ideas with tools and coordinated meetings through a computer network. A space opened up in New York that same year by a software company with a flexible desk setting.
  • 2002 – The first coworking space opened up in Schraubenfabrik, Vienna, in an old renovated factory, which began as a community center for enterprises.  It expanded to include freelancers and other professionals working with cell phones and laptops. The spaces continued to grow and function under the name of Konnex Communities in 2004 – the commencement to the local network of coworking spaces.
  • 2005 – San Francisco hosts the first coworking space in August by Brad Neuberg – he believed that home offices and business centers were unsocial and unproductive.  The space offered desks, free wifi, shared lunches, bike tours, meditation and massages closing at 5:45 PM sharp. It closed after a year and replaced in 2006 under the name of the Hat Factory. London opened up 40 coworking spaces by a franchise network on five different continents.  In Germany, St. Oberholz opened up its first cafes in Berlin and offered free internet.  Presently, St. Oberholz offers a true coworking space above its cafe.
  • 2006 – Coworking Wiki space opens up in San Francisco.  Chris Messina, who created the Twitter hashtag, is one of the co-founders. The first full-time coworking space opens at the Hat Factory.  Co-founders are Brad Neuber, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt. At this time, it was one out of about 30 coworking spaces throughout the world. Jellies opened where groups can exchange ideas in a relaxed atmosphere, without  a commitment – the community can later develop into a coworking space if they wish.
  • 2007 – The first time the word “coworking” is seen on Google’s database.  The searches have increased tremendously. The term coworking has become a megamedia name. “Coworking” got into the English version of Wikipedia.
  • 2008/2009 – Unofficial coworking meet-ups happen and planned the first Coworking conference in Brussels in 2010. In August, the Coworking Visa is cultivated- allowing members of various coworking spaces to visit other spaces for free. Cubes & Crayons was the first coworking space to open alongside the facilities for children a few months old to preschoolers. At year’s end in 2008, there were approximately 160 coworking spaces worldwide.
  • 2009 – Germany opens Betahaus, the first official coworking space and was noted in the largest new magazine, the Spiegel.  In 2010, Germany is known to be the first country in Europe to use the term “coworking”, pursuant to Google trends.
  • 2010 – The first #CoworkingDay was celebrated by the movement. The first European coworking conference took place in Brussels.  At this time, there were at least 600 coworking spaces worldwide, with more than half located in North America.
  • 2011 – The first “Coworking Unconference” was located in Austin, Texas.  Angel funding starts for a network of spaces.
  • Large companies began to explore the coworking idea and opened their own chain of coworking spaces specializing in corporate coworking.
  • 2012 –  Coworking spaces worldwide adds up to more than 2,000 established.  Media outlets such as twitter have a huge increase of tweets (over 50%) with hashtag “coworking” – more than the prior year.
  • 2013 – As many as 100,000 members worked at a coworking space at the beginning of the year.  Mid-year, the 3,000th coworking space is founded. Most of the coworking spaces run independent of networks. In an Ontario coworking space, they offered the first health insurance plan.
  • 2015 – The New York Times writes about a new idea that sees coworking mixing with the home office at a resort or hotel.  The story is, “Co-Working on Vacation: A Desk in Paradise”. The main idea of the story is combining coworking and coliving on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands – a surfing destination.  The Surf Office was born, originally opened two years earlier as an experiment, making it a place attractive to freelancers, surfers and travelers.
  • 2016 – Coworking and coliving idea broadened.  WeWork offered residential coliving in New York City, named WeLive.  The units are mostly studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom – all have a private kitchen and at least one private bathroom.  They are typically furnished, decorated and set up with cable, also internet move-in ready. They also have a community manager to plan events, etc. New York and California Campus coliving closes its 34 locations.
  • 2017 – WeWork raises funding and becomes the most highly valued US private tech companies and its company is Uber and AirBnB.  Valued at $20 Billion. 1.2 million people worldwide would have worked at a coworking space.
  • 2018– As of 2018, the market has a variety of huge players that are giving WeWork a run for its money. Coworking franchises such as Impact hub, Venture X, and Serendipity are expanding throughout the space.
  • 2019 – WeWork had an unsuccessful IPO attempt with SoftBank causing WeWork’s valuation to drop from 49 billion to 8 billion allowing SoftBank to seize control of the company and fire its management team.
  • 2019-2020 New coworking platforms like DropDesk are rising to the scene to filll the void between coworking software, spaces, and remote workers.

