The Global Coworking Explosion

What are coworking spaces and why have they become so popular?

If you’re connected to or have been following the remote work community in any way, you’ve undoubtedly heard about coworking spaces. So what exactly are coworking spaces and why have they become so popular?

So what are coworking spaces and why have they become so popular?

“The word ‘coworking’ won’t be a word in the future, it will probably just be the way we work.”
– Rahul Prakash, partner at Hatch Today

The benefits of working remotely have resulted in a significant increase in the number of remote workers globally. Flexible hours and no commute are two of the biggest factors cited by remote workers, along with autonomy and control over how one works. 

A 2018 report by International Workplace Group titled “The Workspace Revolution: Reaching the Tipping Point,” found some 53% of professionals work remotely at least half of the week—and increasingly, employers are embracing remote work and other flexible options.

Coworking spaces are flexible workplaces that bring together remote workers, freelancers, start-ups and small businesses from all industries who want to in a productive, appealing atmosphere. Coworking spaces offer open memberships or an open membership process and a range of membership options such as daily, weekly, or monthly memberships. 

On the surface, it’s a simple idea – open a space, provide the essentials such as reliable, high-speed internet, comfortable workspaces, amenities such as private meeting rooms, printers, scanners, and, of course, coffee and snacks.

But go deeper and you’ll find that coworking spaces provide more than just the obvious place to set up your laptop and work.

As any remote worker will tell you, working remotely is not without its challenges.

Two of the biggest challenges cited by most remote workers are isolation and loneliness. Working remotely means missing out on the human interaction and social aspects afforded to those who work in a traditional office environment. 

Coworking spaces provide a solution to the isolation and loneliness experienced by many remote workers.

 

One of the most important aspects of a coworking space is a strong sense of community. Members often end up collaborating and exchanging ideas as they begin to interact. Coworking spaces also offer excellent opportunities for networking and meeting new people, often from around the world as many remote workers travel.

Corryn Mounstephen, owner of [inn]space in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, says they focus on providing an environment that goes well beyond just a work space.

“We provide additional benefits and amenities such as mobile dry cleaning, a lunch program, and an onsite RMT. We also put on workshops and lunch and learns. Our goal is to create a sense of community.”

Explosive growth forecast

In 2010, an estimated 600 coworking spaces existed globally. Two years later, in 2012, that number had increased by 250% to just over 2000 coworking spaces. In 2018, well over 15,000 coworking spaces existed globally with new spaces opening up in even smaller towns and cities.

According to several reports, the industry is poised for continued explosive growth.  A report released in August 2018 by global commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakeman shows that the global coworking sector is expected to triple in size in the foreseeable future.

Another recent forecast by the Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC) in conjunction with Small Business Labs predicts a doubling of coworking spaces in the global market over the next four to five years to well over 29,000 in 2022.  

JLL, India’s largest professional real estate services company, estimates that over 13 million people will work out of co-working spaces by 2020. In a recently released research report ‘Spotting the opportunities: flexible space in the Asia Pacific’, the company says that demand for flexible offices – including co-working spaces and serviced offices – is growing faster in the Asia Pacific than anywhere else in the world. In India, the growth of flexible office space is expected to grow at 40 – 50% in 2018.

Coworking is also booming in countries like China and Japan.

Not surprisingly, coworking spaces are no longer confined to large urban centres, with coworking spaces popping up in even small, rural communities.

Liz Elam, long time coworking space owner and founder of GCUC states, “The industry has come a long way since it first took off in the early 2000s. As coworking spaces have evolved from open space to hybrid space, more people and organizations are increasingly using the term flexible workspace.”

Small Business Labs, from Emergent Research, which covers the key social, technology and business trends impacting small businesses and the gig economy, says, “We’ve always considered coworking a window into the future of work. It’s a great laboratory for studying a wide range of emerging social, demographic, economic and technological trends. “

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