Coworking

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= In coworking, freelancers and contractors share work space – and sometimes professional or philosophical affinities.

URL = http://blog.coworking.info/

= independent workers band together to share social as well as physical and technological infrastructure, turning workspace into a Commons.


Definition

From the Wikipedia:

"Coworking is a style of work which involves a shared working environment, sometimes an office yet independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking)

See also: Coworking 2.0 and Free Coworking


Description

Marc Dangeard at http://research.iftf.net/node/715 :

"The concept of establishing coworking space started in San Francisco (Teh Hat Factory), with a few developers/consultants getting together to share some working space with basic infrastructure (chairs, tables, wireless connection). The idea has since then taken hold in many cities around the world, and the group is getting organized around a wiki (http://coworking.pbwiki.com) to identify locations, define roles, standard infrastructure, pricing, reciprocity privileges from one space to the other and even getting into discussions around healthcare.

Coworking space is especially attractive to nomadic workers, and the success of the idea all around the world, to the point where the group starts getting organized and establishing standards is an indication that this new way of working may be here to stay. Along with co-working comes the concept of independent consultants or small groups of individuals working together on projects, in something that looks like collaborative entrepreneurship. Maybe the ideal structure for tomorrow's companies." (http://research.iftf.net/node/715)



Typology

See the Typology of Collaborative Workspaces by Kathy Jackson.


Advantages

1.

From Desktop magazine's annual survey:

"more and more individuals, who ordinarily search for employment in a company, are now opting to work for themselves. Numerous studies from all corners point to the increasing number of self-employed entrepreneurs, with figures set to rise. This trend, coupled with astoundingly rapid technological advancement, means that a significant, permanent and mobile workforce is in creation – in need of a whole lot of desks.

Stating that coworking spaces are designed to meet the needs of the independent worker is a given. But there is another point in question. In contrast to the developments of corporate arena, the relatively new coworking model reduces some of the risks independent workers used to face. Most notably, a main concern of the freelancer is the consistency and frequency of work. Working in a coworking space however, while no means guarantees a string of jobs, does present an environment in which business connections and networking happen, thereby increasing the chances a worker has to sell his skills.

In addition, the coworking space differers from a conventional working environment in that its foundations are based on community and trust. During a time when a growing distrust of corporate and financial institutions is evident, this notion could help coworking spaces emerge as a serious and widely-known working solution, and gives them the upper moral ground." (http://www.deskmag.com/en/new-work-trends-corporate-scepticism-coworking-188)


2.

From the "The Current State of Coworking" workshop (2010):

"* Healthy coworking spaces help retain local talent; cities can play a role. La Cantine is partially sponsored by the city of Paris. The city of Santa Cruz, California, helped create NextSpace in order to retain local talent. As one person put it, “People heading over the mountain to Silicon Valley to work are too tired in the evening to participate in their own city culture.” Hillary Hartley, co-owner of Citizen Space and active in Gov 2.0 initiatives, mentioned San Francisco's city hall is intrigued by coworking, and has even considered "municipal coworking" as a way of fostering and maintaining talent in the Bay Area.


  • Keeping things local creates (unique) coworking spaces. With the growing popularity and press coverage of coworking, some "rent-an-office" businesses have re-branded themselves with coworking to attract business. Authentic coworking, however, thrives when the community self-organizes into a space or when community voices are woven into the culture of a space. "Members have a voice," said Raines Cohen of Hub Bay Area. Just in San Francisco alone, these voices manifest themselves as Citizen Space, Parisoma, Sandbox Suites, Hat Factory, and Cubes & Crayons (not to mention spaces elsewhere in the Bay Area and start-up incubators, some of them pursuing ideas associated with coworking)


  • What role does corporate sponsorship play in coworking spaces? We briefly touched on this. Coworking spaces have a wide diversity of models to remain financially sustainable. Citizen Space is member and owner supported, but has been looking into sponsorship opportunities. We are doing so with both the integrity of the space and the needs of the members in mind. Other space have direct corporate sponsorship and are fine.


