December 2016

As coworking matures, annual growth slows, a sign of fine tuning and improvement: Results of the Global Coworking Survey

2016 has earned the title of being a difficult year. Luckily, 2016 wasn’t all bad, especially when it comes to coworking. As the movement matures, we see the the annual growth rate slowing down, which is a sign of the industry now focusing on fine tuning and improvement, rather than responding to the excitement of the trend, like in previous years.

Recently, Deskmag’s annual Global Coworking Survey, in collaboration with Socialworkplaces, was presented last month at Coworking Europe in Brussels. We now bring you the full results of the survey. 

Growth in the market: Past and future

Global coworking survey coworking space definition

Last year, the coworking industry boasted an increase in stability after facing less than perfect conditions in 2015. We also saw substantial growth in regards to the number of spaces worldwide, approximately 11,300 coworking spaces with 835,000 members.

The 2017 Global coworking Survey predicts that there will be an estimated 13,800 active coworking spaces worldwide. An additional 2,500 to be exact. The 2017 survey projects that from these additional spaces the amount of coworking members around the world will increase to slightly over 1 million members. The predicted number, 1,180,000 will show an increase of about 41 % from last years 64%.

social workplaces coworking survey

One of the major questions as the movement progresses is: How do coworking spaces define themselves? Well about 79% of spaces say that they are “more than just a coworking space”, while 15% sit comfortably as coworking spaces, and a slight 6% remain undecided. The central elements that make a space more than simply a coworking space is the addition of events, business accelerators and coffee shops. One thing that seems to remain relatively stable is the informal element of coworking that we all know and love. Around 60% of spaces were self-described as “casual”.

How sustainable is coworking today?

One thing that has certainly increased in profitability. Compared to all previous years, coworking spaces around the world are at their most profitable, at 41% a little step above 36% in 2015.

When it comes to sustaining staff and operations, 44% of staff feel that their compensation is “rather good”, while operators and founders are only at 20%. Of course, these spaces are often a labor of love so it can take time to turn a profit. Hopefully 2017 will bring in the money for these hard working space operators.

survey coworking deskmagWhen it comes to bringing in new members, the majority of coworking spaces, 80%, site social media, specifically Facebook, and online presence as the biggest attractor. Coming in at a close second at 78% was community building, followed by events, free trials, with coworking associations coming in last. For many current and future operators this types is extremely important as it can help them increase their network and become more sustainable in the future. As the movement advances, we even know which SEO keywords can help build your online presence, most often in combination, such as “shared space” or “coworking space”.

How have coworking members evolved?

It’s heartwarming to see that coworking still remains open. While there will always be coworkers who require more privacy, or a team office, 75% of coworkers still work in open and flexible areas. This was only a 2% decrease from a reported 77% in 2015/2016openess survey

In order to ensure a healthy and comfortable workspace, operators and management can gather important insight from the survey to better suit their member’s needs. For example, the majority of coworkers use basic office furniture, but more than half ( around 76% ) of coworkers would like to sit in an ergonomic office chair.

When it comes to collaboration, we still see similar numbers as we did in 2015/2016, yet with a little less communication. 55 % percent of coworkers said that they work on their own primarily, which is a slight decrease from previous years. This could be due to the fact that more coworking spaces now present themselves to a wider variety of professionals, such as corporate employees, who may or may not have time or interest when it comes to the social side of coworking. In terms of collaboration between members, 71% of participants said that they have collaborated with other members within the last 12 months, at an average of 4 collaborations.

Coworkers have an increase in satisfaction

Today the majority of members have found out about their coworking space via word of mouth, followed closely by internet searches and company/ client recommendations. Based on member ratings, spaces earned 8,17 out of 10, which was an increase from last year’s 8,3. In addition to high ratings, there was also an increase in the amount of hours members used their coworking space. 71% of survey participants claimed to have worked at their coworking space three times a week, or more, while 41% use their space every day.collaboration coworking survey

When it comes to payments. The majority of members, 61%, pay for their coworking space memberships themselves. 26% of memberships are paid for by an employer, which could increase in the near future as more companies allow their employees to work remotely.

