“Coworking” entered our vocabulary in 2005, and since then the trend has been on the rise. It shows no signs of slowing down, either: according to a 2013 report from the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, the number of coworking spaces in the U.S. went from one in 2005 to more than 780 in 2013. A bulk of that growth took place just between 2012 and 2013. And worldwide, there are estimated to be more than 4,000 coworking spaces. So what is it exactly, and why is it significant that more people are using coworking space?
What It Is, And How It Works
Unlike a traditional office environment, coworking spaces give professionals like independent contractors or young startups who might otherwise work in isolation a professional environment in which to collaborate and work. Unlike an incubator or accelerator, coworking spaces provide a workplace for individual sole proprietors or groups as well as startups.
For those who use coworking spaces, there are several advantages. The social aspect helps some workers who draw energy from being around other professionals. Opportunity to network is also a draw for some professionals. It’s attractive from a cost standpoint, too. Instead of hunting down an affordable office space, a small group or individual can plug into a coworking space and have access to servers, phone services, common areas, and meeting facilities.
Coworking may also come with disadvantages. Often coworking spaces are open floor plans, in which case it’s easy to get distracted. Those who use a coworking space are also subject to the facility’s hours. If you’re a get-it-done-at 2:00am worker, that could be a drawback. And while competition between those who share a coworking space can be inspiring for some, it can be demoralizing for others.
Coworking costs vary on the facility and the amount of space being rented, but they can range from $150 a month for a shared or part time space to upwards of $350 per month for a permanent desk. In some cases, larger coworking spaces may run upwards of $2,000 per month, but usually costs are much lower.
Examples of Coworking Spaces
In almost every American city coworking spaces are springing up. Some are big names: Davinci rents space within prime real estate addresses in cities around the world, allowing a small group from Boston to work from One Boston Place, for instance, and if need be, drop into the Davinci office in London to work while traveling (for an hourly fee). WeWork is another international coworking group with 30 locations in cities in the U.S., Europe, and Israel.
Some are more local. In California, NextSpace has nine locations. And in Boston,Workbar has both traditional coworking spaces and what it calls “outerspaces,” where emerging businesses can rent a desk or space from companies that have extra space, and be linked into the Workbar coworking community. In Austin, there are more than 15 coworking spaces across the city, including Capital Factory in downtown Austin and Chicon Collective in Austin’s East side.
Where It’s Going
Coworking doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. At the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Kansas City earlier this year, Emergent Research predicted that there will be more than 12,000 coworking facilities worldwide by 2018, with more than 1 million members.
And not all of that coworking will take place within dedicated office space. Conjunctured, the first coworking space in Austin, closed its doors in September to launch a new coworking model, called Nomatik. Part of that new effort will involve “pop-up coworking,” as well as corporate coworking and hotel coworking.
“We’re partnering up with a handful of Austin’s coolest workplaces that have historically only been open to their employees,” Conjunctured’s blog says. “We’re giving our members the opportunity to experience that excitement of the Jelly movement in environments that would not be possible without the mainstream adoption of the coworking ethos. And companies get a chance to get access to some of the most talented independents around to hire for contract gigs.”
image via Workbar