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What Is a Coworking Space?

Helga Moreno
Helga Moreno
What Is a Coworking Space?

What comes to your mind when you think about a coworking/shared/flexible workspace? Of course, co-working is about sharing infrastructure and cost but it's also about belonging to a community, creativity, fun, flexibility, accessibility, and sustainability.

Co-working is definitely a new way of getting work done and sharing. Coworking ecosystems are created as productive and collaborative environments.

These environments are inhabited by dynamic entrepreneurs and remote workers enjoying the absence of corporate constraints and limitations and flexible memberships meeting their business and personal requirements.

Here is how different people and organizations define a coworking space:

Coworking spaces are defined as membership-based workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting. —

In the simplest sense, coworking space is an environment that’s designed to accommodate people from different companies who come to do work. These workspaces are characterized by shared facilities, services, and tools. Coworking spaces are community centers, collaboration hubs, and social spaces where workers from different backgrounds can come together to share expertise and explore new ideas. — 

Coworking spaces offer their members a variety of amenities like shared workstations in an open-plan ‘office’ environment, private desk space, ‘hot-desking’ options, private offices, and meeting rooms. They are community-oriented and work on a flexible pay-as-you-go membership model. Coworkers typically pay a monthly club membership or subscription fee which includes access to the hub, a hotdesk, internet & meeting rooms. —

Who Introduced the Term?

The first mention of the word "coworking space" as a shared office space dates back to 2005 when Brad Neuberg, a dreamer, and undaunted entrepreneur launched the first coworking space in San Francisco.

The location inside Spiral Muse, a feminist collective space in the Mission district of San Francisco was called the “San Francisco Coworking Space” and was open on Mondays and Tuesdays only.

The work environment didn't attract any visitors during the first month because the term "coworking space" was completely new to people. They just didn't know what it is.

Nowadays coworking has transformed into a global phenomenon with an annual growth rate of 2.1.%. According to Statista, there are currently around 19, 000 coworking spaces around the globe. The number is growing daily and is expected to reach nearly 26,000 by 2025. There are currently 3.1 million coworkers in the world and the number is forecasted to nearly double by 2022 as reported by GCUC.

Coworking or Co-working—Which is Right?

You surely noticed that coworking is sometimes spelled as co-working, which is rather confusing, especially if you are new to the industry. The roots of such dual spelling go to Associated Press Stylebook, which is a popular reference resource for many essay writers and editors all over the globe. Till recently it spelled coworking with a hyphen but in May 2018 AP Stylebook changed co-working to coworking, officially dropping the hyphen.

Currently, by adding the hyphen to the term, you change its meaning. It turns into “co-working,” which means working in the same shared office space with other employees from the same company. The difference is quite distinct.

Coworking Space Members — Who Are They

three girls with laptops at a coworking space

Coworking space is a perfect foundation for startups and entrepreneurs. It gives the possibility to both scale up and scale down the number of team members depending on their needs. The costs of shared infrastructure are low, while the community for networking is wide.

Coworking space is worth to consider because it gives opportunities to increase expertise, listen to mentors, find funding options, and launch a new product.

However, if you think that coworking spaces are mostly for startups and entrepreneurs, you are mistaken. The population of coworking spaces is really diverse.

Here is a brief list including a few types of members that commonly join coworking culture:

  • SME

Small businesses and small teams can benefit from affordable coworking spaces rent prices. There is no need to commit to long-term leases, everything required for smooth business operation is available — meeting rooms, conference rooms, kitchens, free coffee, and 24 access.

Coworking businesses strive to open locations in the areas close to transportation hubs, coffee shops, shopping spots, and sports facilities. The cost of renting an office in such a location is too high to pay for a small business if they would think of doing this independently.

Coworking space frees small business owners from dealing with minor office maintenance issues like purchasing soap and toilet paper, paper and pens, changing cartridges for printers, calling out the Wi-Fi repair company, all these and so much more is taken care of for members.

Besides, coworking spaces run a variety of events for members (from cooking classes to workshops, training, lunches, education, and social activities). This is a good chance to meet talents for future cooperation.

  • Freelancers

Freelancers can enjoy the freedom of coworking space policy. They can decide where and when to work staying in the office environment and being a part of a productive community that unites people with a similar mindset.

Common areas at coworking spaces are the better alternative for freelancers feeling too isolated working from the home office or a coffee shop. On top of that, coworking space is a place where they can meet smart business people operating all sorts of ventures, so they can make friends with them, find potential clients and partners.

