By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

It’s hard to walk around a major metropolitan city and not stumble upon a coworking space. Even a busy coffee shop filled with working professionals fits the definition. But that begs the question: What is coworking and what defines a coworking space?

The concept of coworking is shrouded in some confusion—namely because it’s so new. Most companies and individuals recognize the concept, but don’t grasp the details. Coworking is about more than just groups of professionals working in close proximity. It’s about bringing flexibility into the way we work.

How to explain coworking

Coworking is best described in layers. There are several aspects that transcend the physical. However, the physical component does play an important role in defining the concept.

At its simplest, coworking is about various working professionals occupying the same space, who may or may not interact. At this level, the space is what’s important. It can be a coffee shop, a repurposed loft, a themed area, or any of a thousand different concepts. So long as the workplace itself provides an outlet for work and attracts professionals, it’s a coworking space.

Most coworking spaces go beyond providing the bare minimum of real estate for patrons. Further defining coworking means looking at amenities and how professionals interact with the space aside from merely working in it. Does the space serve food and drink? Does it offer broad technologies? What kind of furnishings does it include? Is there a theme? These variables attract workers—sometimes specific to an industry or profession beyond a general appeal.

At the apex, it’s important to look at the barrier to entry or cost of a coworking space. For a run-of-the-mill coffee shop, it might be the price of a latte. Other spaces have monthly or hourly fees. A coworking space may be open to women only or cater to specific professions. These variables shed light on just how generic or specific coworking spaces are.

Why coworking fits with the modern workforce

There’s ample data showing the rise of desk occupancy at these spaces, as well as an ever-expanding real-estate grab from coworking companies. But what’s fueling the demand? Namely, the many benefits of coworking for the modern workforce.

Coworking introduces total flexibility to the concept of work. Not only is it about working wherever, whenever, and with whomever you want. It’s flexibility the modern workforce craves. Single parents with non-traditional work schedules. Gig workers with multiple jobs. Remote employees—all benefit from the flexibility of coworking.

The diversity of coworking spaces themselves has also fueled their popularity rise. Instead of conforming to a one-size-fits-all workplace—or even a flexible, generally inclusive one—workers are finding coworking spaces that suit them. Whether it’s the 20th floor of a high-rise complex, the graffitied inside of a converted warehouse, or a library-turned-workspace, coworking has options for everyone.

There’s also the benefit of diversity. Working alongside other professionals creates natural networking opportunities. Moreover, workers aren’t restricted. They can explore new coworking facilities whenever they want, leading to new connections and discoveries about their own work habits. It’s conducive to professional growth.

Coworking is on the rise

It’s important to get familiar with coworking because it’s a concept that’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay and only getting bigger, according to industry data from commercial real estate resources, business professionals, and financial companies. Check out some of the coworking data points contributing to the growth narrative:

  • There are an estimated 35,000 flexible workspaces in the world today
  • The global market value of flexible workspaces is estimated at ~$26 billion
  • In 2018, flexible workspaces accounted for more than two-thirds of the U.S. office market occupancy gains
  • 40% of flexible workspace demand is forecast to come from large and corporate companies

This is just a fraction of the available insights. Other metrics show momentum for coworking and the shift away from centralized workplaces for companies of all sizes.

The future of coworking is bright

Will there ever be a time when coworking spaces are 100% of commercial office space? Probably not. But the fact that they’re a growing percentage of the commercial real estate market today suggests a shift in where and how people want to work. With so many options for space and great benefits accompanying it, it’s no surprise coworking is quickly going from trend to standard.

Keep reading: what’s the future of remote working?