The purpose of this
report is to discuss the spaces in which we work with others, specifically, coworking spaces.
There is no doubt that we are entering a new phase of society, aren't we always? This particular time sees a set of circumstances that are having a positive affect on the spaces we work in. - We're living in an information society, on the cusp of the knowledge economy where our know-how is as much an economic resource as our labour, the first generation of digital natives are entering the workplace, the global job market is in the news every day and half of all college graduates can't find work. We hold in our hands these amazing new tools for sharing and communicating; the mobile internet and the cloud. Recent years have seen the rise of collaborative consumption due to the efficiency of peer-to-peer exchanges in our networked world. Most significantly, by 2015, the world's mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion, representing 37.2% of the total workforce according to a report from the IDC in January 2012. - These socioeconomic factors have resulted in a new crop of work spaces which is only now able to see it's own data and evaluate it's own existence … a young market that is yet to see it's failures these circumstances that surround the emergence of coworking spaces will continue to affect the spaces in which we all work.
The two key components I have found that will change the future of where we work are Community and Knowledge. I will show how I came to these and look at how they might continue to effect where we work.
This report when not stated otherwise is based on observations of my time in a coworking space and studying workspaces for a period of 12 weeks. When discussing the future of workspaces in Chapter 8 and 9 I have drawn these conclusions, which are my own thoughts and opinions, based on my observations and research.
Coworking is a difficult word to pin down and is defined by some in different ways. I will attempt to be consistent in my use of the word and it is important to first define in the context of this report what a few terms are referring to:
Coworking: The deliberate choice to not work alone.
Coworking space: A dedicated communal space and facility for coworking.
A Space: The physical space in which people do the work they are either solely pursuing as Independents or contracted for.
Independents: People who are not dependant on a single employer, investor or shareholder.
Initial Research Questions
What are the key components of a successful work space?
Who uses and what are the benefits of using coworking spaces?
What will happen next to the spaces we work in?
As of this month (November 2012) Deskmag released the results of their 3rd annual coworking survey which showed the number of coworking spaces has doubled in the past year and it doesn't look like the growth will diminish any time in the coming few years.
This report will cover research needed to understand coworking and can be used as a resource for others to view the differences in practice and develop or change their own practices in improving workspaces and communities. And if you are one of those folks, and you can't find what your looking for here you should head to the Coworking Google group or Coworking Wiki.
This report was produced over the period the 12 weeks of my internship. 12 weeks is not nearly enough to conduct an accurate assessment of a movement in it's early stages. The coworking movement has it's roots in open source therefore information is constantly being made available and freely distributed on the internet, there are few academic studies on the specific subject and the information available is vast and contradictory. There are however many people studying the concept and directly publishing their studies online and in blogs, these sources have the most up to date information available around the subject as it quickly develops. The coworking movement in it's early stages has yet to see any catastrophic failures and is therefore difficult to study it's future. The number of participants in my interviews and surveys where not that of a full blown study. Since the study was completed whilst working partially from a coworking space, some degree of bias is unavoidable.
This report takes the form of eight chapters on different aspects of the spaces, if you are reading this report as a resource in your research to set up a coworking or other space you can utilise these chapters in any order. They are as follows:
Chapter 1. On structure
All shapes and sizes: The spaces we work with others and the many forms they take.
Where I look at how the spaces we work in compare to each other in structure, form and business model.
Chapter 2. On the people
Hacking your job: Exploring the individuals involved and their motivations.
Where I explore the decisions that lead people into coworking spaces and what types of people use these new workplaces.
Chapter 3. On the physical space
Open and closed doors: Creating a balanced environment for work and collaboration.
Looking at the differences in the physical spaces we work in and how this affects the success, the work, the people.
Chapter 4. On community
Let's get together: Communities and culture in the workspace.
This chapter looks at the importance of community, openness and collaboration.
Chapter 5. On the growth of coworking
Coworking: Where did it all come from.
A look at the history, current situation and rapid growth of coworking.
Chapter 6. On the economic effects
Sharing is caring: An economy of trust and other things.
Coworking is part of the boom in collaborative consumption, where trust between strangers is earned online and Airbnb is taking the world by storm. The coworking movement is booming in relation to the economy's downturn and the effect it has had on the job market, people are choosing to create their own opportunities and choose the place where they work.
Chapter 7. On predictions
Outward not inward: Communes for the digital age.
A look at the possible outcomes of the current situation and how it could effect the future of work.
Chapter 8. The Conclusions
Community and knowledge.
Lessons learnt that can be applied to coworking spaces to help succeed get to their goals and overcome their obstacles. Findings in relation to the research questions.
Appendix 1 - Sources
As well as these 8 chapters I have included some other useful research and academic sources.
Appendix 2 - Resources
Resources for developing or changing practices in improving workspaces and communities in the form of case studies, links and infographics.
Participants and data
During the course of the study I interviewed 09 coworking spaces, surveyed 07 coworkers. Other prominent sources of data and study include the Deskmag surveys, the coworking project, the coworking wiki and the coworking google group. A full list of sources can be found in the appendix.