Jul 28, 2019

Coworking space: is it worth it? Pros and cons, forecasts and advice

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Olga Vasylenko
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Hackerspace, co-working, flex space, shared space, incubator, and flexible office space: there are a lot of different types and names but such places meet the same demands: a cosy workspace and networking opportunity. Why are coworking spaces so popular now? What pros and cons do coworking spaces offer? You will find the answer in this article. Welcome to the BinarApps blog, make yourselves at home.

Nowadays the topic of coworking spaces has become extremely popular. There is a high probability of meeting such loud headlines as “the evolution of coworking spaces” and “coworking spaces thrive” as well as “is it even worth to go to coworking?”, “Why do I hate to cowork?” and other. The fact that its popularity is gaining momentum, leaves no room for doubt: now is the golden age of shared workplaces. Coworking spaces have become one of the hot trends of this year, and it is no coincidence. Its success is attributed to several factors and benefits.

In this article, we will examine reports about coworking spaces and have a closer look at the pros and cons. We will investigate the popularity growth of shared workspaces and compare the statistics and rankings. You will find some information about the neighborhood and community from academic papers and review of trends. Today we will find out whom coworking places are perfect for and why.

Due to academic rule and tradition, we start by defining the main concepts. Below you will find a definition of the Oxford dictionary:

Coworking-definition

Oxford’s definition already gives you a feel of the atmosphere and the idea of coworking spaces. It is a modern and cosy place where employees and employers, freelancers and startupers - basically anyone - can work in a shared open-space or private rooms at any time. Conference rooms, kitchen with coffee and a design which is born to be a background of photos - all of that is a set piece of a comfortable workplace. The idea of coworking places is that they offer everything that you could possibly need for work.

There are very different types of coworking spaces: technical, creative, and even chemical and biological coworking spaces. So if you need more than a laptop for your work, you are welcome too. An example of a molecular biology and light chemistry office for biological startups is BioLabs, which offers research biological equipment. Sounds great, right?

One could legitimately ask the question: why are coworking spaces so popular, and what benefits can they bring to startups’ and freelancers’ life besides perfect Instagram pictures?

Coworking and academic papers: why does it work?

We will not waste your time on long academic papers, instead we suggest you to get acquainted with the most respected statements, collected in “Coworking Is About Community”: But What Is ‘Community’ in Coworking?” (by Spinuzzi et al.). The authors of this paper investigated the concept and the object of shared working environments and described coworking spaces from the point of view of community and collaboration.

  • The role of coworking as a work context able to provide sociality to coworkers. (Parrino 2015)
  • Kubatova (2014) says that coworking “gives rise to a professionally heterogeneous community which enables development of informal relations, sharing knowledge, and increasingly also standards and values similarly to what happens at a normal workplace within an organization”
  • Merkel (2015) reports coworking as “a collective, community-based approach to the organisation of cultural and creative work”
  • Leclercq-Vandelannoitte and Isaac (2016) stated that “coworkers tend to co-create a sense of community”
  • Would you agree with Kubatova and Isaac? Share your experience with shared spaces in comments.

    Popularity of coworking space

    Trending coworking

    Let us present a graph from the Google Trends analysis, which demonstrates the usage frequency of the word “coworking” for 5 years in a row. The demand and interest in coworking spaces are growing year on year.

    Below we have a challenging forecast, which describes the popularity growth of coworking spaces all over the world.

    Global-number-of-coworking-spaces

    The GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) reports that the number of global coworking spaces will overtop 30 thousand till 2022. According to statistics, the number has increased to more than 200% over the past five years.The average annual growth of coworking spaces will reach 16.1%.

    https://allwork.space/2018/03/coworking-is-the-new-normal-and-these-stats-prove-itt/

    How did the story of coworking spaces start? It is more than likely that the history of open offices began the ancient women sitting down to make baskets of prehistoric bush brunches - for mammoth meat, of course - but we will not focus on the ancient times here. The story of the slightly more modern coworking spaces began in 1995 with a C-base, founded in Berlin, which became the first hackerspace in the world. This was followed by the creation of the first official coworking space in 2005 by software engineer Brad Neuberg - it was given the name of the “San Francisco Coworking Space”. This juncture gave rise to an era of coworking.

    The most precious and relevant coworking spaces are dedicated to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other individual knowledge workers. Coworking spaces have finally given them the perfect place for work.

    In the next part, we will acquaint ourselves with the strengths and weaknesses of shared spaces and the associated benefits and dangers, as well as the reason why large companies choose coworking spaces as a working place for their employees.

