Today, coworking seems to be a lifestyle for freelancers, remote workers, and startups across the world. But that hasn’t always been the case, coworking has a bit of history, dating back to 2005.
The concept of coworking started with Brad Neuberg in 2005. Working as a software engineer with a startup in San Francisco, the idea came to him as he was struggling to find a balance between independence and working with others. He sought the help of a life coach, and together, they devised a plan that combined structure and a community atmosphere with a new kind of space that might provide Neuberg with the environment he was after.
Soon after, the trend caught on in other places: Angel Station in London, St. Oberholz in Germany, and a few others opened in the same year. A year later, Brooklyn Coworking was founded in NYC, while Jelly expanded operations into Phoenix and Austin in 2007. By 2012, there were over 2,000 spaces worldwide, cemeting coworking space as a global phenomenon.
If you’ve worked in the coworking spaces cropping up in your city, maybe you’re familiar with some of the common trappings. Shared facilities, coffee, an open office plane. But how do coworking spaces vary across the US and how do they look outside of our borders? Let’s take a look at some of the coworking spaces in the US and some from a few other popular locations, like Germany and Korea.
Coworking Space in the US
As of 2017, there were 4,043 coworking spaces across the United States, with a projected increase to over 6,200 by 2022. With San Francisco boasting the greatest number of coworking spaces at 51.45 spaces per 100,000 people, it’s one of the hottest spots for people looking to enjoy the community environment. In order, the next most popular places across the states are Miami, Atlanta, D.C., Denver, and Seattle.
Coworking Resources reported the states with the most consistent coworking activity are Texas, Calirfornia, and New York. While they have less spaces than some of the other cities we mentioned, their activity is higher due to the nature of their location. Both California and New York are popular places thanks to their incredible population density, while the flexibility of coworking benefits Texans because it gives people the option to work a little closer to home. It’s not uncommon for the commute to be an issue for workers, so having the option to trim an hour off the commute by using a coworking spaces is great.
In a survey conducted by Statista, 59% work because of the ‘social and enjoyable atmosphere’, 56% enjoy ‘interacting with others’, and 55% place importance on having ‘a community’. The significant part of the industry’s growth still comes from independent business owners and first time entrepreneurs. By 2020, it’s projected that 40% or more of coworking members will be freelancers, independent contracts, or part-time employees working from remote locations.
Coworking Space in Germany
Coworking real estate in Germany proved to be a decent submarket in the office property game. Last year, Germany reported about 500 coworking spaces, with more than 200,000 square metres rented in the seven largest German office markets. Berlin (10%) and Hamburg (5%) are in the top ranks of coworking spaces across European cities. The cities of Leipzig, Munich, and North Rhine-Westphalia also offer a notable amount of space to those looking for a little coworking action.
While U.S. coworking spaces tend to have a wide range of amenities for the office, some coworking spaces in Berlin offer somewhat quirky perks to stir the creative juices. Of note, there have been some spaces that offered a clown workshop, jungle rooms, free exhibition space, drawing classes, office mascots, and retro mini-blinds.
Compared to other countries, it seems that German coworking sector is already well-developed. There is an active coworking operation that runs regular meetings on a nationwide level. The country also runs Deskmag, the first online magazine dedicated to the global coworking community.
Peter Shreck, the organizer of coworking.de website, believed the desire to share within the coworking community is stronger. Anni Roolf, another active member of the community, credited this desire to the decentralized federal structure of the country. The distance between cities is far enough apart to not be crowding one another, yet close enough to permit constant travel for meetings every second month.
Pushing for the same agenda, Anni is looking to involve other groups in joint events to help raise awareness on a coworking and its business models. She recommended to other countries pursuing the same agenda to keep the organizational structure simple, create channels of communication and set aside competition.
Coworking Space in Korea
Co-up was the first coworking space launched in Korea in 2010. It closed in less than a year in 2011. However, 2016 saw the resurgence of coworking in Korea following the launch of WeWork in Gangnam. Currently, there are five fully operational coworking spaces in the country: How2Company, Seoul Space, East4, Hub Seoul and Space Noah.
According to Dong Park, co-founder of Hub Seoul, the rise in new types of working contributed to the boost in coworking spaces. College students and self-employed professionals can meet up or do projects and government-funded tech incubating centres can all be held in coworking areas. This increases not only the interest, but the breadth of what a coworking space might include in terms of industry. While most coworking spaces across the west are hubs for freelancers, small business owners, and other individuals working in more disparate industries, these Korean counterparts seem to function on a slightly larger scale.
This starts to make a lot of sense once you learn that one of the government policies is to promote Seoul as a sharing city. Seoul has conditions that are beneficial to the development of a sharing economy with its highly dense population and highly developed IT services. Park further indicated Korea’s strength is in IT business, thus encouraging people to do ‘smart work’ so it can help the country’s infrastructure and relevant industry.
Regardless of different trends and directions of coworking spaces across the world, the desire to find the balance in working independently and working with others remains the same. Moving forward, the increasing population density of cities and the rising cost of rental space makes the coworking model more attractive for all kinds of workers. At the moment, the majority of coworkers are still smaller business employees or freelancers, but with time that may change even in western hubs.