  • Organized community is vital. Sharing experiences with other people was sweeter than the donut I had for breakfast that morning. Online forums and other digital venues are needed, but don't underestimate the speed of light insight that springs from real-time, face-to-face discussions. A community of coworking owners/managers/coordinators staves off isolation, and is a huge resource for knowledge- sharing and motivation. The informal coworking meetings that take place at the SXSW gathering are important in this regard, too. With that in mind, Chris Heuer offered space at the Social Media "clubhouse" during SXSW for coworkers to meet. Chris also suggested starting a monthly coworking video chat, using something like TokBox. Who’s interested? An organized community also brings buying power for more affordable office equipment, IT services, etc.


* "Coopetition" works. Especially in cities or regions with multiple coworking spaces, embracing the community aspect of this movement is a good thing. As manager of Citizen Space, I recently reached out to other spaces in the city with this in mind and it is has been extremely valuable. It feels great! Sharing expertise and cooperation with competing spaces provides benefits to the whole community." (http://shareable.net/blog/the-state-of-coworking)


From a business point of view

Stowe Boyd:

"Looking from a economics viewpoint, all the players have economic motivations to support coworking:


  • The office worker saves significant expense and time by decreasing commute time, and those with the longest commutes should have the strongest motivation to shift to telework. Therefore, there is a steady migration to telework as businesses adopt policies to support it.
  • Businesses have a strong incentive to increase employee morale and productivity, and to decrease expenses related to the increasingly large percentage of their office space that is underutilized. Even if businesses have to subsidize coworking space use by teleworkers, the net savings are significant.
  • As the number of freelancers and teleworkers increase, the demand for coworking space grows, since people need the strong social connections historically offered in the workplace, not just the chance connections afforded by sharing a table in Starbucks.
  • Entrepreneurs have strong incentives to create coworking spaces: partly to serve as their own base of operations, but also as a business proposition of its own. Note that the desire of businesses to shed unneeded office space in our down economy also provides lower cost space in which to set up shop."

(http://gigaom.com/collaboration/coworking-the-pivot-in-todays-transformation-of-work/)


Principles

Coworking spaces see themselves as participants in an emerging and ethical sharing economy.

The principles that inspired Citizen Space:

'This space (and the idea of coworking) is built on the following values:


  • Collaboration: One of the great benefits of working in a coworking space is that you will meet all sorts of people with all sorts of knowledge.
  • Openness: We believe in transparency and openness. In a world where people are free, but ideas are not, only a few benefit. When ideas are free, everyone benefits. Therefore, we encourage open spaces and discussions. Sorry, no NDAs allowed.
  • Community: We thrive on connections and mutual support here. It is important that everyone give into as well as benefit from the strong (international) community coworking has become.
  • Accessibility: In order to be fully open, we must make the effort to be accessible to all. This means that we endeavor to create both a financially and a physically accessible space. We are committed to this principle and welcome feedback on how we can make it even more accessible."

(http://citizenspace.us/about/our-philosophy/)

Is there a value shift after 'business maturation' of coworking?

By Jessica Stillman:

"folks like the owners of Office Nomads increasingly have company from the likes of NextSpace and pariSoma, says King. These new-breed spaces were founded with more traditional business plans and with both monetary as well as social goals in mind. And just as the first-wave feminists looked askance at some in the second wave and the third had issues with both its predecessors, this influx of new voices into coworking is stirring debate in some quarters.

“We had a coworking owners meeting a few months ago in Los Angeles,” King says. “It consisted of sort of the old guard and the new guard. The people that start a movement like this lose control of the movement if it’s successful and they don’t like it because it was their baby. That’s what’s happening with coworking. The original founders of the movement have effectively lost control and it’s very frustrating for them.”

As the term coworking morphs and spawns hybrids, from jellies and makers’ spaces to startup incubators and internal collaboration spaces created by corporations to spark innovation (and even to the horror of some, gets adopted by community-less purveyors of flexible spaces such as Regus) arguments are erupting about exactly what sorts of spaces get to wear the coworking label.

But for King, the expansive future of coworking is big enough to accommodate a wide range of models. “I do think coworking is in the sweet spot of multiple trends that are converging,” he says, citing the rise in contingent and independent work, tech trends and companies’ ever-present desire to drive down real estate costs. “This will be the year where the size of the industry starts to accelerate more rapidly,” he predicts, but it will diversify as it grows. And that’s OK with King.

