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In the last 10 years, we have experienced one of the biggest changes in the work market: the rise of co-working spaces. Between 2005 and today, it grew from just 1 in San Francisco to 7,800 co-working spaces across the globe. In a year from now, predictions forecast 37 000 co-working spaces worldwide gathering more than 2 million people.

If we do the calculation correctly, it means 29,200 co-working spaces will be created between 2017 and 2018. This means that 40 new co-working spaces will come to life every day until the end of 2018. The given numbers emphasize how popular this type of work environment has become, bringing a transformation to the work market which many people want to experience in every city.

But why is co-working transforming cities? We travelled to 106 co-working spaces across Europe in 2016 to find out more.

Renewing neighbourhoods

Throughout our travels, we have seen how much of a positive impact the opening of a co-working space can have on a neighbourhood. It contributes to its economic development and business growth.

In a recent survey we conducted, 60% of the coworkers said they chose their co-working space based on location and not too far from where they live. So just imagine how many people stay in their neighbourhoods and contribute to their micro economies? From consuming local to initiating local projects to getting to know their neighbours more.

In Berlin, co-working spaces have completely changed the landscape of certain areas. Factory, one of the biggest entrepreneurial hubs in town, has reshaped an old building into a co-working space where Twitter, SoundCloud and Pinterest have set up their offices. And the neighbourhood is continuing to grow with rehabilitation of old buildings into apartments, cafe and restaurants. The whole neighbourhood around Factory now has even been renamed Silicon Allee, a spin off of the famed Silicon Valley in California.

Bringing like-minded communities together

When co-working started, the main target audience were self-employed workers who needed a place to work and not feel alone. Today, those hubs attract larger crowds of professionals adding startups, agencies, small companies or service providers to the map. Some have developed into even more focused places, dedicating their spaces to certain businesses only, providing a physical location where like-minded individuals can meet and learn from each other.

We also found co-working spaces dedicated, for instance, to musicians only. In Berlin, Noize Fabrik provide them with the environment they need to work, record music and use the latest technology available on the market as well as a stage for live music. Instead of purchasing them for themselves, members can rent them from the space and use them for their own purposes.

Another example is Maria 0-1 in Helsinki, which is an abandoned hospital that has been totally renovated and transformed into a startup playground. They gathered in-house startups, as well as a venture capital firm and tech journalists to let them work closer together.

Such spaces are opening in every city, fostering skill exchange and matching, adding better qualitative content and value to the city they are located in.

Fostering collaboration and innovation

In certain co-working spaces, the concept of collaboration has been pushed further with the arrival of a new player in the game: corporate companies. This is a very interesting evolution of the work market because realistically corporates don’t need co-working spaces. They typically own their own offices, but they saw in co-working spaces something they could not find in their offices: easy access to deeper collaboration and innovation.

In London, we visited work.life Camden and were surprised to see a Dr. Martens showroom inside their space. The brand office being located nearby, they decided to use the co-working space next door to showcase their products and meet with clients when they need it.

In Berlin, we have seen another type of collaboration, not between corporates and co-working space, but between corporates, co-working space, and members. At the Rainmaking Loft, the startup hub Danfoss, a Danish corporate which makes buildings smarter through energy efficiency, sent 20 of their employees from all over the world for three months inside the space to let them build new business models. At one of the community events organized by the space, Danfoss found a startup working in their industry with whom they are currently working on a partnership.

For corporates, co-working spaces are innovative and disruptive spheres where collaboration and innovation are fostered through the members and the work they do. Co-working spaces are not just physical spaces, they are content creation platforms, similar to small volcanos that erupt with the work done by their members.

For cities, this is a real added value as it attracts more people from outside their border, to come and work there and get inspired by the members who made it inside their walls. As we toured around co-working spaces, we often heard stories such as “this is where X started”, X being a famous startup. More than just doing work, people want to live a new work experience.

Welcoming a new crowd: Digital Nomads

The Digital Nomads are one of the best illustration of a target group that focuses on living the new work experience. Digital technology has greatly changed the way people work and furthermore, the way they organize their life. Now, exploring the world can also be done while working. Co-working spaces have also developed in cities that before were mainly visited for holidays purposes. The nomadic workers have found in those spaces an easy access to a workspace as well as to a community of like-minded individuals with whom they can share more than just work environment.

In Bali, a co-working space called Outpost, organizes surf classes and yoga lessons during the work day. Nomadic workers can plan their day around those and use the facility 24/7, which means that people working with Europe or USA can also work at night if needed.

Creating a curated environment

More than just a place to work, co-working spaces have transformed their space into a curated environment where members join a lifestyle more than a workspace. It is no longer about buying a desk, it’s about having a social experience. Co-working spaces are now a place where tenants can work, eat, meet and exercise without leaving the building.

While in Barcelona, we visited ‘apocapoc‘ a curated co-working space, which defines itself as a “Green Epicurean Co-working since 2013”. The interior has been designed to let members use the space in an eco-friendly way. There, members can work, play, think, cook, share and be themselves among a community of like-minded individuals.

Curation today goes even further. In 2016, some co-working spaces have introduced the concept of co-living, facilitating access to living in cities, like London, where finding a place can quickly become stressful. The Collective, a co-working and co-living space based in London have been among the first to bring co-living to life for their members and the outside crowd

Improving work-life balance

Co-working spaces, with their creative and inspiring environments, have transformed cities into better places to work and live. They highly contribute to improving the work-life balance of citizens by letting them work closer to their houses and by offering flexible services that allow them to focus on their work.

In Brussels and Berlin, we visited co-working spaces that allow members to bring their kids to work, which is a service that has been offered to big companies for a long time but not to the community of people attracted by co-working. It relieves parents from the stress of leaving their children in daycare and give them better control of their day by not having to commute from one place to another to pick up their kids.

Most of the co-working spaces we visited are placing well-being at work as a high priority. By offering standing desks, yoga classes, healthy food, running classes, or products that can improve their lives, they also support their members in producing better work, with a clearer and brighter minds.

Co-working spaces are now fully integrated in cities’ landscapes and keep on transforming and adding more value to the real estate and work markets. They highly contribute to shaping the future of work as well as the future of cities. The interesting question to ask now is how will that keep on evolving?

About the author: Coworkies connects people between co-working spaces to foster collaboration. We support co-workers in finding jobs inside co-working spaces. 


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