What does coworking in 2017 look like?

Just a few days away from ringing in the new year, we are once again opening ourselves up to new resolutions. Last year, 62% of coworking spaces planned for at least one additional expansion, which has gone up to 67% in 2017 projections. 42% of those spaces are planning to open an additional location, while 25% plan to expand within their current space.

As for people power, 85% of spaces believe there will be in an increase in members, which came in slightly lower when compared to previous years. In terms of income flow within the space, around 78% of spaces believe there will be an increase in income, which was also down 4% from 2015/2016. survey socialworkplaces

Overall, coworking has matured over the last decade and today we see the movement as well beyond a fad as it becomes a standard of workplace inspiration. So this year, as you plan to spend less time on your phone, or lose weight, don’t forget to invest time in your coworking community!

Download your own copy of the survey :

Coworking-Gym : “Here, coworkers go for a set of pull-ups rather than that extra cup of coffee”

The architecture firm is behind one the more unique coworking space networks in the United States, Arrowstreet, Brooklyn Boulders (BKB), has created a productive environment amongst the climbing walls. Utilizing reuse designs, like a converted warehouse in Sommerville, and expanding their industrial-inspired pallet, the most recent Long Island City location has made it’s home in a luxury residential building.

We spoke with Sean Selby, Principal Architect at Arrowstreet, and lead designer on the Brooklyn Boulders project, about the ways in which the “Active Collaborative Workspace” can make us more motivated, and of course, healthier.

Hi, Sean. Can you please tell us a bit about your introduction to coworking and the decision to create an “active collaborative workspace”?

As many people know, coworking spaces are part of a a phenomenon embraced by a new generation of workers. These are the same that uses city bikes and Uber to get around the city, and stays at an AirBnB when traveling. It’s part of the sharing economy but, more importantly, it’s built on making professional and social connections for new ideas and more productivity.

Typically, the physical layout of coworking space includes long tables and desks in an open area, plenty of common areas like kitchens and huddle rooms, and a small number of closed offices. The result is that attorneys, engineers, environmentalists, and even playwrights share the same room. While it might not work in a traditional closed office, it thrives in this environment. I’m interested in it because it creates new possibilities for how we live, work and play.

How does a coworking space that focuses on fitness differ from other more traditional spaces in your opinion?

While the typical coworking space looks different than traditional office space, it still has all of the components that an office needs: desk space, conference rooms, printing stations kitchens with coffee. The main distinction of a coworking space in a gym is that it’s less sedentary. Taking a break from building spreadsheets and composing meeting agendas in the gym means swinging kettle bells rather than eating cookies. Pull ups instead of more coffee. The core theme is that by exercising the body, the mind responds with more creativity and innovation.

What does a day in the life of a Brooklyn Boulders member look like?

I’ll give an example. I have a friend who is able to split his time living in two parts of the country. He is a designer, and wherever his laptop is, his “office” follows. While he doesn’t need a traditional office, he does need somewhere to work. In the six months of the year that he spends in the Boston area, he joins Brooklyn Boulders as a member and utilizes the Active Collaborative Workspace. My friend was first drawn to it because he is an avid climber, but the workspace function allows him to seamlessly mix his work, exercise and play times throughout his normal day.

Sean Selby

Sean Selby

While other BKB patrons may not have as flexible a schedule, the availability of the option to work at the gym can only help to create other avenues for how people do their work and live their lives.

Would you say that more active workers are more focused and motivated?

There are numerous studies that demonstrate that cultivating a more balanced and physically fit body through exercise, meditation, and mindfulness leads to more creativity and productivity. The activities taking place in the gyms we’ve designed like rock-climbing, yoga, slackline exercises, and parkour place an emphasis on body control, strength, concentration and problem-solving. These physical activities, more than any other fitness routines, build and reinforce the mind synapses that result in healthier brain activity, better memory, and less stress.