Citing the difficulty his firms faces in even counting coworking spaces (about 700-800 in the U.S. is their best bet) due to the heterogeneity of the movement, King concludes: “Coworking is always going to be on a spectrum of which they’ll be sort of this far end, purist view of the world that actually fits the traditional definition of coworking all the way down to jellies at libraries with a lot of stuff in between.” (http://gigaom.com/collaboration/get-ready-for-coworking-2-0/)


History

Kathy Jackson:

"It all depends who you speak to where the origins of coworking come from. If your looking for the current iteration most popular in America, now growing the world over, the version of the story goes a little this:

Brad Neuberg from San Francisco, was a coder, used to hacking out solutions, in 2005 he decided to create a community of likeminded people to work alongside in order to keep what he loved about freelance and what he loved about structure and community. He used the word coworking to describe what his space was for and was the first to do so.

Based out of Spiral Muse simply referred to as the coworking group. The space was inside a house, with a kitchen communal area and work space. The original online flyer said “Coworking Rents Space From Spiral Muse, a Healing Centre Complete with Massage Therapists, Life Coaches, and More On the Second Floor” 4.29 The space utilised the 3 day downtime of the health and wellness centre to get them out of their homes and working side by side, but also maintained the ethos of the health centre with yoga and other healthy activities being a daily occurrence.

Mr Neuberg and many of the other first coworking space creators where developers and advocates of the open source movement they applied the same principals to their new ventures and they shared their knowledge online on the coworking wiki, spreading the concept.

After his Spiral Muse venture Brad then created the first full time coworking space The Hat Factory in San Francisco. Simultaneously Chris Messina and others where establishing the first BarCamps - 34 The antidote to the corporate over priced overproduced exclusive tech conferences. From this Chris Messina along with Tara hunt Founded Citizen Space, one of the longest running coworking spaces - currently with 3 locations - and Brad, Chris and others involved early the movement created the coworking wiki and the google group as any open-source thinkers would.

The concept certainly isn’t a new one, if we think of things like sewing bees or quilting bees which go back to the 1700s and any tribal groups from any period we find people gathering to work, to sing together and to just generally not be alone. In 2002 Daniel H. Pink was writing about F.A.N. clubs, Free Agent Nation clubs which where similar to the popular current term of a Jelly event, gatherings of free agents to learn and get away from home, they would meet in coffee shops and other designated third spaces.

Of course the crucial development in the growth of coworking is an outside factor, the instigation of wifi and later 3G. Wifi becoming more commonly used and available around 2003/4 we have all the tools necessary to work anywhere we please, and a generation of new workers who are used to instant contact through mobile and Skype, working anywhere is even more appealing now than back in 2002 when Daniel H. Pink wrote about Free Agents:

- “The largest private employer in the U.S. is not Detroit’s General Motors or Ford, or even Seattle’s Microsoft or Amazon.com, but Milwaukee’s Manpower Inc., a temp agency with more than 1,100 offices in the U.S. The dream of America’s young people? Not to climb through an organization, or even to accept a job at one, but to create their own gig on their own terms—often on the World Wide Web.” (Free Agent Nation - 2002)

A factor that can’t be ignored in the short history of coworking is the fact that we have had a major economic downturn and subsequent unemployment rates. Coworking sums up a period in time right now where the stars have aligned for some people to create something new. Tony Bacigalupo is one of those people, founder of New Work City, advocate of the coworking movement and a frequent blogger on the surrounding factors of coworking.

He points out,

- “The Irony of being able to work anywhere is that there isn’t anywhere designed for people who can work anywhere, so a movement formed around that and that is the coworking 35 movement.” - Tony Bacigalupo

Tony’s presentation on the Job Crisis ‘Let’s fix the stupid job crisis ourselves’ highlights the importance of the kind of independent workers that use coworking spaces and that there is an opportunity to create jobs for ourselves and for each other. Creating value for yourself becomes a positive action in tackling the job crisis. “The decline in lifetime job security has shifted the balance towards self-employment”.


