Coworking is a new type of work which brings mobile workers together in one, usually open, shared workspace. It is a work style that officially emerged in 2005 and is designed for mobile workers in a diverse range of industries. A coworking space is similar to a shared office, but offers much more to its members by providing a community and a collaborative work environment.
A coworking space is often referred to as the ‘third space’, because it combines the comfort and amenities of a (home)office and the aesthetics and vibe of a café, which come together to create an environment that is ideal for starting, growing and continuing all types of businesses.
All coworking spaces are different, but each of them are alike in that they are host communities of workers
All coworking spaces are different, catering to workers in different industries and with different budgets – but they each have one thing in common, and this distinguishes them from other shared workspaces or business centers: coworking spaces are made up of a community of professionals who work alongside one another, but on their own projects or businesses. Coworkers become members of a coworking space, and working in one means being connected to a community of other professionals with whom you can interact and exchange ideas.
There are several reasons why these communities offer a huge advantage to their members, and why people are better off working in a coworking space, over other workspaces.
First, many coworkers are freelance or independent workers, so they work alone. But working alone is boring and isolating. By leaving your home office and placing yourself in a productive environment, it’s much easier to achieve a work-life balance.
Second, by placing yourself in a community of other professional workers creates opportunities to make and exchange business contacts, receive feedback on work, collaborate on projects, and update knowledge or skill-sets. Coworking spaces are great for startups and small companies for this reason.
Working in a home office, café, or a traditional office, where you aren’t encouraged to speak to new people from different backgrounds, is not conducive to improving your business. Conversely, working alongside others means that a freelance worker, contractor, startup or company employee will be exposed to new ideas and new clients.
Members can exchange or be exposed to new ideas or ways of approaching problems, meet new contractors or potential clients, collaborate on projects, and are inspired to work more productively and creatively.
What does a coworking space look like?
Most coworking spaces are open, collaborative work environments, meaning that members sit near one another in a shared workspace. This doesn’t mean that you have to constantly interact with the people around you or that they are a constant source of distraction. On the contrary – all people in coworking spaces are there for one thing – to work – and it’s rather the time spent between projects or emails that open up the possibilities. You might start talking to someone at the coffee machine, sit next to someone new for lunch, or strike up a conversation with another member during one of the frequent events that coworking spaces host for their members.
Thanks to the fact that coworking spaces provide open workspace, they offer very flexible and affordable membership plans. You don’t have to be there from 9-5, Monday to Friday. All have flexible desk plans, allowing you to go in a couple of times per week or month, using any desk that is unoccupied when you arrive. Permanent desks – where you can keep your PC on the desk when you leave – are also available. Most are also equipped with meeting rooms, which members can use when needed.
Of course, there are many coworking spaces which also provide semi-private and private offices, if more privacy is required. The advantages of being a part of a community remain intact, though – and so coworking remains the best – and one of the cheapest – options for all types of workers.
To understand the benefits of a coworking space, we should look at the alternatives.
The home office (where most people worked before joining a space) is lonely, isolating, and difficult to improve your business. There are many distractions, and is a very unprofessional front for your business.
The café, while affording a sense of activity and atmosphere, is loud and uncomfortable. Coffee rent can amount to big sums, leaving your belongings on the table while using the bathroom is unsafe, and having confidential conversations is a challenge.
The traditional office is certainly more comfortable than a café, but is rarely in your neighborhood, taking a long time to commute from home to work. It’s difficult to meet new people with different perspectives, and traditional office aesthetics are rarely inspiring. There are also few events that serve to expand knowledge or introduce coworkers to new people.
What coworking is – in numbers:
- 54% of coworkers are freelancers, the rest are entrepreneurs or employees of mainly small companies
- Around half of all coworking spaces have between 10 and 49 members
- Coworking spaces are the most productive places to work, compared to traditional offices and home offices
- Since joining a space, 80% of coworkers have expanded their business networks
- 92% have increased their social circles
- 74% feel more productive
- 80% feel less isolated
- 2/3 of coworkers felt their skill sets were improved
- And more than 1/3 reported an increase in income*
*These statistics were collected from the 2nd Global Coworking Survey, which was conducted and responses collected and analyzed by Deskmag, and supported by Deskwanted. It was a global study of over 1,500 participants in more than 60 countries, and is the most comprehensive study of the coworking industry. The complete statistics can be accessed here.