The average person will spend a third of their life at work. No wonder people are doing all they can to make the time they spend there worthwhile, comfortable, and enjoyable. One way businesses and freelancers are trying to achieve this is by making the shift from traditional offices to coworking spaces.
If anyone had talked about coworking spaces three decades ago, it’s likely they would have been greeted with a puzzled look. But even before the pandemic hit, going to a coworking space was becoming more and more of the norm for freelancers and startups. Still, during that time, the traditional office setup was the typical way to go.
Today, there are over 19,000 coworking spaces across the globe, and it looks like they’re here to stay. It’s clear that coworking spaces–their architecture, culture, and overall atmosphere–make sense for businesses and freelancers alike.
Read on to find out what the future likely holds for this industry phenomenon.
What is coworking?
Before we get into the future of coworking, it’s important to understand what it is.
In the simplest of terms, coworking is sharing. It’s an arrangement in which various people share a space’s facilities, equipment, utilities, and other services while working for different companies.
This sharing of infrastructure helps reduce overhead. It also presents opportunities in the form of new social networks and inspiration through a sense of community. Coworking spaces are as convenient as they are motivational and modern, and they’re only getting better with time.
Let’s look at the history of coworking and see how it started. We might be able to glean where it’s headed in the future.
A history of coworking
The first coworking spaces can be described as “experimental.”
In 1995, 17 computer engineers created the very first coworking space in the world in Berlin, Germany. It allowed software engineers, coders, scientists, and other computer enthusiasts to gather and collaborate. They called their coworking space a “hackerspace.” It’s a not-for-profit location that had the equipment and network necessary to birth innovative ideas.
In 1999, game designer Bernard DeKoven coined the term “coworking” to refer to the way people worked in active collaboration and without any hierarchy. That same year, Apple launched the first iBook, a laptop that quickly became the go-to device for freelancers.
In 2002, two Austrian entrepreneurs established Schraubenfabrik, an “entrepreneurs’ center” located in an old Vienna factory. These entrepreneurs, together with freelancers, architects, and startups, began collaborating in an open-plan office space to avoid working from home and to foster a community. At the time, the founders hadn’t even heard of the term “coworking.”
In 2004, architect and designer Neil Goldberg transformed his Bay Area warehouse into a “work club” in which telecommuters in San Francisco could accomplish their tasks in a shared space.
In 2005, software engineer Brad Neuberg founded the first official coworking space in the world, calling it the “San Francisco Coworking Space” as it was in the Mission District of San Francisco. He envisioned a place that would allow individuals to continue working independently but share the infrastructure and community.
Almost two decades later and statistical projections online predict that by 2024 there will be at least 40,000 coworking spaces worldwide. It’s reasonable to assume that part of this has to do with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
How do pandemics affect economies?
Pandemics such as the COVID-19 pandemic that was declared in March 2020 have significant fiscal and economic impacts across the globe.
A large part of this has to do with health: the imposition of lockdowns and quarantine, isolation of infected patients, tracing of those who’ve had contact with infected people, and preparation of appropriate health facilities. Some countries have difficulty containing outbreaks because they lack health facilities, which means they must spend on these as well as on new personal protective equipment, medical supplies, medicine, and vaccines.
This rise in public health expenditure and decrease in revenue result in fiscal stress. Because employees could contract an illness or pass away, there is also often a shortage of labor, which can lead to economic shock and slowdown.
How were businesses affected by COVID-19?
According to the Economics Observatory, businesses reported a 21% decrease in sales and a 26% decrease in investment from April 2020 to March 2021 in comparison to their typical numbers. Additionally, 70% of businesses also reported a high or very high level of uncertainty concerning their firm.
Accommodation services, food services such as restaurants and bars, and recreational services like gyms reported a 50% decrease in sales due to COVID-19. The ability of workers to work from home varies from business to business. This is where coworking comes in.
The future of coworking
Though coworking spaces have been viewed as a solution to people’s inability to work at an office during the pandemic, they have also been shaped by freelancers’ and companies’ needs during this time. You’ll see how in the list below.
