15 Years On, What Is The Future Of Coworking?

In honor of International Coworking Day, coworking owners and operators around the world shared their thoughts with Allwork.Space on the future of the industry.

Future Of Coworking
Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Sunday August 9th 2020, marked the 15th anniversary of the coworking movement. Why August 9th? In 2005, that was the day when software engineer Brad Neuberg blogged about an idea to “come together in community” and cowork together.

Re-reading Neuberg’s original post at a time when many people are forced to work from home, often in isolation and under threat not just from a global health crisis but also loneliness, anxiety, stress and burnout, his words hit closer to home than ever before:

“Traditionally, society forces us to choose between working at home for ourselves or working at an office for a company. If we work at a traditional 9 to 5 company job, we get community and structure, but lose freedom and the ability to control our own lives. If we work for ourselves at home, we gain independence but suffer loneliness and bad habits from not being surrounded by a work community. Coworking is a solution to this problem.” – Brad Neuberg, Coding in Paradise

While communities offer a solution, it is also the reason coworking is facing challenges in 2020. The collaborative nature of coworking, which brings dozens of people together to share space and amenities under the same roof, seems alien during these times of lockdown and physical distancing.

But it’s not the end of the story. In fact, most would say it’s the beginning of a new chapter. Coworking is finding its way back by drawing on its collaborative strength, by encouraging owners and operators to work together, share knowledge, swap resources, and support each other.

With measures such as reduced capacity, smaller meetings, single-use utensils, physically distanced workstations, one-way systems, and a ton of cleaning, coworking and flexible spaces are re-opening and welcoming members back safely.

Coworking is slowly turning the tide.

But don’t just take our word for it. What do coworking owners, operators, and members have to say about the now, and the future, of coworking?

The Future of Coworking

Jamie Orr from Jellyswitch and Cowork Tahoe (California, US)

One quote I use as a go to is this from William Gibson: “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed” (The Economist, December 4, 2003)

jellyswitch

I feel like one potential positive to come out of this pandemic is a more distributed workforce, even after we are beyond it. It does not mean the death of the office, but rather a distribution of the office. For coworking and flexible offices, I think we will see workers that are now able to have more flexibility and mobility in their jobs use coworking spaces to support their new worklife. For some, that will mean the ability to move away from cities. For others, it might mean having the ability to have a shorter commute or a change of scenery depending upon the type of work being done (home, office, coffee shop, coworking space).

So in the next 12-18 months I think we will see a higher demand for space in suburban and rural markets than we’ve seen before and that by the 5 year mark we will see many new spaces opened up and established to meet that need.

Brad Krauskopf, Hub Australia

Over the next twelve to eighteen months coworking, and indeed the workplace, cities and society in general will evolve at a breakneck pace to a new way of working in a distributed model that revolves around the person and where they can work in the most productive, safe and happy way. This will still include a company HQ in an office tower or coworking space in the CBD or fringe, but working-from-home will become part of the workplace mix for all good employers, as will providing the option to escape the isolation of working alone, beat the commute and work near-to-home from professionally operated suburban and regional work hubs.

future of coworking

In the years to follow, once institutions and infrastructure have caught up to the new normal, the way organisations will consume much of their workspace will shift from meters squared to people squared. Whilst traditional leases will always make sense for a portion of an organisation’s workspace, and essential for landlord commercial models, outsourced providers of Workspace-as-a-Service will increasingly be the only way that an organisation can service the workspace requirements of its distributed workforce. This is good news for all of us as these outsourced providers will ultimately only succeed if they deliver a productive, safe and happy workplace experience that people love. Coworking operators are well positioned to respond to this demand.

Cat Johnson from CatJohnson.co

Coworking is uniquely positioned to help usher in a brighter future that we can see off on the horizon—a future where everyone has the opportunity to explore, and fulfill, their potential. I envision a world in which anyone who desires can plug into the right coworking space for them. These shared spaces provide the infrastructure for starting and growing a business, and also the support networks for personal and professional development.

future of coworking

We know there’s a wave of people coming to coworking once we’re on the other side of COVID. This is the perfect time for space operators to revisit their purpose, values and vision. The world is changing. People want to align with companies that are aligned with their values and ideals. It’s time to remove the barriers that keep people isolated and siloed. We have such incredible collective potential. I see coworking leading the way into a more connected, collaborative world.

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