  • Remote Workers

Employees that are remote from headquarters, distributed workers, and partially remote workers (that are allowed to work away from the office a few days a week) find all required amenities to stay productive at a shared workspace. They can use hot or dedicated desks, get some peace and quiet in a private space, book a small meeting room or use a skype room or phone booth to receive a call.

  • Corporate Organizations

Larger organizations also take their benefits from the coworking environment. They encourage remote employees to work from the comfort of coworking hubs, which results in a higher level of team happiness, creativity, and productivity boost along with cool networking opportunities.

Big corporations have many reasons to prefer flexible workspaces instead of traditional offices.

  • Premier workspaces
  • Prestigious office locations
  • The possibility to hire top talents from all over the globe
  • No office maintenance issues
  • Reasonable prices, and more.

Enterprises usually opt for larger private offices with custom branding or technology-boosted super flex offices for those using a hybrid workforce.

Additionally, many coworking spaces organize yoga and meditation classes as well as various wellness activities that help members (company employees) stay healthy, cheerful, and balance their lifestyles.

Types of Coworking Spaces

large open space area at a coworking space

Coworking spaces offer quite a number of facilities from hot and dedicated desks to specific venues aimed at members working in different business fields.

Coworking centers differ by size and location, however, there is something common for every space regardless of its specialization. It's a collaborative community, bracing coffee aroma, friendly vibe, and excitement you breeze in with the air.

A great variety of coworking spaces includes but is not limited to:

  • Multi-use spaces with their flexible layouts.
  • Studios of visual art with their industrial interiors.
  • Spaces outfitted with ergonomic furniture and utensils providing the utmost comfort to residents.
  • Private offices for teams that require physical proximity for members, yet still want to stay connected to the bigger ecosystem.
  • Makerspaces (Makerspace & Co, Marrickville, Australia) for doers loving to make prototypes and tinker with tools.
  • Hackerspaces (Hacker Space, Noida, India) welcome creative artists like fashion, graphic, and interior designers.
  • Dancing studios (Loom Coworking, Fort Mill, USA) cater to the needs of classic and contemporary dancers.
  • Studios for artists (arebyte, London, UK) are great for creative souls working with paint or digital medium.
  • Studios for photographers and moviemakers.
  • Pop-up retail spaces.
  • Coworking spaces for lawyers (Chisel, Tysons Corner, Virginia, US.)
  • Dedicated areas inside swanky restaurants to work on a pop-up basis (CoworkCafe,Arlington, Virginia.)
  • Family coworking office space (Let's Play Coworking, London, UK) where members can bring their babies yet stay productive.
  • Female-only workspaces or women-centric work environments like Shecosystem, Toronto, Canada.
  • Rural shared spaces or coworking spaces in the countryside like Coworking Bansko, Bulgaria, for digital nomads and just freelancers on workation give people a wonderful opportunity to work from any exotic destination on Earth. This kind of coworking spaces usually provides co-living facilities as well.
  • Hybrid flexible workspaces like trendy gym coworkings, for instance. Such kind of workspace is a perfect fit for those who can't imagine their lives without sports and workout. Here, they have all the necessary facilities to stay fit and productive at the same time without sacrificing anything.
  • Virtual coworking office spaces provide pretty much the same membership benefits as physical spaces but members don't have to be at the same place physically. They virtually sit at a specific desk marked in the virtual floorplan, interact with other residents throughout the day, go to virtual locations such as phone booths and meeting rooms.

Member Experience at a Coworking Space

The member experience is exactly what differentiates a flexible workspace and a traditional office. Modern coworking spaces know how to lure a customer. Their fancy designs and futuristic technologies take your breath away.

As a rule, a coworker's journey starts at a workspace website, where they can read about the amenities, take a virtual tour, and sign up for membership. Right after that, a new member gets an invitation to the coworking space app.

Every solid coworking space brand offers beautiful mobile apps for members. With the help of those apps, members get the possibility to discover and use all workspace perks and services. For instance, they can communicate with other coworkers, book meeting rooms and desks, apply and pay for services, use printers, open doors, and more.

Generate recurring revenue and offer exceptional customer experience at your shared or coworking space

Farseeing flexible workspace operators strive to create touchless hi-tech experiences in their locations. This way, they give members exactly what they need in time without the necessity to ask the community manager. A self-service policy frees managers from running all sorts of records and lets to focus on customers' happiness, fun networking events, and other activities, which contribute to members' satisfaction and add value to membership.

