When you think of the word “office,” what comes to mind?
Cubicles, water coolers, the 9 to 5 grind — many of us grew up with these classic ideas of what an office looks like.
Then there’s coworking. In recent years, coworking has surged in popularity as an alternative to the traditional office. As the coworking model has proliferated, the terminology around it has evolved as well.
In this post, we’ll explain what coworking means, look at how it’s used and by whom, and also offer four insider tips on how to maximize your coworking experience.
What is coworking?
Coworking is a type of workspace that is shared by more than one company, as opposed to the traditional office model in which every company maintains its own dedicated space. Coworking can refer to environments where employees of multiple organizations work either in the same room or in private offices within a larger space with shared resources.
However, the definition of coworking has changed a bit over time.
The simple idea of coworking — people working in proximity to one another — has been around since just about, well, forever. Humans are social creatures, and we do very few things in our personal lives, or in the economy, truly alone.
While people have always congregated, the idea of a coworking-specific space is more recent. Some early examples of coworking facilities began to emerge in the mid to late 1990s at places like C-Space in Berlin, one of the world’s first hackerspaces, and Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1999, the actual term “coworking” was introduced by game designer Bernard DeKoven to refer to a non-competitive, collaborative work style. The idea was to work together but separately.
Over the years, coworking has evolved into an umbrella term for a handful of shared office models. Today, you will likely see “coworking” and “shared workspace” used interchangeably.
Within the broad category of coworking, there are several workspace models that providers might offer.
Types of coworking
Hot desking: Library-style coworking where members share space and claim desks on a daily first-come, first-served basis. In this model, you would clean up your space at the end of each day and store materials at home or in a storage area for members.
Dedicated coworking: Assigned desks or multi-person tables in communal spaces. With dedicated coworking, you’d sit in the same place regularly and could likely store your belongings overnight.
Private offices: Companies maintain their own spaces within larger shared workspaces. This could range from a single-person office to an entire floor of a building.
Custom build-outs: Some coworking centers will work with larger clients to design and modify/build out their facilities according to their specific needs.
Flexible workspace packages: Even more flexible than other forms of coworking, this can include single day office rentals or small offices for large teams that rotate their remote staff through the space on an as-needed basis. In response to COVID-19, many coworking centers have expanded their offerings to accommodate companies’ unprecedented needs in creative ways.
In the video below, you can get a sampling for what a dynamic coworking center might look like inside.