You have designed various spaces, from personal housing, to shopping centers. What role does design play in creating workspace that is productive and open?

Design is absolutely critical to the success of productive workspace. By asking questions and challenging traditional configurations, design activates and exposes the possibilities inherent in the project location, occupant needs, budgets, and available local resources. Note, one-size-fits-all design is short-sighted and doesn’t last, while design thinking can capture the authenticity of a project, and create a special place that people want to come back to, again and again.

What are some of the most important things to consider when designing a contemporary workspace?

Understanding the context is key. While ideas of openness and collaboration may be important to unrelated workspaces in Phoenix and Minneapolis, users in each may inhabit them at varying levels of privacy and idea sharing. Similarly, a workspace with coworkers serving a single industry, like environmental law and activism for example, would have specific needs a more generalized coworking space could do without.

Brooklyn Boulders

Brooklyn Boulders

In the example of the coworking space in Brooklyn Boulders, the ambiance of the gym includes a changing assortment of music genres blaring from the overhead speakers, chalk dust in the air, and a dress code that is more sweat suit than business suit. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly works very well for the coworkers who show up every day at the gym to work.

While other BKB patrons may not have as flexible a schedule, the availability of the option to work at the gym can only help to create other avenues for how people do their work and live their lives.

Startupmound aims to revitalize neighborhoods in Harlem with coworking

Earlier this year, the Harlem Garage, one of New York City’s vibrant coworking spaces sadly closed its doors. The Harlem Garage was seen as a beacon of creativity in the Harlem community has left an empty space in its wake, but also room for new opportunities.

Things could bounce back rapidly, though. Ike Echebiri, serial entrepreneur and founder of Startupmound, is planning to launch a 24hr coworking and event space in Harlem called The Base. Ike, who runs  a service that allows startups to pitch to investors though an iOS app and in-person events, used to host a monthly startup pitching event at the Harlem Garage. We spoke with him about utilizing coworking to bring benefits to communities, neighborhood and business.

Hi Ike. Your project entails utilizing coworking spaces in Harlem to revitalize neighborhoods. Can you please tell us a bit more about your plans?

Well, not only will the new space be used by local startups and small businesses, non profits and government agencies have also shown intent to utilize the new space, including the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) as well as divisions of the Manhattan Borough. Change is always an idea before it becomes action, and with companies like NFTE we’ll be helping to insert this idea of change into the minds of the neighborhood’s youth through mentoring sessions and guest speakers.

Harlem Garage, Harlem, NYC

Harlem Garage, Harlem, NYC

With the help of the Borough we’ll be able to host city events that’ll attract attention and raise interest in the area. We also aim to work with the local colleges and universities to ensure that their entrepreneurial talent will have options to remain in the area upon leaving.

In what ways do you see coworking as a solution/or tool that could breathe new life into overlooked neighborhoods?

Collaboration and association often leads to innovation, and the coworking environment is filled with both. The more innovation that comes from these overlooked neighborhoods the more businesses it will attract. Also as more and more businesses work from a space the more foot traffic the neighborhood receives raising incentives to keep that area clean and safe.

Do you have any experience first hand with seeing the positive affects that coworking can have on underprivileged areas?

I was fortunate enough to see the effects that The Harlem Garage had on Harlem before closing, which is why it is so important to keep coworking options here in this area. The positive attention Harlem Garage brought to the area attracted WeWork, who’ll soon be opening up a space in a different area of Harlem.

What projects in Harlem do you currently see as having potential to create real change? 

CoFound Harlem is no doubt making strides to create real change with their accelerator program.

There will absolutely be efforts to branch into new neighborhoods local, nationally and internationally. Our first test will be Harlem and based on it’s success we will research similar areas that stand to benefit in the same way. I believe the most important factor is timing, so that has to be right before we begin any new project.

The Harlem Garage collaborated with local schools and networking events. In what ways do you work together and what have been the results of these partnerships?