As you see, entrepreneurs' experience at a coworking space has nothing to do with a formal traditional office atmosphere but rather the hospitality of a five-star hotel.

Top 5 Benefits of Coworking Spaces

There are plenty of reasons why entrepreneurs choose coworking spaces. I will recap just a few major benefits that make residents thrive.

  • Flexibility. Coworking spaces offer really flexible agreements. No long-term commitments, you can cancel any time. This makes the service very attractive for businesses. They try it to see if it works out for them. If they are happy with the experience, they continue with the membership. If not, there’s no harm in canceling the subscription.
  • Cost-efficiency. Renting an office on your own is expensive (especially if you are looking for a premium location). Plus, there are a host of extra costs you may have to deal with — furniture, internet, office utensils, free coffee for employees, snacks, and more. Flexible workspaces come equipped with an array of perks like these all at one monthly rate, so you don't need to think about office cleaning or toilet soap refilling. Besides, they come with many built-in business services, like receptionists and conference rooms, that can save you money in the long run. The only thing you need to consider is what features do you need for smooth business running. Usually, cost-efficiency is a crucial benefit to small businesses locked into expensive leases
  • Increased productivity. This is especially true for small business owners working out of a home office where they are easily distracted. It's difficult to concentrate on work when kids need attention, the house needs to be maintained, etc. By going to a specialized workspace where everyone works, you immerse yourself in the business atmosphere and cope with your tasks much faster. Many coworking spaces are accessible 24/7, so you can come whenever you need to get something done or whenever you feel more productive.

Almost 90% of coworkers report that they are happier since joining a coworking space and more than half (55%) strongly feel that they are part of a community.

On average, coworkers interact with 1 to 4 members per day, and 83% report that they feel less lonely since becoming part of a coworking space. —

  • Networking opportunities. The possibility to connect with like-minded individuals is one of the biggest benefits of a coworking space. If you’re working from home or a traditional office, you rob yourself of the important connections necessary to drive your business forward. Sometimes, the only thing a small business is missing for quicker growth is the spark that proximity to other successful businesses brings.
  • Creativity boost. By working close to other people sharing similar interests you are exposing yourself to new perspectives, which provokes bursts of creativity. Sometimes, switching environments and heading to a new coworking office space allows you to refresh your mind and consider alternative solutions to business challenges.

Famous Companies that Started at Coworking Spaces

Uber app on the phone as an example of company that started at a coworking space

Nothing can inspire more than a success story that once upon a time began at a coworking space:

  • Uber — Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp started to solve the taxi cab crisis in San Francisco at a coworking space. Now Uber teams work in more than 50 countries all over the world and this number continues to grow.
  • Instagram — Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom developed the app in eight weeks only getting together at a coworking space.
  • Indiegogo — The idea to create one of the world’s biggest crowdfunding portals flashed a Wall Street analyst, Danae Ringelmann's mind at a coworking space.
  • Wanderfly (2009) — It took Christy Liu together with three daring co-founders a year to bring the project brought out by TripAdviser to life at a coworking space.
  • Spacebring — Working at a coworking space, Igor Dzhebyan & Ross Khanas discovered that coworking spaces are in abundance of creativity but lack technology. So, they embarked on a journey to bridge that gap. They created Spacebring, the first coworking space management software to delight members now used in 30+ counties worldwide. The platform offers revolutionary solutions based on primary members' and managers' needs, significantly improving their experience and facilitating rapid workspace growth.

Revolutionize your coworking space with an easy-to-use coworking space management platform designed for both members and staff

Prices for Coworking Space Services around the World

The price of coworking space membership varies from city to city. In New York, for example, an average price for a hot desk at a coworking space is $500, while in Ukraine roughly $100 per month. The average monthly membership price worldwide is $274 per month, though statistic says that only 53% pay from their own pockets. In most cases, a company covers the expense.

Of course, the price will depend on the amenities and services included — a luxury place in the city center with a shower and a café can be very costly. In addition, just like in any other industry, you may pay a premium for a famous brand. For example, the first coworking space network WeWork is famous for its beautiful spaces, useful events, and certainly not for low prices.

Over to You

To sum up, the coworking movement is not something new or futuristic anymore. Today's workspaces are comfortable, flexible, and adventurous. They give residents many more opportunities for freedom, flexibility, growth, and happiness.

Are you looking for advice on starting a coworking business? Read this article: How to Start a Coworking Space: Experts' Advice to Avoid Costly Mistakes.

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