Working in the Unoffice


If we look at Google Trends we can see that in 2007, around the same time as the downturn in the economy began to have major effect, the word coworking began to take off in search. Google Trends are by their own admission not a basis for accurate data but they can give us a good picture in these circumstances of the growth in the use of Brad Neuberg’s term ‘coworking’ we can see that 2 years after Brad started using the phrase there has been fairly steady growth since, with ‘coworking space’ being the most popular related term.

During this growth of coworking between 2007 and 2012 many entrepreneurial coworkers and others, in the open-source thinking spirit, have seen the need to create new online platforms and directories for others to find coworking spaces and much like coworking itself many appeared at the same time seemingly all seeking to find the solution to the same problem. The two most prominent of which are Deskwanted a directory of coworking spaces available in cities around the world, successful because of it’s blog DeskMag which conducts the annual Global Coworking Survey and has established itself outside of the Google group and Wiki to be the place for study and research on coworking best practice and trends. The other being Loosecubes, established in 2010 it was the 36 most publicised of the directories by tech blogs and newspapers alike. Loosecubes was somewhat responsible for a lot of press around the coworking movement, lauded as the Airbnb of deskspace, they where venture capital funded in 2011, but they struggled with their business model and failed to create the platform for coworking that was envisioned by the community and the press they closed the website in November 2012.

Other entrepreneurs are creating software to help coworking spaces with the day to day running of the space. As time has gone on some better established business models for spaces have become apparent and it’s now possible to make something that can be useful and adaptable to every space. Cobot where one of the firt to create such software and more recently established Desktime have created a balance between Directory and software.

Other entrepreneurs are creating ventures with a more community focus, Goodcoworking.com launched at the end of 2012 aims to create a different type of directory one based around ‘social’, the spaces are listed when someone tells their story in a tweet of what they love about working in that coworking space. Coffee and power now called Work club connects you to people with skills in your area who are working in different spaces, Work club bridges the gap between home, coworking spaces and coffee shops, preventing the small communities from becoming too inward facing, creating a larger pool of resources in your area.

Parallel to the coworking movement we have seen websites like Airbnb, Craigslist and Ebay show us that collaborative consumption is the smart way forward.

“Sharing is to Ownership what the iPod is to the eight track, what the solar panel is to the coal mine. Sharing is clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern, owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward.” (New York Times Journalist Mark Levine via WMIY.)

Ventures like Deskwanted, ShareDesks, Cobot and Desktime look to the success of Airbnb to establish the economy of trust Ratchel Botsman talks about in her recent TED Talk 2.5, The more acclimatised to the process of sharing we become the more likely the success of the directories and therefore the coworking spaces will become." (http://www.makingspaceforothers.com/content/home/MakingSpaceForOthers_By_Katy_Jackson_sml2.pdf)


Interview

From an interview by Worldchanging at http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007001.html

" What is coworking, and how can you make it green?

CM: The idea of coworking is actually a very old idea. It is simply a matter of getting people together, maybe of similar character and working in the same place. You can work for a big company, you can work for a small company, you can work for yourself. You can even be a student, or anybody who frequents cafes, or you can work from home.

The broad general idea is to no longer work all alone and so that you can be in a much more productive environment around other people. The idea was actually sort of a prototype that a friend of ours, Brad Newburg, had done in The Mission. Essentially, one day a week people would get together and they would work together. I met Brad, and I had previously worked on a project called CivicSpace, which was actually a Drupal site for organizing people.

One of the things that always struck me as being missing from that project were physical spaces where people to get together in. I mean if you are creating this organizing software for any purpose, people need a place to actually meet up, and talk and to connect and to have those face-to-face and one-on-one interactions. So I had always wanted CivicSpace to have that component.

So when I met Brad, a little while after I had left CivicSpace, it seemed like, "Hey here is someone who has already sort of had this idea and has gotten a very small example of this started. With this idea we can actually take this bigger and we can start creating our own space."

So last spring we started a space called -- at the time it was called Teh Space, but then it was renamed, after we left it, to the Hat Factory, that is still running. It's another coworking space in San Francisco. The idea of that space was to make it a much more egalitarian sort of "Kumbaya" place where everyone chipped in for the rent and made it work.

