June 2016

“Our biggest challenge is keeping the original flavour of coworking while assuring profitability”-Fernando Mendes, NOW_ Lisbon

When Miguel Muñoz Duarte, CEO of iMatch started looking for a new space incubator, he teamed up with CoworkingLisboa and went off to do some field work. Ultimately finding a beautiful 4.000 square meters (sqm) in Marvila, one of Lisbon’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Today, NOW_No Office Work is now breathing new life into this área, and challenging the boundaries of coworking, if not purely based on sheer size.

We spoke with Fernando Mendes, the founder of CoworkLisboa to find out a bit more about this larger than life coworking space, which is the biggest space in Portugal today, a country with over 100 spaces to date.

Hi, Fernando. Lisbon is one of Europe’s most vibrant startup capitals, but it was also hit hard economically during the financial crisis. Can you please tell us a bit about the role coworking spaces have played in revitalizing the economy?

The role coworking has played is difficult to measure, given the organic growth of spaces. One thing that we do know is that in 2010, Coworklisboa only had a small number of foreign members, around 10%, and today more than 30% are coming from abroad.

Also, coworkers are typically freelancers, even before the crisis, meaning they are resilient people who fight for change and autonomy. The majority of our coworkers, which is more than 700 since 2010, have at least two occupations. For example, a lawyer who likes to surf will at some point launch a new law service aimed at this particular target market. So as a result of difficult times, many people took on a second or third activity that once upon a time might have been considered just a hobby, but today it’s profitable.

In 2010, Coworklisboa only had a small number of foreign members, around 10%, but today more than 30% are coming from abroad.

Are there still challenges in Lisbon regarding workplace culture, and how can projects like NOW_ help address these challenges?

Work has gradually blended in with learning, which has blended in with leisure. In fact, Coworking is now the norm. Big and small corporations are adopting the model, and even academia is looking towards coworking to help push for positive change. Of course, fighting unemployment is definitely a problem that coworking can help to reduce, and NOW_ takes into consideration all of these nuances in order to effectively address these issues.

In fact, Coworking is now the norm.

Your project is certainly ambitious. What does it take to make sure this project of this scale goes over well?

NOW_ , although large in size, will be an intimate project. Being a large space guarantees that we can house all aspects of work, learning, innovation and life that we see today. We want everybody to have the chance to be included, so we decided that no expression of what we still call work would be out of the project. Also, a major part of the 4K sqm will be dedicated to social interaction and networking.

Fernando Mendes

Fernando Mendes

There are some other large coworking projects out there, such as Wework, how would you say that NOW can be set apart from these other coworking giants? 

They are different from the original coworking movement, that’s for sure, but we don’t see them as mere competition. NOW_is unique in the way that we can’t be replicated, as we know the city well and the people and we stand for are our coworkers. This is our biggest challenge, keeping the original flavour of coworking while assuring its profitability.

You decided to add a coliving element to NOW_. Is there currently a demand for coliving spaces in Lisbon? 

The demand is certainly there. Staying in Lisbon has become a challenge, as more and more people are coming to the city. Thus, we are in need of more flexible models to house new social paradigms. The “regular” digital nomad can be characterized as someone under 35, a freelancer, or part-time freelancer, medium average income, zero or few fixed costs, such as kids, car, house, etc. These people make up a large portion of today’s workforce, and rather than take the traditional route, they prefer to get together, share space, skills and knowledge, food and transportation, etc.

The logo of the project is “we don’t give a shift” can you tell us a bit more about that? 

“We don’t give a shift” means that we think that all of this has nothing to do with just work anymore. Work has become a part of every aspect of our lives to the degree that it is now impossible to say if one is working or not working. Those two modes alternate constantly throughout a single day. Ultimately, the 9 to 5 workday is dead and it won’t come back. We´re not saying all this is good and a new glorious way of living, it isn’t, but we

Ultimately, the 9 to 5 workday is dead and it won’t come back. We´re not saying all of this is a good and glorious way of living, it isn’t, but we strongly believe that coworking is in a way people fighting back against all the evil [insert all evil you can list or imagine] in this world.

Social Workplace Conference – Distilling communities of talents (London 2016)

The second year of The Social Workplace Conference in London opened with high spirits, leading a day of engaging talks, inspiration and of course, that wonderful feeling of community.

Pier Mucelli from eOffice kicked off the day discussing the origins of coworking and the pioneers that lead the way in distinct classifications such as public spaces and members clubs. The first coworking spaces in the world were launched in the early 2000’s. The format has since grown and now includes branded incumbents WeWork, our special hosts for the event.

SWCL16 Small 2

Whilst the likes of WeWork, Google Campus and Regus, to name but a few, are globally recognised brands in the sector, they collectively share only 15% of total market share, meaning that 85% of the market share is absorbed by independent providers. Giving a lot of opportunity for these independent providers to shape the culture and purpose of their co-working outfits.

“Distilling a community of talent”

But why are coworking spaces becoming so popular? Hillary Deppeler, Brand Marketing and Partnerships Director for WeWork EMEA, explained that the demographic shift of the way people work and want to engage means that the workplace must become vibrant places that provide connectivity, allowing members to focus on their work by taking care of the common facilities. Members are increasingly connecting through the WeWork app where they can post jobs, seek skills and meet new people in multiple directions, whilst leveraging the USP of their global community that has evolved organically. 146603524138223

Talking about community, the audience was awed with Sarah Turnbull from Bootstrap London who is creating a community by doing good. She illustrated the the story of doing good through selecting occupants with social and community based impact. Infectious inspiration that reminded us of how so many lives can be impacted by the communities we wish to build and the talents that can be nurtured within these communities.

“Building a community by doing good”

Is coworking a popular mode only for freelancers and millennials?!

SWCL2016 Small 4

According to JLL’s research on a new era of coworking, this is not the case. As corporations vie to retain talent and facilitate innovation, the real estate firm has seen increasing demand from corporates to utilise this work mode for its personnel. This can be achieved through various models, explained Karen Williamson and Maciej Markowski, from JLL : internal collaboration, coworking memberships and internal / external coworking spaces, with various benefits and downsides to each. Rob Fitzpatrick, Confluence Partnerships, highlighted the design of the workplace and its impact on the psyche, adding to the need for corporates and organisations to design environments that are conducive to the productivity, social connectivity and mental health of its workforce.

Highlighting the evolution of the workplace and architectural design of workspaces throughout time, Oliver Marlow from Studio Tilt succinctly argued that space, creativity, community and innovation are symbiotic by-products impacted by the physical environment. Creativity and collaboration as social capital can be fostered in environments where emotional intelligence and flow form a part of the design and community building process. Mischa Schlemmer emphasized the need to be authentic in order to build a community, but to also engage and serve the community in order to attract and retain members or for corporates, their personnel.


As if that wasn’t stimulating enough, the afternoon workshops were engines for thought and discussion. Followed by a heated debate on the closing panel, where our American counterparts, Frank Cottle from Alliance Virtual Offices and Liz Elam from GCUC finally agreed that community is a feature of a coworking space, and needs constant development, maintenance and aligning values. Community was a much talked about topic for the day, highlighting the humanistic need to belong and relate to others. This human characteristic has not changed in millennia. As we enter a new age of industrial revolution, the future looks like a great forecast for community not only in our personal lives, but also in the workplace.

Written by Letitia Seglah on June 15 2016

Pictures by Deskmag

Find the different presentations here below or here.