With all the buzz around coworking spaces, we decided to provide you with a primer. We cover the coworking basics as well as implications for the traditional office and facility managers.

What are Coworking spaces?

Walk into a coworking space and you’ll immediately notice that it feels different from a regular office. The smell of fresh coffee in the air is second only to the electric atmosphere that the energetic and excited occupants bring to the space. You’ll see a mix of those in deep focus at private desks and others striking up engaging conversations at large shared tables.  This is the culture of the coworking space.

Coworking spaces are essentially shared workspaces. They offer affordable office space for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop.

These shared workspaces offer a suite of office-like amenities such as hot-desks, private meeting rooms, kitchens, coffee and more. Often, they also offer a community. Occupants typically are freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small teams who want to take advantage of a flexible space.

In addition to culture, cost is another big draw. One of the advantages of these spaces is the ability to rent out only what you need vs an entire private office space, which can be costly. Through various membership based models, costs vary and allow for flexibility. These include options for daily fees or monthly fees. Membership costs also differ based on whether you use a shared desk or want a dedicated one.

If you want to learn more, and be extremely inspired at the same time, the video below from space provider, NomadWorks, is useful. It brilliantly sums up the essence of coworking spaces.

Who uses coworking spaces?

coworking space collaboration

The usual suspects


Co-working spaces create the best of both worlds for freelancers: The flexibility of choosing your own hours and schedule without the isolation.

These shared spaces are thus great for freelancers. A feeling of community is created for those that would otherwise be forced to work alone at home, or a coffee shop.


Start-ups appreciate the flexibility of coworking spaces. Coworking spaces don’t come with the high costs and commitments of a traditional office leases. They also provide the chance for small teams to interact with others in the space. These spaces also may even help entrepreneurs find a co-founder for their start-up by connecting the right people at the right time.

The Concept is Working Well

Coworking spaces provide a great fit for these type of small organizations. There’s an inherent alignment between what the spaces offer and the goals of freelancers and start-ups.

A team of researchers have been studying the effects of coworking on productivity and recently recounted some of their findings in the The Harvard Business Review.

Their research showed a strong connection between employees thriving in these shared workspaces vs regular offices. So much so that they decided to take a deeper look at coworking spaces. The team  of researchers found that people who use coworking spaces have different attitudes as a result of their space. Correlated with coworking spaces were feelings of: more meaningful work, more job control, and having a sense of community.

Larger organizations hop on board

With coworking spaces working so well for the usual suspects, there has been a recent adoption of coworking spaces by larger organizations. Forward thinking companies are already starting to utilize coworking spaces where possible.

Firms like WeWork (which recently received a $16 billion valuation) are looking to attract larger organizations to their coworking spaces. As Bloomberg reports, General Electric, KPMG and Merck all use the space. For some like KPMG, the 75 desks they rent out provide a strategic advantage. KPMG employees at WeWork are involved with business advice to start-ups or tech innovation research.

For others, the flexibility provided by the spaces are a plus in terms of managing real estate and costs. Longer leases, which require forecasting real estate needs and business needs, aren’t required.

Replication in an traditional office

Once large organizations buy-into a new trend, their logical progression is to internalize the practice. Are we going to see Facility Managers and workplace strategists creating co-working spaces within their own workspaces?  The most important success factor will be the ability to replicate the culture of coworking spaces.

What shared spaces allow for is true freedom and mobility. The culture is conducive to the truly organic collaboration and conversations that are struck up. In one way this is the value of coworking spaces. They allow for innovation by allowing different people with unique skills and talents to connect and collaborate.

But the other advantage is the fact that the culture is shaped out of the concept of freedom and flexibility. The genesis of coworking spaces was based around serving the needs of small organizations and freelancers to connect. Design is only one aspect though. What makes coworking spaces different is culture. Some organizations may have similar spaces in their office but not have a culture that encourages flexibility to get up and move or collaborate with different departments.

One effective strategy to combat this barrier is to bring the culture to you. A Michigan based organization, Menlo Innovations did exactly this when they added 7,000 sq.ft. of coworking space to their office and invited start-ups and entrepreneurs to work alongside their team. This is a win-win if logistics can be worked out. Start-ups are able to get affordable and flexible space, while larger organizations are able to foster innovation in their workplaces.

Coworking continues to grow

Coworking: CSI NYC

Looking Lively: An event at The Centre for Social Innovation in New York City (Source: Centre for Social Innovation)

The freelance economy is growing. Younger members of the workforce, such as Millennials or Gen Z are increasingly finding themselves in freelance work. Currently there are 53 million freelancers in the US. By the time we reach 2020, 50% of the American workforce will consist of freelancers (both full and part-time).This in turn will give rise to more coworking spaces.

Additionally coworking spaces are effective for small organizations that range from a one to several employees and also serve a purpose for larger organizations looking to innovate.

The design and culture serves as an example for any organization looking to come up with fresh ideas and grow. It’s no wonder we have heard a lot of buzz about these spaces in the last couple of years. You can definitely expect to hear more and see more of these types of spaces popping up near you. Our advice? Get Involved!

Interesting in learning more about coworking spaces? Here are the top coworking spaces in the world, as selected by Symmetry50.