Think you’ve kind of got your head wrapped around this whole ‘coworking’ business, how it works and who it's for? Or, have no idea about how it operates in reality (a whole business based around ‘just’ selling desks?!) and want some more of a background explainer on the practical realities of coworking, beyond the ‘cool-new-thing’ tag?
Well here’s some info from the inside experts to shed some light on the industry (or dislodge some assumptions perhaps!). Taken from the most common things that we hear when we talk to people about coworking…🤔
1. It’s been around much longer than you might think
Not just some modern millennial / hipster trend, the earliest iterations of pre-coworking models - hackerspaces - can actually be traced back to the mid-90s. The world’s first official coworking space is credited to Brad Neuberg, who started hiring hot desks in shared space to fellow remote workers in San Francisco, advertising this new ‘coworking’ concept via Craigslist.
At the same time across the pond, The Melting Pot (TMP) was being formed, with the doors to one of the UK’s - and Europe’s - first coworking spaces opening in 2007. By 2008, official coworking meetups were happening and by 2010, the first coworking conference took place in Brussels.
So what may be a seemingly new trend to some is actually a movement which is now almost 15 years old.
2. ...and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon
Haven’t you heard? Coworking is the new growth industry! In line with the modern shift towards flexible working practices, the number and size of coworking spaces globally has been steadily on the rise since 2010, and is projected to continue albeit at slightly slower pace than the dizzying rapidity of recent years. The global number of coworking spaces more than doubled from 2015 to 2018, and is forecast to increase by another 40% between now and 2022. And in terms of number of people using spaces? That’s predicted to hit 5.1 million in the same time frame.
The future of work, indeed.
3. It isn’t just for the hip, tech designer-type you have in your mind
When you picture people who use coworking spaces you might just think it’s only your super-trendy, ultra-stylish, digital nomad, work-for-cool-start-ups types. Not true though!
Coworking really is for everyone, and unless you’re at a very specific niche space catering to that type, you’re likely to find people from a range of different backgrounds in any one space.
For example, the average age for coworking members globally is 36, and whilst IT is the leading industry for those who use spaces, PR and Sales are both close behind.
And of course, it depends on which kind of space you go to (see more below). Our recent Social Impact Survey of TMP Members found that we have a higher age range than the global average (72% are over 35) and a more even gender distribution (49 - 51% female-male compared to 41 - 59% globally). Our Members are also a mix of founders, freelancers, employees and volunteers in all sorts of organisations and businesses, across all sectors, with the unifying thread that they are, in some way, ‘working to do good in the world’.
In short, there’s no ‘typical’ coworker - it is a movement and resource open to anyone and everyone who needs flexible work space, whatever they’re doing.
4. There’s no ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ coworking space either
In the same vein, there isn’t one coworking model to rule them all either; far from it, in fact. The range of spaces and business-models, ethos, values and member-base is as broad and diverse as the modern work market it serves.
From larger, more corporate spaces, to independent, community-focussed business, spaces for those working in tech, design, or creative industries, curated spaces, conscious connections spaces, female-centric or those with childcare included. Even co-living and working spaces, on beautiful sunny shores! There really are coworking spaces to suit all markets and need. So it’s just a matter of getting out there and finding your people.
5. Anyone can be a coworking space user (no, really!)
Love the idea of trying out coworking but employed in an organisation which have their own office space for you to work from? It might still be an option for you! As organisations are increasingly becoming more adaptive to their employees’ flexible work needs, membership of a coworking space is being folded in as an element of an average work week. Whether it’s to enable staff to work closer to home to reduce commute times, or to better facilitate external collaborations - or even to help boost staff wellbeing, inspiration and therefore productivity - employees can often find that their organisation will be open to coworking space use if it will have overall benefits for the individual and the organisation.
So go on, why not ask the boss if you can work one day a week from a coworking space instead of from home, and see what they say?
6. It can make you happier!
Who wouldn’t feel happier by sharing a chat over tea and maybe some homemade snacks someone has brought in rather than spending all your days working at home with only your cat for company? We’ve always felt this to be the case about coworking but our Social Impact Survey gave us the hard stats to prove it. With 95% of our Members feeling they belong to a community and over 75% receiving peer support from within that community, membership of our space has reduced isolation and built confidence professionally for those in our community, thereby contributing to improved mental wellbeing.
7. Office politics be gone
Well, mostly. Whilst there still might be odd grumbles over who keeps leaving dirty mugs in the sink, or why Kevin always seems to be in the meeting room when you need it, by and large, the sort of 'traditional' office politics that crop up within organisations, when you have everyone operating in the same building, don't have the chance to arise in coworking spaces. Because you have a work space full of people who work alongside but not necessarily with one another, or often not with one another in the same organisation. So what's left are colleagues who you interact with every day, get to know one another's tea or coffee orders, can share your work challenges and successes with, and support them through theirs. But without the competition or inter-organisational gripes that can get us all down, no matter who you work for. Basically, it's all the good with (almost) none of the bad - the working life dream!
8. Coworking spaces are good for your local economy
Not only do coworking spaces help to revitalise neighbourhoods and build community, they also practically contribute to boosting the local economy. In 2018, coworking space users in Europe spent an average of 10 Euros a day in the local area. This represents daily coffee or lunch money which could have otherwise been taken out of town when the individual has to travel for work - or indeed spent on the travel itself - but has instead been invested back into local businesses. Local economies are therefore supported by the flexibility coworking spaces provide for people to work close by home.
9. There’s probably one in your nearest city
As you might be guessing by now, coworking spaces are increasingly ubiquitous in cities around the world, but a lot of people still don’t think there is ‘anything like that where I live’ (admit it, I bet you had that passing thought, didn’t you?). Have a look though and you might surprise yourself! From the independent spaces, to the presence of a larger international network of spaces like Impact Hub, there is more likely than not to be coworking space of some description operating in your nearest city, we’d bet on it.
10. But they’re also for rural communities too!
Coworking hasn’t left you behind either, rural towns! In fact, coworking spaces are increasingly becoming an integral and effective means for revitalising smaller towns and villages, and ensuring people stay within the region, rather than de-camp to the nearest city for lack of opportunities.
And, if there really isn’t one in your city, town or village but you think there should be, well, why not start one yourself? Come and talk to us about our Coworking Accelerator: expert support, advice, guidance and all the resources you need to start your own coworking business. No reason not to then!
And if all of that doesn't win you over to the joys, wonders and benefits of coworking, and why it is the way of the future, well, why not come in and visit The Melting Pot to see it all in action! We're always happy to sit down over a cuppa and answer any further questions in person.
Sam is the Head of Collaboration at our pioneering coworking space and Scottish Institution The Melting Pot.
She oversees the daily operations, looking after her team, the coworking community and the 10,000 event attendees we welcome each year. Sam initially joined the team to work on our venue hire services and has stayed to apply her operational expertise across TMP and the Coworking Accelerator.