To be clear, I don’t work for Harlem Garage. Startupmound, my company, hosted one of the networking events that collaborated with them. As a result of my monthly pitching event, I was able to bring some of NYC’s top investors out to Harlem and showcase Harlem’s best and brightest startups.

Ike Echebiri, founder of Startupmound

Ike Echebiri, founder of Startupmound

Through the event we not only introduced startups to investors, but startups to the coworking environment, and investors to Harlem. While the Harlem Garage was operating we had the longest running startup networking event and will continue the tradition of the Startupmound Pitch Series at The Base.

What are some of the current challenges professionals face in Harlem? And, what solutions can coworking offer?

One of the major challenges professionals face in Harlem is fear of change and push back from the community. Harlem’s culture is so deeply rooted in art, fashion, food and music and I sometimes feel people think that embracing the tech space will diminish those cultural anchors. It’s quite the opposite, going back to what I said about collaboration and association leading to innovation, all of those categories art, fashion, food and music all evolve over time because of innovation. So by collaborating and hosting industry specific events I believe we will overcome this fear by creating a more inclusive Harlem.


How to bring balance between Automation and Human interaction in a coworking space ?

As human-centric workspaces are rise, so are workplace management tools.

Nexudus Spaces co-founder, Carlos Almansa has recognized the need for optimizing everyday tasks in the workplace.  

Technology as a compliment, not a replacement

Some might be sceptical of running operations digitally, out of fear that it might take away from the human experience. But that just depends how we look at it. Technology can help, but not without a strong management team at the core of the coworking space. Tools such as Slack, Facebook groups or  WhatsApp are not enough.

“Indeed, these tools, including our Nexudus platform, help people communicate with one another, says Carlos, but ultimately if the management team doesn’t work on a day-to-day basis to bring people to these tools and encourage them to post content, it won’t work”

Better understanding member needs through automation

Take an example of a good synchronization between automation and human interaction : check-ins.

Automatic check-in technology can help you better understand your member’s needs. “It  provides operators with a considerable number of detailed reports on how you space is used, so they can discover useful information, i.e. the most active members, peak hours in the space, busiest day of the week, etc”, says Carlos.

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

That way, you can monitor when the space is most used.

Knowing who is coming and going can create a sense of ease for space managers, which plays into how operators choose to secure their coworking space.

If space operators choose to automate physical access to the space, they also can do so by implementing “access control systems, such as Kisi or DoorFlow”.

Such tools allow both operators and members to enhance their coworking needs, by tracking hours of operation and providing flexible use of the space, adds Carlos Almansa. As a result, the human driven operation will just come out better. 

Community Building : again, online AND in person

While it would be nice to offer a personalized experience to each and every member each day, the tasks pile up, and most likely members will be more disappointed rather than satisfied with the results.

Remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Take the booking process :  “Allowing your space members to book resources and rooms online makes day-to-day space management a lot simpler.”  

That way, you can focus on building better relationships with your members, rather than waste time with manual low adding value tasks.

And tomorrow will be taken over by A.I. ?

Having an active blog running for your coworking community also plays an important role in shared workspaces. As coworking evolves, the community aspect has gone beyond the walls of the coworking space and has become an all encompassing world.

We are not there, yet, but let’s think about A.I, in a not to distant future, which may be the running mate for atomizing the workplace.

Sure, but at the moment, it hasn’t quite got the human touch so vitally needed for human-based communication. co-working blog

However, when it comes to the future, we know that we haven’t even seen the beginning of the level of advancement from technology. For Carlos, the interaction between community members and coworking spaces is going to escalate in coming years. “The technology behind these spaces  should be there to foster such change, such as providing tools that encourage people to work together”.


“All movements needs a place for dialogue or there won’t be a movement at all”-Melissa Mesku (Newworker)

Three years ago, Melissa Mesku had a nascent business and was working from home. Fascinated by the concept of coworking, after her experience living in shared housing cooperatives in the Bay Area, one of which she started herself, Melissa wondered if the alternative kind of ethos of cooperative living could be translated into New York City business sector. Tired of working from home and curious about coworking, Melissa set out to find a coopertive workspace that would suit her needs. Since then, she founded Newworker, once of the biggest coworking magazines following the movement.

