Some history to start with – Bernard De Koven, an American game designer, author, lecturer and fun theorist first used the term „coworking” in 1999. His vision included collaborative work between individuals (‘working together as equals’) supported by computers. He turned his vision into life in the same year by forming the space called 42West24 in New York. 42West24 offered an enjoyable work environment and flexible options of membership – unfortunately, there was no strong emphasis on community (for example community events were seldom organized). In 2002 Schraubenfabrik was founded in Vienna by two Austrian entrepreneurs. For years it was called ‘entrepreneurial center’ (not coworking space). Still, this former manufactory became home for architects, freelancers, PR consultants or start-ups.
Finally, in 2005 Brad Neuberg invited people to work together in a casual environment and called it ‘coworking’. Brad was also the first person to launch an official coworking space called San Francisco Coworking Space, later he launched The Hat Factory. At first ignored, coworking quickly became an exciting global trend. Between 2006 and 2015 the number of coworking spaces and available seats has roughly doubled nearly every year. For example, in France, the first official coworking space was founded in 2007 in Marseilles (La Boate).
So what does the future hold for coworking? It’s true that coworking spread all around the world. Coworking spaces are basically in every major city on each continent except Antarctica. I think that the rise of popularity of coworking will likely to increase in the nearest future. It will be fueled by an increase of freelancers, microbusinesses, and self-employed (independent) workers, not to mention advancements in communication technology. Basically more and more people can work from anywhere (in any place at any time) – for example writing and collaborating online, telecommuting or running their own projects & start-ups with smartphones, tablets or laptops. Digital nomadism is the freedom to work from anywhere, but there can be obviously some drawbacks of such privilege like loneliness or inability to build stable and trustful relationships with other people. Hopefully modern and future coworking spaces will provide many opportunities for deeper social connection between independent workers and professionals.
There are some fresh and interesting ideas for rapidly growing coworking market. One example is Spacious, New York-based start-up founded in 2016 by Preston Pesek. Spacious transforms vacant restaurants (which are closed during the day) in Manhattan and Brooklyn into elegant and beautifully designed coworking spaces free of distractions and noise. Members of Spacious can work remotely in dining rooms of participating restaurants with fast Wi-fi and coffee for a starting fee of $95 a month.
Perhaps the future of coworking lies in networking & connections – not only between members of one particular coworking space but between various coworking spaces and their communities all around the world. The global online platform of thousands coworking spaces/communities connected together sounds potentially futuristic.