We realized that after four months of running it that you needed a little more structure and you need a little more, I guess, rules, or people to guide the existence of the space, who are really bought in the idea of making the coworking space happen, and then there are those who are clients of the space, or who come in, and are part of the community of the space, but aren't as interested in the day-to-day management of running a space, and that only makes sense.

So anyway, that's kind of where coworking came from. Since then, we've tried to really open source our practices and our processes and the things that make it work openly on a website and a wiki. As a result of that, and as a result of sort of evangelizing the idea, we've seen 50 or 60 different spaces around the world start to crop up where interested independents are seeing this model and are really excited about no longer working from home by themselves, but are actually meeting with other people and saying, "Hey, just two or three or four of us, let's get together and work regularly, even out of a cafe, and then eventually let's move into a regular space that we ourselves run and manage that is the workspace of our dreams." (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007001.html)

Discussion

Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon:

“Coworking is another concept emerging from the same circle of people as the BarCamp. While BarCamps are temporary spaces for contacts and encounters, coworking is an attempt to set up permanent places for the same purpose. In the coworking community blog, the definition is simple:

"Coworking is a movement to create a community of cafe-like collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents".

Coworking places are usually flats or houses rented by a small group of people and open to people who need a place for few hours or few days to work with others. The renter or the person most involved in the management or the location is known as the "anchor" and the temporary users pay a small amount by day. The dream of most Coworking anchors is to open a cafe that could give easier access to a lot of people and simplify the relations between coworkers.

In several discussions with people in charge of coworking spaces, the concept of "third place" appeared clearly, very often mixed-up with a nostalgic reference to Mittel Europa and Vienna's Kaffehauskultur where writers and intellectuals were supposed to pass their days working and meeting their colleagues. The "third place" is something which is neither a desk in a company nor the domicile of the person: it is a kind of public place you can join when you want, with the guarantee of finding some social life and the chance of a useful exchange. Like the BarCamp, coworking is ideally setup for casual encounters, another tool in the box design to find the weak ties necessary for the weak cooperation indispensable to built Web 2.0 services and applications.”

Source: The strength of Weak Cooperation. Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon. Communication & Strategies, No. 65, 1st Quarter 2007.


Tara Hunt on the conditions for successfull coworking

"Spike: Your advice to someone wanting to start a coworking space?

1. If you can’t be a ‘patron’, i.e., someone who can support the space yourself without making any money for the first year, then find one. This way, you can put community ahead of making money and build a nice atmosphere.

2. Build community before you get a space. We did. Indy Hall did. New Work City is. Caroline Collective is. Office Nomads did. This is consistent across the board. Get the support first before you get the space. You can’t just build it and they will come.

3. Build out simply and slowly once you have 1 + 2 covered. We started simple and have built out from there. I know there are spaces, like Launchpad, that are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into infrastructure and that is cool, but not everyone has to. People just want a space to come to so they aren’t working alone anymore. If the need for a fancy photocopier comes up more times than not, THEN invest in it. We don’t even have a phone system, just VoIP. Everyone uses their own cell phones. We don’t have a photocopier. Only 3 people have EVER asked (in 1.5 years) and there is a Kinkos nearby. I don’t know. Providing a nice space with a great atmosphere is key. The other stuff is overhead." (http://blog.launchpadcoworking.com/2008/04/12/an-intervew-with-tara-hunt/)


The Economics of Coworking

Stowe Boyd:

"In the US and Western countries, there has been a growing adoption of coworking spaces, where freelancers, employees of small businesses, or teleworkers can get the best of both worlds: they can work from a work space close to their home — thereby avoiding a long distance commute — but at the same time they can have the support and stimulation that comes from social interaction with well-known people other than your family.

Ray Oldenburg, the urban sociologist, is best known for his notion of the Third Place, like the corner bar, the cafe, or the barber shop, where we can interact with people that we don’t know well, and perhaps with whom we have little in common. He argued that such places are critically import to the health of cities and out societies. He took almost as a given that people would continue their relationship with First and Second Places, the home and the workplace, respectively. But the trends of telework and freelancing means that an increasing means the more people are spending less time in official Second Places, and more at home and Starbucks. But as wonderful as working in a café is, there is definitely a great deal missing.

