The word “coworking” was coined in 1999 by Bernard De Koven. A game designer, author, and “fun theorist,” De Koven used the word to describe people “working as equals,” as well as collaborative, computer-supported work [source]. Today, coworking is taking on a life of its own, becoming a new style of work that has become the “largest of the innovation workplace movements” in the last five years [source].
Growth of Coworking in America
In 2005, the United States only had one coworking space. However, in 2013, the number of coworking spaces in the United States was reported to have increased to 781. [source]
As coworking spaces grew, coworking memberships also increased, and from 2012-2013, coworking membership reportedly increased 117% [source]. Because most coworking spaces are relatively new, some wonder if coworking is a trend that will fizzle out, but the way that the American workforce continues to change and the way that coworking spaces are leading workplace innovation argues otherwise. According to the 2014 projections by Deskmag, “Nine out of ten coworking spaces are expected to increase their number of memberships this year” [source].
The Future of Coworking
Coworking seems on track to remain a growing player in the workplace because the American workforce itself continues to change. Believed by many to be brought on by the changing economy, more Americans became self-starters, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to create their own job opportunities. Coworking helps provide that growing number of workers with a professional place to work and collaborate.
In addition, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Forbes, has forecasted that 40% of the American workforce (about 65 million people) will be independent contractors, freelancers, and “solopreneurs” by 2020. These predictions show that the number of Americans needing their own space to work will only continue to increase.
Why Coworking Works
With the increase of work mobility due to smartphones, laptops, social media, and more, American workers found themselves in a world where information was openly shared and in which they could work from anywhere. Workers no longer needed to be in the office to work and the connectivity and open-sharing of technology was mimicked by coworking spaces: Coworking spaces and other modern offices aren’t confining workers as much by walls, but rather opt for a more open and innovative environment where information can be exchanged easily, collaboration can flourish, and creativity can inspire.
One reason coworking works is because it connects workers in a non-competitive environment. Coworkers can network, give feedback, brainstorm, or plan events together to increase productivity and community. Coworking spaces are going beyond an Internet connection or a desk and bringing people together in a professional community that increases productivity.
Another reason for the popularity of coworking is its friendliness on pocketbooks. People who cowork may have hours that don’t fit the mold for the classic workday or have fewer people to fill a large space; coworking helps those workers save money as they can choose from a variety of packages, hours, and work areas that will best meet their needs and their budgets.