In 2011, there were only 1000 coworking spaces worldwide, mostly in Europe and the US. By 2014, the number grew to 6000 and by 2011, to 11,000 coworking spaces. It is estimated that by 2018, about 37,000 coworking spaces will be operational with about 2,370,000 professionals working out of it.
When it started, coworking fulfilled the need for small and medium-sized companies to share costs and to network. Today, a coworking space is a place where entrepreneurs, self-employed, or even staffs working for different companies opt for the flexibility to use space and resources on demand. Worldwide, freelancers and startup entrepreneurs have the highest, uninterrupted growth rate. According to a report, in the US, by 2020, more than 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, contractors and temp workers. In fact, even big corporations are sending their employees to coworking spaces, because “coworking” employees are happier and more productive with the new way to work.
coworking is evolving as a community
Coworking spaces are attracting a new generation of people who would like to connect and discuss ideas, thanks to the social media revolution that is bringing about a wide-ranging cultural change. This has opened up opportunities for collaboration and mentorship. Today, a coworking space is not only a place for conducting business but also a place that brings people together. Here, there are no tangible reporting lines within functions, only communities. It is a common belief that coworking spaces cater to small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. However, even big corporations are taking a cue from coworking spaces and experimenting on their own. A notable example is Coca Cola, which is creating such spaces on its campuses and is inviting freelancers to come and work there! Large companies have started to notice the trend and realize the value-add generated by working in cross-functional teams, instead of in more traditional set ups. It is important to note that coworking offers corporations a more cost-effective means to test new and innovative ideas, apart from access to other small businesses and freelancers. In 2017, companies such as Facebook, IBM, HSBC, E&Y, and Cisco entered the coworking space, and it is expected that this trend will continue into 2020 as well.
As businesses and professionals come to terms with the benefits of coworking, they are increasingly connecting to and bringing in the outside ecosystem of peers, experts and partners into the system. This is already showing up in the rising use of virtual collaboration tools and applications. In other words, technology is the infrastructure that sustains the coworking space. This aspect, which has begun to rear its head recently, is changing the way businesses and professionals treat workspaces. Looking ahead, one can safely assume that the coworking spaces will be part of a greater self-sustaining ecosystem with the participation of professionals such as lawyers, counselors, accountants and others.
Very soon, coworking spaces will crop up in the unlikeliest of places and encourage builders to convert large unused office spaces to cater to this segment. Going by the recent happenings, one can rest assured that this “coworking conversion” is already taking place. For instance, Verizon is converting 150 buildings that once housed landlines and operators across the US into coworking spaces. Similar instances are reported across the globe. As the demand grows, coworking will open up new avenues for ancillary players—from dabbawallahs to multiplexes and townships. More than that, it will revolutionize the concept of employer-employee relationship!