1. More health spaces
The sudden global focus on health has bled into the coworking movement. It has forced coworking spaces to understand their target markets and cater to their health concerns. This could be as simple as providing alcohol or hand sanitizer at the space’s entrance to offering frequent COVID-19 tests for everyone’s safety.
Aside from pandemic-related health offerings, coworking spaces have also begun to work on becoming positive working environments in terms of mental health. While some spaces might have their own gyms and yoga studios, others might also have their reading rooms or therapy services.
Caregiving is also becoming a necessity, allowing freelancing parents to continue working while keeping their children busy and safe.
2. Coworking memberships and access passes
The best coworking spaces are those that are part of a network. So you might be able to go to one branch on a Monday and another branch in the next city on a Tuesday.
Access passes and memberships to these coworking networks would greatly benefit freelancers and other digital nomads. They are the ones who can’t commit to staying in one place for too long. This also allows remote workers from different areas to navigate conflicts in their schedules and choose the most convenient coworking space for the whole team.
As local and global travel restrictions continue to be lifted, these coworking space networks will only continue to grow.
3. More community
For a lot of people, coworking spaces’ main selling point is the sense of community they offer. Connecting with other people from various fields in the same working environment is true for most coworking spaces today. Yet, it’s possible that this sense of community will become even stronger in the future.
For instance, coworking spaces might hire community managers to organize social events, show new members around, and generally create an environment conducive to collaboration. Having their voices heard could help coworking space members feel safe and included in a space they aren’t too familiar with yet.
4. More fun
Coworking spaces don’t have to be as dull as corporate offices. In fact, they often have a reputation for being fun. And that may just depend on the design and decor of the coworking space alone.
It’s possible that coworking spaces will incorporate even more elements of fun into their layouts such as sports centers. These may have ping pong tables, adult slides, billiard tables, or even a basketball court in the garage. Spaces could also become “fun” with the help of gaming consoles or virtual reality corners. Members can stay creative and find inspiration there.
5. Corporations as coworkers
When corporate workers couldn’t access their offices during lockdowns, they either worked from home or joined a coworking space. It’s the only way they could access all the benefits of a traditional office on their own. This didn’t go unnoticed.
Knowing that they can save on rent and cater to remote workers, corporations might purchase coworking memberships in bulk for their employees. This way, their employees get the best of both worlds.
6. More high-tech spaces
During the pandemic, internet speed increased around the world. In the United States, several state-sponsored initiatives sparked improvements in connectivity. For example, Kentucky benefited from the building of over 3,000 miles of fiber internet cables. Missouri, for its part, invested $50 million in internet speed.
Technology is essential to any workspace. So it isn’t surprising that coworking spaces are set to become even more high-tech as time passes. This could include the use of wireless technology, such as wireless chargers, for a more seamless work experience away from home.
7. Spaces tailored to businesses
Coworking spaces might target more specific clientele and renovate their spaces according to their needs.
For instance, a coworking space that tends to be a hub for foodies, food influencers, and food entrepreneurs might dedicate a large chunk of its space to a high-tech kitchen with a full pantry. On the other hand, a coworking space that’s become an incubation space for entrepreneurs and business owners in the home service industry might schedule networking events based on home issues, such as plumbing or cleaning.
One day, there might even be a coworking space large enough to cater to both food businesses and cleaning companies.
8. More multi-functional furniture
As coworking spaces change to fit the needs of their members, so do their furniture. More and more manufacturers are creating multifunctional objects that can be manipulated for use either at home or at work.
Seats that transform into sofas and also function as tables not only save space but make the place feel more like an office or a home. Furniture nowadays can be personalize. This option to cater to how one sits or works might just be what a coworking space member needs.
Coworking spaces are fluid
Think of a coworking space as a chameleon. “Going to the office” doesn’t have to mean heading to a place that’s gray, dreary, and boring. Your office can be anywhere you want it to be and more. Coworking spaces are fluid, nonconforming, comfortable, and the future.
We at Weremote believe this is the future of work.
Explore our website and check out what we have to offer. Learn about our equipment and shared services, and our coworking spaces and amenities. We also have new locations–Weremote High Street at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig and MyTown New York at Kalayaan, Makati–that should suit your specific needs. You won’t be disappointed.