Key Coworking Growth Statistics

The number of coworking spaces worldwide is projected to reach almost 20,000 in 2020 (Allwork.Space)

The number of coworking spaces worldwide is expected to more than double by 2024, and surpass 40,000 (Allwork.Space).

By 2022, 13% of businesses outside the US will be using shared workspaces (Allwork.Space).

There were more than 3 million coworkers globally in 2019. This number is expected to nearly double by 2022 (smallbusinessgenius).

Prior to the pandemic, co-working spaces were the fastest-growing type of office space in commercial real estate. While they currently comprise less than 5% of the market, they’re expected to make up 30% by 2030 (CNBC).

Flexible space has been growing at an average annual rate of 23% since 2010 (JLL).

Today, the 10 largest providers of coworking and flexible office space comprise 36% of the market (Forbes).

New York and London are the world’s leading cities when it comes to new spaces opening up (smalbusinessgenius).

Looking for more coworking statistics? Check out our full guide on the top coworking statistics of 2020.

The 5 Biggest Advantages of Coworking

 

We’ll touch on many of these benefits of coworking spaces throughout this article, but here’s a rundown of the major reasons why people love using coworking spaces.

  1. Motivation: There’s just an energy of productivity in the air when you’re in a room full of driven people. It’s nearly impossible to slack off. You will get a lot done.
  2. Community: There’s a sense of community. In places with regulars and familiar faces, it’s amazing how far above and beyond the community will go to help one another succeed.
  3. Flexibility: Rather than signing a long-term lease, you can get much more flexible deals with coworking spaces. It’s great for startups with small bootstrap budgets, and even independent freelancers can find affordable options.
  4. Getting Outside of the Home: Working from home is great, but it’s easy to fall into a rut, too. Being around other people is good for your spirits, it can keep you sharp and is great for creativity.
  5. Networking: When you have so many people with so much in common, it’s only a matter of time until you start to network and new opportunities start to flow organically.

 

Who Uses Coworking Spaces?

Coworking spaces are popular in the startup and freelancing worlds. When coworking spaces came about, it was typical to think “startup” and picture some (over the top) office building where everyone rides around on unicycles and sits in giant bean bag chairs. However, its not just budget-conscious startups that take advantage of coworking. So who uses coworking spaces?

Freelancers or Remote Workers

Since freelancers and other 1099’s work for themselves, having a pay-as-go type of arrangement can save a fortune.

Not only that, but a coworking space is a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and freelancers. It’s an excellent place to network.

Whether you’re a digital publisher, a creative freelancer, a programmer, or more of a Jack/Jill of all trades, there’s a very high likelihood you’ll meet people at a coworking space that are working on similar things that you are.

Beyond that, you may even have a chance to chat with people that can help out with some of the areas that are not your strengths. When you have so many people in one space, with such a diversity of talents, it’s incredible what you can come up with – even if everyone’s kind of doing their own thing.

Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not like everyone is just sitting around talking to everybody about their projects, but there’s definitely a bit of downtime and areas you can chat while taking a break.

But the real appeal is the raw, unadulterated focus and motivation you’ll encounter in most good coworking spaces. There’s truly a special energy when you’ve got a room filled with motivated people who are all working towards building their dreams.

Small Businesses

Small businesses that don’t want the same overhead as a traditional lease, have flocked to coworking. Since there are relatively no costs of getting set up and the coworking membership includes most (if not all) of the amenities a business needs day to day, it is no wonder why small businesses now make up a majority of coworking space users.

Enterprises

Yes, even large global enterprises like Nike, have partnered with coworking companies to handle their workspace needs. When you have thousands of employees who are working around the world, managing office needs can be a hassle. These companies leverage a coworking company to build out a custom space for them or they will serve as the primary anchor tenant in the space.

Non-Profits:

Many coworking spaces offer non-profit arrangements or discounts. Due to all-in cost savings of coworking (and being cost-conscious), these types of companies have also gravitated towards these flexible coworking relationships.

Coworking Vs Other Remote Work Alternatives

 

Working From Home

 

There are pros and cons to the classic “office culture”. Many online-based entrepreneurs get into business for themselves in order to escape certain aspects of the typical corporate lifestyle and culture. Working remotely has opened up all sorts of possibilities when it comes to running a business, or even working for someone else. Despite the benefits, there are certain things you miss out on, too.

Working from home, or hotel rooms, has countless advantages. It’s great to be able to wake up when you want, take breaks when you want, wear pants when you want…

But at the end of the day, it’s also easy to lose focus and get off track. There’s something about being in an office setting that helps to keep you motivated, on-task, and getting the most out of your time.

