International Coworking Week: Universal Appeal

By Amanda Fanoun · 10.08.2016 · 4 MIN READ

This week is International Coworking week and in observance, we’ve put together a past, present and future snapshot of the most important topics to keep you in the know.

Where did Coworking come from?

Everyone’s talking about it: Coworking is the new way to work. Understanding its origins – even ever so briefly – will make you appreciate just how far this sector has come in the shared workspace industry.

The first documented coworking space according to Deskmag was a hackerspace – community-operated workspaces – in Berlin in 1995. In 1999 Brian DeKoven started using the word coworking as a term for working together as equals, which ultimately became the crux of modern coworking movement. That same year, the first coworking space with flexible desks was opened in NYC by a software company that rented out unused desks in their office to small companies and independents. They still operate today (42 West 24). The rest is history.

Coworking isn’t a Trend

It’s here to stay. We don’t just believe this because today’s new workers rely more on collaboration and community to grow their business and stay productive. Or just because small businesses and increasingly more enterprise companies seek to remove real estate management from their balance sheet and seek to offer more employee perks. But also because the stats say so. Here are a few that stand out:

•    In 2011, there were a mere 1,000 coworking spaces throughout the world (compared to 11,000 in 2016).
•    Global coworking spaces will grow from 11,000 in 2016 to over 26,000 by 2020.
•    Global coworking members are expected to increase from 976,000 in 2016 to 3.8 million in 2020.

Coworking has been a game changer for many operators. Ashley Korner, VP of Sales and Operations and Carr Workplaces, explains, “coworking has extended our offering to new, broader audiences and has become a core foundation of our in-center communities. Coworking has drawn people out of their shells and fostered a much more collaborative, energized environment.” So put your community and collaboration caps on because the coworking train is just taking off.

Coworking is Mainstream

It’s no longer just about the small businesses cutting operational costs and embracing networking and collaborative spaces. This sector has proven to have the buy-in of the commercial real estate industry. With more than 27 million square feet of coworking space in the US alone and an expected year over year member growth rate of 41%, Commercial Real Estate stakeholders are jumping on the bandwagon.

Operators can vouch for the relatively new interest in coworking by CRE. According to Ashley Korner, “Real estate developers are starting to see the enormous amenity value that coworking brings to mixed use and residential developments- as are landlords. As this starts to happen and more people are drawn to shared office space, coworking offerings will become more customized and niche.”

Another factor validating CRE’s recent uptake of coworking space is the increasing percentage of independent contractors and freelancers flocking to shared workspaces. Currently in the US there are more than 34% in the workforce; a statistic projected to increase to 40% over the next five years. While coworking is a perfect match for these individuals in the workforce, it is quickly becoming a place where large corporations are migrating as well. Whether to enhance company culture and embrace a startup feel or to reduce efforts and costs associated with managing private office space, coworking is the new black across the board.

The Future of Coworking

So where do we see coworking in the future? In a society and workforce that is increasingly interactive and interconnected, coworking is another means to bring people together, and serves as an enabler for business growth and collaboration. Operators of any flexible workspace are beginning to accommodate the trend despite a traditional business center business model. In parallel, operators – and members alike – are seeking tools to make the coworking experience more cohesive and efficient.

With the rapid progression of this sector, we’ve already seen an influx in tools to manage workspaces and bring members together. Now more than ever is it imperative for operators to embrace digital technologies to both manage their space and enable their members to optimize their experience in their center.

Universal Appeal

Considering the thus-far relatively short lifespan, anyone working in or running a coworking space is bearing witness to a very exciting time with loads of opportunity ahead. As our long-time industry friend Ray Lindenberg says, “coworking rocks as the hottest work-way on the planet because of its heart, soul and vibe. It’s collaborative, live, and social networking at its finest.” Cheers to that, Ray. Happy International Coworking Week!

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About the Author

Amanda Fanoun

I've been writing content about flexible office and technology for essensys since 2015. My focus is to bring engaging and insightful perspectives to the flexible workspace sector of the commercial real estate industry.