By Joanna Gibbons
In an insanely fast amount of time, coworking has become one of the hottest trends for business of every size. The concept of coworking space as we know it today started in Vienna in 2002 by two Austrian entrepreneurs. The space, called the ‘entrepreneurial center’ was aimed at entrepreneurs trying to build their empires working from home. The EC gave them dedicated workspace and community with like-minded startups that included architects, PR consultants, and freelancers. Fast-forward 17 years, coworking has gone from a part-time, small-scale venture to a worldwide global movement nearing two million coworkers in thousands of spaces all over the globe. Accordingly, the growth trajectory continues strong with projected expansion to 30,432 spaces and 5.1 million members by 2022.
What Draws So Many to Coworking?
Coworking spaces are officially defined as membership-based workspaces, where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting. Coworking offers workplace structure without the pressures of workplace politics or implicit demands to fit in. Instead, it is a culture of autonomy consisting of independent members from a spectrum of occupations, companies, and skillsets.
The beauty of coworking spaces is that members can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative area with shared tables where interaction is encouraged. Coworkers reported that having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them. Connections with others are another big reason why people pay to work in a communal space, as opposed to working from home for free.
Gathering with other freelancers in a coworking environment can benefit professionals as well as their products. Coworking provides opportunities to observe and learn from others often walking a similar road. From this perspective, it’s natural that technical and creative freelancers would appreciate the synergy of coworking communities. It can be an opening to new connections and relationships of like-minded individuals that invite new ideas. According to data published by Raconteur, 71 percent of coworking members report their workspaces positively impact the ways they engage in their work.
Who Uses Coworking?
Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report on individuals in alternative work arrangements: 16.5 million people now make up what is known as the “gig economy” or independent contractors and freelancers. According to Forbes, by 2020, an estimated 40% percent of today’s workforce will be comprised of these independent or freelance professionals, and a growing percentage find coworking spaces ideally suited for them.
Coworking spaces have also attracted larger companies to their model, too. Sometimes, large organizations are unable to entice the right talent to work at their corporate-headquarter locations. Enabled by technology, organizations can now leverage coworking space with convenient proximity to recruit top skillsets beyond their own backyards.
Top Ten Benefits
According to coworkers themselves, here are the ten highest-ranking benefits of the model:
- Social and enjoyable atmosphere (59%)
- Interaction with others (56%)
- Community (55%)
- Close distance to my home (51%)
- Like-minded people (47%)
- Good value for money (41%)
- Good transport connections nearby (41%)
- Basic office infrastructure (38%)
- Knowledge-sharing (35%)
- Big open workspace (34%)
All in all, the value added by coworking spaces is very real for the companies, entrepreneurs, and freelancers that call these shared spaces home.