What is Coworking? And Why is it Valuable?

Coworking is a workspace revolution that is becoming more and more popular with young professionals. Even if you don’t know exactly what it means, you’ve probably heard it echoing around in earshot. Coworking’s popularity has risen exponentially in recent years; currently there are approximately 35,000 coworking spaces in the world.

So, what is it?

Coworking has a range of definitions, some which focus too much on space itself and others which emphasise the more abstract, interpersonal side of things. The truth is, coworking is a mixture of both. It’s a cost-efficient space that has all the necessities of a professional office: desks, meeting rooms, kitchen, break rooms, coffee. Some even feature audio studios, photography studios and large event rooms. Paying for a coworking spaces is done on membership, similar to the way in which you sign up for a gym. It’s very flexible: if you have plans to relocate next month, no problem! However, coworking’s true value proposition comes from the community you join in a coworking space. A coworking community allows you to regularly engage with like-minded individuals or parties, who you can share ideas with, learn from and collaborate with.The sense of community is what gives coworking such a high retention rate; in 2018, 76% of coworkers planned to keep coworking the following year.

The origins of coworking

The term ‘coworking’ was introduced by Brad Neuberg in San Francisco in 2005. Brad didn’t invent the concept of a communal working environment but his particular coworking vision changed how we think of workspaces worldwide. The trend helped many different industries develop in ways they perhaps wouldn’t have without the collaboration and freedom that coworking enables.

What inspired the need for coworking?

Working from home doesn’t always work out

The increase of freelancers, small business owners and telecommuting has changed the way people work, and the single cubicle grind of a traditional office space is no longer default. Getting to work from home sounded like a dream, and became a successful reality for many—and still is! Working from home often doesn’t work out for many reasons: people get lonely or bored, pets are distracting, relatives always coming over, and others found that they simply preferred to keep their home and work lives separate. Remote work didn’t quite click, but going back to a traditional office didn’t feel right either.

Okay then, what about your local café?

Ahhh, the lifeblood of business, coffee! We all love coffee, making a café the most logical (or caffeine addiction driven) decision to set up with a laptop and begin working in. Cafés are generally just upbeat, trendy, delicious places to be in, which is why many people opt for this choice when needing a temporary work location. Unsurprisingly, many find that working from a café also has its limitations. Are you planning on being there for more than 1-2 hours? Well, unless you’re willing to drink and scoff an unhealthy amount of coffee and cake, the café will begin to dislike you for occupying their table. Secondly, you need a power outlet, and cafés never have enough. Finally, it’s noisy, it’s crowded, it doesn’t have the same access to amenities as an office. If you meet up enough in a café, you’ll eventually figure out the hard truth: it’s a great space to meet friends, but it’s not a good place to do business.

Coworking is the happy in-between

For the large number of people who found that their home or local café didn’t serve them, coworking is the solution. What do most freelancers or startups have in common? They don’t have the capital to hire office space! Coworking allows these parties to gain access to a professional office without the commitment of a lease. As coworking spaces have become more developed, it’s become clear that such spaces are used by a much greater variety of people than what was first imagined—they’re filled with corporates and artists, social entrepreneurs, non-profit recruits, actors and a range of other independent professionals. This variety is exactly why many coworking spaces now feature recording, studios, radio studios and photography studios to tailor for the different types of expertise found in a coworking space. Corporates and other large businesses have recently started moving into coworking spaces—there’s an acknowledgement by big business that this model works. Still, many businesses are skeptical about remote work in general, especially if they’re hiring freelancers with limited experience. But plenty of larger businesses now see the value of placing their employees in coworking spaces.

The value in community

Coworking is all about community—these are people who support each other, who share experience and experiences. A coworking space should always be people first and the purpose of the space should help to grow the people in it. An events room in a coworking space isn’t just for entrepreneurs to use, it can also be used to create hosted events, activities and workshops that empower members and encourage them to meet each other. The better everybody in a coworking space gets on, the better things will go—members will feel safer sharing information, expertise and advice.

One of the difficulties many freelancers and other independent workers find (especially if it’s their first time) is that they become isolated and are unsure of how they can reach out to like-minded individuals for collaboration or guidance. Coworking solves this issue and provides many different ways for individuals to collaborate. Generally, having another person to share the journey with makes life a lot more enjoyable and valuable.

Coworking in Asia

Coworking spaces are spreading across the globe. If you’re living in a bustling city, there’s a high likelihood there will be a coworking space to sign up to, but many are willing to travel to less expensive areas of the world and begin coworking there. Here’s three different coworking spaces in Asia that are generating buzz.

Japan: Impact HUB

Based in Shinagawa City, Tokyo and a short walk from Meguro Station, Impact HUB current hosts over 350 members. They’re famous for being in a great coffee spot—if you need that brown gold to make your day run smoothly, then you’re in luck.

China: Fishburners

Fishburners is an Australian company with a major Shanghai hub, and they’ve taken a unique approach to coworking—they’re a nonprofit coworking space built around assisting local startups.They’ve hosted over 1000 startups, 5000 events and 40,000 members.

India: Zioks

Zioks is a coworking space currently operating in Kolkata that seats approximately 260 people. It has a range of amenities and services with a range of desks, rooms and workstations. They also have a gym, medical room, storage room, event and even a daycare room, which is a service I haven’t seen elsewhere. If you’re an individual or party looking for a dedicated coworking desk space, they’re a great choice.

To sum up, coworking is an extremely practical option for a range of entrepreneurs, small businesses and even major enterprises, but its true benefit is found in the sense of community coworking spaces create. Coworking spaces are only going to become more popular and accessible in the coming years—as our work world changes, they are offering a new way of working that’s hard to pass up.

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