Coworking is an arrangement in which workers of different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructures, such as equipment, utilities, and receptionist and custodial services, and in some cases refreshments and parcel acceptance services. It is attractive to independent contractors, independent scientists, remote workers, digital nomads, and people who travel frequently. Additionally, coworking helps workers avoid the feeling of social isolation they may experience while remote working or traveling and eliminate distractions. Most coworking spaces charge membership dues. Major companies that provide coworking space and serviced offices include WeWork and IWG plc.
Coworking is not only about providing a physical place, but also about establishing a community. Its rapid growth has been seen as a possible way for city planners to address the decline of high street retail in urban centres. Its benefits can already be experienced outside of the physical spaces, and it is recommended to start with building a coworking community first before considering opening a coworking place. However, some coworking places have no community building; they just get a part of an existing one by combining their opening with an event which attracts their target group.
Coworking tends to fall into two sides: Those that are real-estate-centric (all about selling desks and offices first) while others are community-centric (focused on building community that happens to also have offices or desks.) Players target freelance professionals, remote workers, and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) who need a space and seek a community with a collaborative spirit. Customers also often benefit from professional services such as printing or incorporation or consulting.
Coworking is distinct from business accelerators, business incubators, and executive suites. These spaces do not fit into the coworking model because they often miss the social, collaborative, and informal aspects of the process. In coworking, management practices are closer to that of a cooperative, including a focus on community rather than profit. Some coworking participants are also involved in an unconference such as BarCamp.
Some coworking spaces are geared towards particular niches. For example, CoWorking With Wisdom, in Berkeley, California, combines coworking with meditation, mindfulness, and yoga programs, The Wing was founded for "the advancement of a certain type of woman", and Work and Play in South Orange, New Jersey has onsite childcare for entrepreneurial parents. Coworking spaces with a religious aspect include Epiphany Space, a Los Angeles space for artists, and SketchPad, a Chicago space for Jewish not-for-profit organizations.
Between 2006 and 2015, a few studies showed that the number of coworking spaces and available seats have roughly doubled each year.
Coworking was preceded by European hacker spaces of the 1990s, where programmers would exchange skills and best practices.
Coworking in Asia has become very popular as space is limited in regions like China, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The major metropolitan cities in each of these regions are every day coming up with new coworking ideas and spaces, promoting emerging startups and business to adopt the trend. Research from commercial brokerage firm JLL found that flexible work space in Asia-Pacific, including both serviced offices and coworking, surged 150% from 2014 to 2017.
In Pacific countries such as Australia and New Zealand, coworking has been made popular as the prices of commercial spaces and bills rise, with coworking being up to 25% cheaper for most freelancers and businesses.
In Hong Kong for example, dozens of coworking spaces have been set up to foster the rapidly growing startup community; according to Forbes it is among the leading tech locations in the world, along with New York City and Silicon Valley. Spread across almost all districts, coworking places can be found everywhere while the majority of places are situated on Hong Kong Island and there predominantly in the Central and Sheung Wan districts.
The Malaysian state of Penang, long regarded as the Silicon Valley of the East, has also witnessed an increase in coworking spaces. Aside from privately owned startups, the Penang state government has embarked on a drive to convert colonial-era buildings in the capital city of George Town into coworking spaces.
As well as tech startups, coworking is becoming increasingly common amongst digital nomads in Asia. A 2011 survey found most coworkers are currently in their late twenties to late thirties, with an average age of 34 years. Two-thirds are men, one third are women. Four in five coworkers started their career with a university education. The majority of coworkers work in creative industries or new media. Slightly more than half of all coworkers are freelancers.
Coworking is popular in India. According to a 2017 report by real estate firm CBRE, there are 350 shared office operators present in India spread across more than 800 locations. Leasing activity by coworking and business center operators more than tripled on 2016.
In Australia, WeWork and Spaces are present, challenging locally owned and operated companies. With many independent operators opening smaller specialist sites (including in rural and regional areas of the large country), some larger providers have expanded nationwide, with the distance between major cities an asset to both the coworking provider and the community.
In India, Coworking business is very popular in metro city as Tier 2 and Tier 3 Cities of India. In India during 2017 and 2018 indicates a marked increase. While in 2017, the space leased was 1.9 million sq. ft., it increased more than two times to 3.9 million sq. ft. in 2018. India has the third-largest startup ecosystem after China and the US with more than 5,200 startups. Now many major cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai have coworking spaces and they are increasing by the day due to the startups.
In 2017, Europe ranked third as a region in terms of the number of coworking spaces, behind the United States (3,205) and Asia (3,975).
The U.K. is among[weasel words] the most responsive European country to the idea of collaborative working, with a special focus on London. In the city, the Shoreditch area leads the coworking market, not only for the large number of coworking places it offers but also for the variety of places that exist to fit the differing needs among start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers. Camden Collective is a regeneration project in London that re-purposes previously vacant and underused properties that opened its first ‘wire-less, wall-less’ coworking space in 2009.
In June 2013, the Government of the United Kingdom announced it would be applying coworking principles to a new pilot scheme for its 'One Public Sector Estate' strategy covering 12 local authorities in England, which will encourage councils to work with central government departments and other bodies so that staff share buildings. This will enable the authorities to encourage collaboration as well as re-use or release property and land deemed surplus to requirements, cutting spending and freeing up land for local development.
Coworking is also common in continental Europe, in places such as Berlin.
Smaller urban areas with many young and creative people and especially College towns may offer coworking places, with Cowork Greifswald in Germany being one example. Cooperation between coworking spaces and academic environments are focused.
Since Neuberg started the coworking movement in 2005, San Francisco continues to have a large presence in the coworking community and is home to a growing number of coworking spaces. Also in the Bay Area, Anca Mosoiu established Tech Liminal in 2009, a coworking place in Oakland.
The coworking model for office space is extremely popular in Miami. In fact, a 2018 study done by Yardi Matrix, recognized Miami as the US city with most co-working spaces per square foot. Coworking has also spread into many other metropolitan areas, with cities such as Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Toronto, Wichita, Kansas, and Columbus, Ohio now offering several coworking venues. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of suburban and rural coworking spaces including Amarillo, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa, Independence, Oregan and Indianapolis, Indiana.
The New York coworking community has also been evolving rapidly in Regus and Rockefeller Group Business Center. WeWork and other services have a large presence. The demand for coworking in Brooklyn neighborhoods is high due to the increased number of millennials in the workforce; nearly one in 10 workers in the Gowanus, Brooklyn area are remote workers. The industrial area of Gowanus is seeing a surge in new startups that are redesigning old buildings into new coworking spaces. In Brooklyn, in 2008, the first green-focused coworking space in the US, called Green Spaces, was founded by Jennie Nevin, and it expanded in 2009 to Manhattan and Denver and has been a driving force for green entrepreneurship through the collaboration of coworking.
In 2011, Co-Creation Hub was founded in Yaba, Lagos by Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe, it is often referred to as Cc-Hub and it houses over 50 startups such as BudgIT, GoMyWay, Lifebank, Findworka, Autobox
IHub is also an innovation hub and incubator space for startups founded by Erik Hersman in 2010. iHub was a pioneering coworking space in Africa, in 2019 Cc-hub announces the acquisition of IHub in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ventures Park was founded in 2016 in Abuja by Kola Aina. Its an artsy space for freelancer, entrepreneurs, professionals, and startups manage their operations and network. They launched a Campus Co-working space in University of Abuja known as Ventures Platform campus