What’s a coworking space? What are the advantages of working there? Which are the things to consider before signing a contract with a coworking partner?

Nowadays it has become very difficult for companies to bear the costs of renting real estate. Coworking spaces can be an excellent solution for startups, small businesses and freelancers to save money and improve their way to work.

Here’s a guide on what a coworking is and what are the main benefits of working there.

What Is A Coworking Space?

Coworking space is an accommodation in which several workers from different companies share an office space. With this solution companies can allow cost savings and to develop a sense of community, collaboration, learning and sustainability. 

In recent years, the number of these spaces has grown dramatically. As an evidence, in 2019, there were nearly 19,000 coworking spaces and more than 3 million coworkers worldwide, with an annual growth rate of 24.2%.

These data confirm that coworking is a growing phenomenon.

The first-generation spaces were standardized and minimal. Today there are specialized companies that provide shared personalized workspaces for start-ups and for other enterprises. A list of the biggest coworking companies should include WeWork, Regus, Impact Hub, Convene and Knotel.

In a coworking space you can find the same equipments of the traditional office, along with a lot more. Every coworking space always have basics items like Wi-Fi, printers, conference room and vending machines.

The most specialized also offer start-up resources such as digital assets, coaches and advisors, 3D printers and other tech solutions.

Coworking spaces usually act as accelerators for business growth. The constant interaction with outside companies allows networking opportunities, helping businesses find new customers, talent and collaboration opportunities that fast-track growth.

The History of Coworking Space

The first “coworking” space was founded in 1995 by hackers in Berlin.  The idea was to share thoughts, space and information to complete tasks to those who joined the membership.

 In 1999 videogame designer Bernard DeKoven coins the term coworking. He used this word to describe the way individuals who are self-employed or working for different employers but can share ideas with tools and coordinated meetings through a computer network.

In 2005 Brad Neuberg, Tara Hunt and Chris Messina (the creator of Twitter hashtag) opened, in San Francisco, the first official coworking space named San Francisco Coworking Space. The space offered desks, free Wi-Fi, shared lunches, bike tours, meditation and massages. It was closed after a year and replaced by the Hat Factory: the first full-time coworking space.

Brad Neuberg: the founder of San Francisco Coworking Space, the first official coworking space.

The first Coworking Europe conference took place in Brussel in 2010. At this time, there were at least 600 coworking spaces worldwide, with more than half located in North America. 

In this period large companies such as WeWork started to open their own chains of coworking spaces specializing in corporate coworking.

The Coworking Europe 2013 conference, the annual event, founded in 2010, which brings together the whole coworking community.

In 2017, WeWork raised funding and, with a valued of $20 Billion, became the most highly valued US private tech company.

In 2017 1.2 Million people worldwide would have worked at a coworking space. During this period, the market of coworking spaces has a huge variety of fast-growing players such as Impact Hub, Venture X, and Serendipity.

In 2019 WeWork, after a disastrous IPO, started suffering from financial problems. The company was forced to cut off 2,400 employees in November 2019. Also, in late March of 2020, WeWork laid off another 250, followed by another round of employee layoffs at the end of April.

Who Uses a Coworking Space?

Coworking spaces are popular in the start-up and freelancing worlds. However, it is not just budget conscious start-ups that take advantage of coworking.

The most common categories of users of coworking spaces are:

  • Freelancers or Remote Workers: they are one of the most frequent visitors of these spaces. For them, a coworking space is an excellent opportunity to save money and to meet other entrepreneurs and freelancers.
  • Small Businesses:  coworking spaces allows start-ups to reduce costs of getting set up. Moreover, the coworking membership includes most of the equipment a business needs day to day. It is no wonder why small businesses now are the majors coworking spaces users.
  • Non-Profits: many coworking spaces offer non-profit arrangements or discounts. Due to all-in cost savings of coworking these types of companies have also gravitated towards these flexible coworking relationships.
This graph shows the major coworking spaces users.
(credits: coworker.com)

The Advantages of Working in a Coworking Space

Working in a coworking space can provide a lot of advantages for a company or a startup. The main advantages are:

  • More networking opportunities: one of the biggest benefits of a coworking space is the possibility to connect with other individuals.  Sometimes, working near other successful entrepreneurs can bring the important connections needed to make significant progress for the business.
  • Increased productivity: in a coworking space people can solidify a work mode that increase productivity. This solution allowed workers to be keen on their business and not to get distracted. This is also why many coworking spaces are accessible 24/7.
  • Boost in creativity: by working with other individuals and exposing to new perspectives, coworking spaces can provide bursts of creativity. Sometimes, switching spaces and heading to a new office can allow people to refresh their mind and consider alternative solutions to business problems.
  • Collaboration opportunities: coworking spaces expose you people to chance and opportunity. Working in proximity to others allows quick collaboration and exchange of ideas. It can also allow entrepreneurs to find new people to hiring.
  • Cost-efficiency: especially for small businesses, coworking spaces are an opportunity to save a huge amount of money. Entrepreneurs can rent spaces already equipped according to their needs. Therefore, they can also choose to buy some business services, provided by the coworking companies, for example business mail, that can allow them to save money in the long period.
  • Greater flexibility: many coworking spaces offer very flexible agreements. In many of them there is also the opportunity for an enterprise to delete his membership when it prefers. With this solution, small business can do not take on long-term commitments which can be awfully expensive for a start-up.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Coworking Space

Choosing a coworking space is a big decision. Entrepreneurs should carefully evaluate all factors before signing up. Based on insights from SCORE, here are some things to think about when looking for a coworking space:

  • Location: the location of the coworking space should be convenient for all. Enterprises should choose a space that is within a reasonable distance from employee homes, customers and partners.
  • Period: planning for the future is a fundamental business strategy. Entrepreneurs should consider how long they plan on staying at their chosen coworking space. They also should consider if they are going to expand the space within a few months, in order to not change location in the short-term.
  • Amenities: entrepreneurs or freelancers, before choosing a coworking place, should ask themselves and their employees what amenities they are looking for. They should make a list of their needs and find a workspace that best matches them.
  • Budget: entrepreneurs should make sure that the space they choose is an affordable and long-term solution for their team. Determining in advance what their budget is, will help them to filter the spaces that are too expensive from an early stage.
  • Security: entrepreneurs should make sure the space they choose has secure Wi-Fi and offers locks for your workspace, cabinets, lockers. Since this is essentially out of their control, they should find a company that values their security as much as they do.
  • Work Environment: entrepreneur should choose a space where the coworking community is compatible with the business team. Before signing a contract, they should also get insights on who they will be surrounded by and what type of environment they will be working in.

This infographic represents what coworking members think about the coworking community.
(credits: deskmag, gcuc)

This is a simplified guide to understand what is a coworking space, what are the adavantages of working there and what you have to consider while choosing a coworking space.

You can also read our article to discover which are the best coworking spaces in Ireland.