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What is Coworking?

Coworking is the buzzword du jour. But what is coworking? If you look up coworking in the dictionary, you will probably get the following definition: "an arrangement by which freelancers or employees working for various companies share an office or other workspace (often used attributively)." (Dictionary.com)
what is coworking

However, co-working goes beyond simply being an ‘arrangement’. In recent times, coworking has been transformed into a global movement with companies like WeWork, Spaces. and Industrious helping to spin the concept into a $26 billion worldwide industry.

We’ve seen coworking spaces open at a rapid rate, with more than 40k spaces predicted to open by the end of 2024.

Coworking spaces tend to offer fully serviced and staffed office spaces. Typical features include:

  • Flexibility: memberships are available to use a space on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly basis.
  • Affordability: 24/7 access and professional business addresses.
  • Collaboration: providing the opportunity to socialize and work with like-minded individuals and businesses.

Amenities: such as wifi, coffee/tea, mail handling, receptionist, kitchen, and meeting rooms often offered as standard. However, you could argue that accelerators, incubators, and serviced offices all provide the same level of service.

But there is one major component missing from our dictionary definition for coworking: community. This emphasis on cultivating a community is the USP that many coworking spaces claim they have over other iterations of shared workspaces.

Coworking Communities

The majority of today’s coworking spaces are designed to provide an innovative and collaborative environment for their community.

They are usually managed by a community manager who helps bring together members with relevant events, activities, and access to the advice they may need to help their business thrive. As such, the world’s coworking spaces all tailor their amenities and services to the needs of their individual community.

So, every coworking space is different. This makes it difficult to clearly define what coworking is. But without a strong emphasis on community, the coworking concept soon falls flat on its face.

The History of Coworking

The term coworking has certainly evolved over the last few years. The term “coworking” in relation to a shared workspace environment was first used in 2005 by entrepreneur Brad Neuberg. Neuberg’s ‘San Francisco Coworking Space’ opened shortly later within the feminist collective, Spiral Muse.

The San Francisco Coworking Space was only open for two days a week. During the first month, no one came to the space, despite an advert on Craigslist.

After some more targeted PR, people started to understand what the space offered and began to show up. And so, coworking was born as a means for individuals to rent a shared workspace on a highly flexible basis.

Other spaces soon started to appear around the globe, including the first Hub at London’s Angel Station and the St. Oberholz space in Germany, both opening in 2005. New York’s first coworking space, Brooklyn Coworking, opened in 2006 and the US cities of Austin and Pheonix welcomed their first spaces shortly afterwards.

With the rise of the gig economy, the coworking concept snowballed. It provides today’s flexible workforce with a more attractive alternative to working remotely at home, in a coffee shop, or in a conventional serviced office.

More recently, coworking has expanded beyond the realms of flexible workers with many corporations hopping on the bandwagon. We’ve also seen spaces pop up in restaurants and hotel lobbies.

It’s clear that coworking is not a static concept. Coworking will continue to evolve as freelancers, entrepreneurs, corporations, and everyone-in-between capitalize on this growing trend to find the most effective way of working in our changing world of work.

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