When you’re a freelancer or anyone else who sets your own schedule, it’s great to not have a boss looking over your shoulder and tracking your time, but you are still accountable to yourself.

There’s a certain amount of accountability that exists when you’re working among other people, even if they have nothing to do with your project, they aren’t your coworkers, and you don’t even speak a word to them.

Working From Coffee Shops or Restaurants

The second runner-up (to working from home) is coffee shops and restaurants. Many new coworking models (as of 2017), have turned these spaces during their closed or unused hours into pop-up coworking spaces. Coffee shops have been closely associated with work environments due, to the accessibility of tables and limitless coffee. Aside from this, there are other advantages like fast wifi and space to work for the cheap price of a cup of coffee. Like all benefits there are downsides. Since these spaces are often open to transient drop-ins, there could potentially be noise and other distractions preventing you from getting work done.

Top 6 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Coworking Space

With 2020 around the corner and coworking spaces projected to exceed 23,000 worldwide, how do you choose the best coworking space that fits your needs? Before making your selection, you should follow these top 6 tips when selecting a coworking space:

#1 Location

For obvious reasons, location is the most important element when choosing your perfect office space. Choose a space that is within a reasonable commuting distance from your home. Look for conveniences such as restaurants, availability of parking, shops, and public transit that make it easy to access and entertain clients.

#2 Budget

You want to make sure that the space you choose offers an affordable and long-term solution for your team. If you are going to outgrow the space within a few months, you need to take this into account. Determining what your budget is in advance will help you filter our spaces that are much too expensive from an early stage saving you time (and money).

#3 Work Environment

Do you need a dedicated office or can you work in an open space with use of meeting rooms? Are there legal restrictions on how you run your business? You need to make sure that wherever you choose to work you fulfill your foundational business needs.

#4 Community

Once you have determined if a space meets your needs and budget, you can look into some of the more fun aspects to the space. What type of community do you see yourself in? Each coworking space fosters and attracts different members from local neighborhoods. For example, if you are a graphic designer, maybe you want to choose a space with other designers you can collaborate with.

Besides the “business” reasons for joining a community, you want to be encouraged to come to work everyday, network, and make new friends.

#5 Short-Term or Long-Term?

Planning for the future is a fundamental business strategy. How long do you plan on staying at your chosen coworking space? Are you planning on expanding nationally or globally? Does the coworking space you choose offer access to a network of locations? These are important elements that you should have the answer to prior to picking a space.

#6 Amenities

Although just icing on the cake, choosing a coworking space that boasts unique amenities is always a plus. Aside from the typical free coffee, wifi, and printing, finding a space that can offer above and beyond will make your work life much better.

Most medium to large cities like New York will have hundreds of coworking spaces that you can find with a quick search. Beyond that, apps like DropDesk work to create an entire network of coworking opportunities, making it easy for workers to connect with open workspaces, to browse exactly what each location offers, and to choose the one that fits best.

You might also like our guides on:

 

The Average Cost Of Coworking Spaces

According to DeskMag,

  • The average monthly price for a dedicated desk in the U.S. is $387
  • The average monthly cost for a hot desk is $195.
  • The average cost of a day pass is $23.

 

The Future of Coworking

Coworking Growth Forecast 2022

 

As young people continue to realize that they don’t necessarily have to fall in line and follow a more traditional path in their careers, it’s likely we’ll see an increase in the amount of freelancers and entrepreneurs who will make the leap.

This will be led by technology, awareness, and opportunity. Coworking will be the new norm for people who entering the workforce today.

It’s unlikely that coworking will replace office buildings in general, or that everyone will one day become a freelancer. Large organizations will still continue to thrive, and new ones will be built from the ground up, but they may focus less on having centralized locations and more on offering perks like remote working, when it’s possible.

There were roughly 57.3 million freelancers in the United States alone in 2017, and by 2027, they estimate that the majority of the U.S. workforce will do some type of freelance work, in some capacity, including people who have a side gig as a freelancer and do it part-time.

Should You Try Coworking?

If you’re curious about trying out coworking, the best thing you can do is just to give it a shot. If you just want to go in, get your work done and then leave, and you’re concerned about any social obligations: don’t be. It’s like the gym.

Everyone is there to do a very specific task, and if you are in the zone, nobody is going to bother you. If you’re open to chatting and being approached, you’ll meet some great local entrepreneurs and build a coworking community.

If you’re feeling stagnant in your business, your startup, your app, your blog, or whatever else you’re working on… spending some time coworking could be exactly what you need to get things flowing again.

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