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The idea of coworking barely existed ten years ago but now coworking spaces are popping up from Swindon to Southend, London to Lagos. They are shared office facilities for businesses and independent professionals to use but more than that they are known for creating communities and cultures of collaboration. 

What is coworking?

Coworking as a concept was invented by Brad Neuberg in 2005 in his shared office space in San Francisco. Coworking spaces provide an option for individual workers and businesses to access well-managed office facilities. Because the costs are shared between many businesses, coworking spaces are more affordable than renting your own office. Coworking spaces will often include: 

  • A desk and chair
  • WiFi
  • Phone lines
  • Access to a printer 
  • Breakout and meeting spaces 
  • A kitchen area with water and coffee 
  • Toilets and showers 
  • A receptionist 
  • An office manager states that there’s an annual growth rate of 24% in coworking spaces and that there will be over 30,000 spaces and 5.1 million coworking members by 2022. A quick look at Google Trends gives us an indication of just how popular these spaces are becoming. 


The rise of co-working (Google Trends)


This growth is supported by advances in technology now allowing many people to do their jobs from anywhere and the shift towards a ‘gig economy’ with more and more people becoming freelancers, contractors or setting up their own small businesses. 

Video: The advantages of coworking

by TEDx Talks

Coworking can offer an alternative to working from home (which can be full of distractions or feel quite isolating) for independent freelancers and entrepreneurs. In this video from TEDx Talks, Sean Fedorko of Radius CoWork explains why cooperative work environments could be the the way of the future.

I used to work from home. I was happy at first, managing my own time, sitting cross-legged on the floor at a low table as I prefer. Gradually, however, I became aware that all wasn’t well. The quality of my work wasn’t suffering as such, but I lacked the social contact and pattern that I needed to be a better person. My partner, in particular, noticed my mental health declining. When I was asked to join a coworking space by some lovely colleagues, it was an obvious solution and in the year I’ve been renting a desk, my mood has improved. I don’t work here religiously, Monday to Friday, but it’s given me the stability and sense of inclusion that I wasn’t able to maintain on my own.

Alex Mallinson Digital Animator at Alexbam Ltd

The 8 C’s of coworking

As well as the tangible facilities and the shared costs, the main reasons that most cite coworking as advantageous are for the many non-tangible benefits. 

  • Culture
    Coworking spaces are associated with having a special culture. The way of working that comes from sharing a space with lots of different people and businesses. 
  • Connections
    There’s a lot more chance to find friends, get referrals and meet potential suppliers, team members, clients and investors. 
  • Collaboration
    You’ll meet like-minded people and those with completely different skill sets. It’s a space where you can share ideas, help each other solve problems, and work on pitches and projects together. 
  • Cooperation
    It can be harder to accomplish things alone – help others and they will help you in return. 
  • Creativity
    Being surrounded by people working on different things will expand your mind and with their help and inspiration, your creativity and productivity will increase. 
  • Community
    The connections, collaboration, and cooperation create a sense of community – of contributing, being part of something and belonging. 
  • Conditions
    The facilities will be better than what you could afford on your own and there will probably be space to use if your business expands. Coworking makes it easier to separate your home and work life than having a home office. 
  • Coffee 
    It’s a running joke that caffeine makes up a huge part of the coworking culture. Grabbing a coffee with a coworker is a great way to socialise and shoot the breeze. 


Coworking dos and don’ts

There’s an etiquette to being a coworking member. Help to make the coworking community the happiest and most effective place for everyone. 

  • Bring a positive and friendly attitude to work. 
  • Be generous with your knowledge and in helping others. 
  • Don’t be too noisy and practice a quiet phone voice (don’t use the speaker).  
  • Respect other people’s space and keep your area and shared places tidy. 
  • Bring your own supplies and replace anything you use up. 
  • Be aware of odours that you might create with smelly food, strong perfumes or if you cycled into the office that day! 
  • Chat to people about any issues you might have instead of letting them fester. 

Checklist: What do I need to consider before coworking?

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How to find a coworking space

A Google search of “coworking” or “shared offices” and your location should bring up the options available near you. Here are a few examples of coworking spaces in cities around the country… 

WeWork, London 
Price: From £400 a month for a hot desk
Benefits include: 24/7 building access, micro-roasted coffee, craft beer on draft, IT support and bike parking. 
Union Street, Sheffield 
Price: From £45 a month for one day a week
Benefits include: Event space, a roof garden, professional kitchen and pop-up cafe.
The Assembly, Manchester 
Price: Desks at £180 a month 
Benefits include: Dog-friendly, free sweets, free meeting rooms.
Campus North, Newcastle upon Tyne 
Price: Free hotdesking, coworking from £180 per month 
Benefits include: A great reputation as an incubator for tech startups.

It will be easier to find options for coworking in larger cities than in smaller towns and rural areas but they do exist. If you can’t find a suitable space near you, see if you can find some other people interested in sharing a studio or office and consider starting your own.

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