So it’s no real surprise that the coworking movement is growing at a pace that seems closely linked to the number of people jumping into telework or out of the traditional workplace. Deskmag states there are now more than 1,100 coworking spaces worldwide, more than double the number in 2006. Loosecubes, a service set up to help people find coworking spaces, is tracking over 1,400 locations in over 500 cities, globally.

According to Carsten Foetrsch of deskmag, 72 percent of all coworking spaces become profitable after 2 years of operation, and for privately-run spaces, the number is even higher: 87 percent . So the economics for those interested in setting up and running coworking spaces is compelling." (http://gigaom.com/collaboration/coworking-the-pivot-in-todays-transformation-of-work/)


Five Reasons why coworkign is awesome

By Mike Brown:

" I like them all for the same reasons: the environment, the melting pot of people, the low overhead, the community engagement, and the beer/coffee/fun; all of which have dramatically improved my work day.

The Environment – After leaving my desk job, I spent a few weeks cruising local coffee shops, but I was largely unenthused about spending 8-10 hours (or 12-14 hours) cramped at a tiny table, surrounded by hipsters and grad students with mediocre wifi to boot. When I started coworking, I really began to appreciate what it meant to have a professional workspace. Even though I didn’t have a dedicated desk, the environment screams “Get-Work-Done” in a way that coffee shops and cubicles just can’t match. Also, trying to have a meeting with more than one person in a coffee shop is not only difficult; it’s also not professional. For the past few months, I’ve been sharing comfortable, open-layout office space with professionals from different industries…and that’s pretty awesome.

The Melting Pot - Unlike traditional workplaces where everyone is working for the same company, it’s refreshing to work alongside people from different industries and backgrounds. In the past two months, I’ve worked alongside professional athletes, adventure filmmakers, DJ’s, PhD students, architects, and more. Additionally, many people are from different countries including England, Russia, Croatia, and Ukraine. In my last job, I worked in a small room with nine male mechanical engineers who lived in Western Massachusetts. They were all talented, but it wasn’t exactly a diverse crew. As a young engineer who is trying to start a business, I’m finding a lot of value in meeting a wide range of professionals. I’ve seen more cool projects in the past three months while coworking than I’ve seen in the past three years…and that’s pretty awesome.


Low Overhead – Coworking requires very little thought, effort, and money on the part of the worker. In exchange for reasonable monthly (or daily) rates, you don’t have to worry about leases, printers, wifi, paying bills, coffee, furniture, projectors or anything else that comes with having your own office. Good coworking spaces take care of these details for you, saving valuable brainpower that you can use for more exciting and meaningful things. Ultimately, I pay less for coworking each month than I paid for my commuting costs to my old job…and that’s pretty awesome.

Community Engagement – The coworking spaces I’ve been to are consistently running different events to support their community. The events have ranged from fundraising, to filing trademarks, to hackathons, to choosing the right founders, and even taboo topics like how to kill your startup. At the climbing gym coworking space, there are multiple yoga classes every day and the gym routinely hosts large events focused on music, art or outdoor gear. As someone trying to enter the outdoor industry, the community support from the gym has been invaluable for my business, my fitness level, and my sanity. I've found a community to keep me focused while having fun...and that's pretty awesome.

Beer, Coffee, and Fun – The more time I spend in the Boston startup scene, the more I see the focus on beer, coffee and fun (not to mention a crazy amount of hard work). Every coworking space I’ve been to provides free coffee. Win! Many of them sponsor weekly happy hours with free beer. Also a win! In general, they are a more fun place to work. Triple win! I firmly believe that beer, coffee, and fun help to stimulate networking, creativity, and happiness…and that’s pretty awesome." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/5-reasons-why-coworking-is-awesome)

Examples

  1. Citizen Space
  2. Citizen Desk


More Information

  • Interview with co-workers about their experience at

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007001.html


See also:

  1. Coworking manual
  2. A Guide to Casual Coworking - Why not cowork anywhere? Here's the definitive guide. [1]
  3. How to Start a Coworking Space [2]

Blogs:

  1. Coworking Community Blog
  2. Office Nomads Blog