    Pros and Cons of Working in Coworking: Benefits and Dangers

    Coworking spaces are chosen by millions of successive companies and startups. And this comes as no surprise: being a member of a coworking space comes with plenty of benefits, as well as disadvantages, both for the employees and the employers. Below you will find a list of the strengths and weaknesses of coworking spaces.

    Networking and neighbourhood

    87% of respondents report that they meet other members for social reasons
    79% said coworking has expanded their social networks
    83% report that they feel less lonely since joining a coworking space
    89% report that they are happier since joining a coworking space
    82% of respondents reported that coworking has expanded their professional networks
    80% reported that they turn to other coworking members for help or guidance
    64% said their coworking networking was an important source of work and business referrals

    (statistics from the paper “Coworking Is Not About Workspace - It's About Feeling Less Lonely” by Steve King)

    Where can you find meaningful contacts if you spend all of your time at work? Coworking spaces are a perfect place for networking, where you will can like-minded people and experienced friends from different fields and companies. It is more than small talk about the weather, a nasty headache you are having or that little cute cat you saw this morning - you can also find business partners, investment opportunities, or corporate partnerships. In places like this, you can find all the people you need. What is more, shared workspaces organize a lot of informative events and meetings, which comes with networking and educational opportunities. Coworking environments are meant for something more than just work. As we can see in the diagram below, meetings, events, and activities are very important and popular among coworking members.

    most-frquesnt-activities-done-at-coworking-spaces

    Effectiveness and thriving

    60% are more relaxed at home since coworking
    70% reported they felt healthier than they did working in a traditional office setting
    60% are more relaxed at home since coworking

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-fermin/11-incredible-coworking-statistics-that-will-make-you-leave-your-cubicle_b_6466440.html

    The statistics report that people who work in shared workplaces are more satisfied than the ones who chose traditional offices or home as their workplace, and even enjoy their lives more. The lack of separation between home and work has an impact on the psychical condition of workers. The above-mentioned setting contributes to problems with concentration at work and results in the problems at home. Those and some other reasons make people nervous and stressed.

    When coworking spaces appeared in the lives of freelancers, this problem was solved: the number of happy employees, employers and freelancers increased, and now we see coworking spaces thriving all over the world.

    Maybe the atmosphere of immersion in one’s work and great passion increases the effectiveness of coworking members?

    positively-affecting-of-co-working-spaces

    As you can see on the diagram above, the overwhelming majority of users of coworking and flex spaces consider them as having a positive effect on engagement in work.

    Researchers at the University of Michigan report in “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces” that coworking members have much higher levels of “thriving” than traditional employees. It depends on the networking opportunity of coworking spaces and the possibility to socialize and interact with other members. The authors of another study, “Coworking Spaces: Source of Social Support for Independent Professionals”, find that the reason for working in coworking spaces is social interactions (Gerdenitsch et al.).

    Flexibility and preparedness for work.

    Coworking allows you to work 24/7 - it doesn’t matter when you arrive and when you leave (but it depends on the coworking space - this point will appear in the cons too).

    In a coworking space, you worry about nothing but your job: you can concentrate fully on your work wasting your time thinking about fees or a broken washstand. All you need is your laptop and a passion for your work: managers of the coworking space will take care of the rest.

    Diversity and sharing experiences

    The shared experience opportunity makes the advantage of coworking spaces invaluable. It is the perfect place to look for fresh ideas or ways to achieve an ambition. In open workplaces, you communicate with people and see the current moods, trends, and directions of growth. In an article entitled “Coworking Is About Community...”, we learn that the main values for coworkers are trust and orientation to others. Sharing, barter or investment possibilities - all of this is a normal practice in coworking spaces.

    Сost savings - cheaper than a regular office

    A coworking space is cheaper than a traditional office - to have a nice office with great design and a popular address, you really have to be a successful company. Accordingly, open offices help to keep the costs low.

    The infographic below presents the main values of the groups of coworking members: freelancers, employees, and employers. These groups appreciate the social atmosphere and proximity to home, whereas in contrast, the cost is one of the most important aspects for the employers . What is interesting, employees and employers value the social atmosphere rather than becoming a part of a community.

    top-reasons-for-choosing-coworking

    Let us now consider the most popular concerns connected with being a part of the coworking community.

    Coworking is hell for introverts

    Some people think that coworking spaces are appropriate only for extremely communicative people who love to be surrounded by chatty coworking members. To be honest, sometimes it is hard to find a deserted place in coworking.

    On the other hand, the “Coworking for Introverts & Extroverts” article describes coworking spaces as a good pick for each type of users. The authors investigated 3 types: more extroverted, more introverted, and a mixture between the two - ambiverts. The article reports that 1 in 3 members of coworking spaces consider themselves as more extroverted and 1 in 5 as more introverted. All types feel free and comfortable in coworking spaces - the latter s simply need more relaxing, cosy and separated spaces.

    http://www.deskmag.com/en/coworking-spaces-for-introverts-extroverts-ambiverts-member-report-study-1014

    Privacy

    Privacy is an important point for both large companies and early-stage startups. It might be hard to keep secrets and ideas safe when you are surrounded by strangers from different companies . To avoid the discomfort of members and to maintain privacy, coworking spaces offer private conference rooms, sound-proof boxes for calls, security and locks. The equipment depends on the development stage of each coworking space.

    A coworking space might be not appropriate for your business

    Every business has to take into account its values and must decide if coworking is appropriate as a workplace. Some describe coworking as very relaxed and youth-friendly place where everyone can sleep, drink beer, or play foosball at work.

    Closing time

    Not every coworking space is open round the clock - the working time of some may be disappointing for enthusiasts of non-standard flexible work time. This may not be the ideal representation of coworking as the perfect working place offering freedom and flexibility.

    Corporate trend: moving to coworking spaces

    Many corporations choose coworking spaces as the best working site for their employees. A number of corporate employees reach 30% of the coworking global membership. 30% of a global coworking membership consists of corporate employees. According to Elise Reuter, San Diego Business Journal journalist, the world-known coworking space WeWork has become a workplace for people from KPMG, messaging company Slack, electronic cigarette company Juul, publicly-traded software company Blackbaud, and payroll services company TriNet.

    According to the San Diego Business Journal, WeWork’s enterprise members are currently companies such Facebook, BlackRock, Adidas, Citi, Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, and others. It is said that 25% of annual WeWork revenue comes from businesses with more than 1,000 employees. So, big companies are moving to coworking spaces: they are ready to make use of the associated benefits and to add a coworking spirit of creativeness and fresh ideas (and lower costs) to the corporate culture.

    http://www.deskmag.com/en/coworking-spaces-for-introverts-extroverts-ambiverts-member-report-study-1014

    Top coworking spaces and the end

    We would like to share with you a list of recommended coworking spaces: their quality has been and confirmed. In the next article, you will find a detailed analysis of the most famous coworking spaces.

    1. We Work
      WeWork started its history in 2010, and in 9 years became the most widespread and popular coworking space in the world with offices in 32 countries and over 280 locations.
      https://www.wework.com/pl-PL

    2. Epicenter
      Epicenter is a community of intra- and entrepreneurs, scaleups and corporates, which is located in Stockholm and connects more than 500 companies.
      https://weareepicenter.com/stockholm/

    3. Co\Walk Hub
      We strongly recommend CoWalk Hub space in the heart of Lodz. It is a small and cozy coworking space, verified by the BinarApps team. Co\Walk Hub can be called the second home of BinarApps.
      https://www.facebook.com/CoWalkHUB/

    4. Brain Embassy
      Brainembassy is the first co-creating space in Poland. It has offices in 3 perfect localisations in the most picturesque places of Warsaw
      https://brainembassy.com/pl/

    5. Mindspace
      The aesthetic and well-equipped coworking spaces in Tel Aviv, Berlin, London, Warsaw, and 10 more cities have made people excited about coming to work.
      https://www.mindspace.me/

    6. Talent Garden: Rainmaking in Copenhagen
      The Talent Garden counts 23 campuses in 8 countries, including Italy, Austria and Denmark. Our team has visited the Rainmaking Loft in Copenhagen and can definitely recommend it.
      https://talentgarden.org/

    7. Factory Berlin
      This modern coworking site in the heart of Berlin has surely impressed us, and now we want to impart the experience to you. Be sure to visit their page to read more about the mission of Factory Berlin.
      https://factoryberlin.com/

    8. Business Link
      Five locations of Business Link in Poland and the Czech Republic bring together startupers, freelancers and corporate workers and build a strong community.
      https://business.link/en/

    9. Hub Hub
      Hub Hub has united a large talented family from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, UK, and Hungary, and offer the best conditions for the development of coworking members.
      https://www.hubhub.com/pl/

    10. Google Campus Warsaw
      https://www.campus.co/warsaw/en/

    The community of Google Campus Warsaw, fueled by the power of Google and strong coffee, is one of the 7 Google campuses in the world. The others are located in Brazil, Spain, South Korea, Israel, and Japan.

    The great variety of available workplaces leaves many options to choose from . It is a great option to work at home, at a regular office, in coworking, or on a bench on the main street or anywhere else. As it has already been said, coworking spaces have become one of the hottest workplace trends of this year, and their popularity still increases.

    We hope that this quick read has shed some light on your idea of coworking spaces. With that said, we leave you with the decision of choosing the best form of a working site for you and hope to see you soon in another article!