We caught up with Melissa to talk about the importance of having a coworking media community, that will “meet the combined needs of the personal and the professional, in order to stay relevant”.

Hi, Melissa. What was your first experience with coworking in NYC?

I visited a couple spaces and they really didn’t appeal to me: Snazzy, expensive places where I never met anyone. Then I found the right spot, a clubhouse sort of place, and I was like, “Hell yeah, I’m home.” In working there I became friends with a lot of people, including Tony Bacigalupo who started the place. In knowing him I got to see what other coworking owners were trying to do and I wanted to help out. All I could really offer, just as a person who coworks, was my perspective as a member.

I didn’t realize how valuable that was, but then I realized there were tons of people like me who are all about coworking even though they don’t own a space, they just worked from one. I connected with some of them and the idea to bring us all together to create something just kind of grew from there. For me, I was slightly obsessed with the possibility that thousands of people who cowork could come together to do something big, like how Ashley Proctor and the Coworking Ontario folks started a healthcare plan for coworkers.

As an enthusiastic coworker you wanted to contribute to the movement you started Newworker. 

As I saw it, coming together is the first step, and that if people who coworked realized as I did that there are lots of us who have shared needs and goals, that that possibility might grow from there. A magazine was just one way of doing it; I used to be an editor and knew I could offer that, and honestly I wanted a reason to get back into it anyway. I held a video chat on Google Hangouts for people who wanted to take part. I wondered at a couple points whether it would be worth it – small magazines don’t make any money and they’re a lot of work. But all of a sudden I had submissions rolling in and I was like, well, I guess this is happening! That was three years ago.

What’s your experience now compared to when you started New Worker Magazine?

In the beginning there was just us and Deskmag. Early on, I got a call from a producer at CBS; he said he wanted to interview the head of the biggest coworking publication. I sent the guy to Carsten at Deskmag. Then the guy comes back to me and says, “But Deskmag is in Europe! I need the head of the biggest coworking publication in the United States!” I thought about it for a second and I laughed. “Shit, I guess you’re talking to her.” Now there are a whole bunch and it’s great. Last week I got an email from Ryan at Coworking Insights. He said he wanted to guest write “and of course be the best of friends.” I love it. This movement has come so far and there’s still plenty of room to grow. Bring it on.

What have you learned about the overall movement from the perspective of running New Worker?

That the topic of coworking is just a very small part of what’s interesting to people who cowork. It’s the nexus we’ve formed around, but it’s boring if that’s all we talk about. If coworking spaces arose to meet the combined needs of the personal and the professional, we’ve got to keep that breadth going if we are to stay relevant. Bringing coworking members together is great, but it’s got to be paired with real world value for them if they’re going to take part.

What are some of the major challenges coworking and coworkers face that you have learned about through interviews/stories?

I’ve never been a coworking operator so I’ll just speak to what it’s like for members, at least some of the hundreds I’ve come to know. The biggest challenge is getting their work situation to actually work. A sizable percentage of people who chose coworking work for themselves, and many are relatively new at it. Their challenges are any entrepreneur’s challenges, but they could be either ameliorated or exacerbated by coworking. The coworking gold standard is not just wifi and a desk but also events and community for entrepreneurs. The challenge is that on the one hand you’re totally pumped by your own entrepreneurial fervor and you hear it echoed by people around you, and it’s invigorating, motivating. And on the other hand you’re struggling to keep your head above water, you’re overworked, and even with what the coworking space and your network can provide, you don’t have enough resources to keep it going for long.

In general, it’s not easy. I see a lot of people stick it out for a long time while it’s not working. And then it works out. Or it doesn’t. You don’t know. Insofar as coworking keeps you going and you end up somewhere good, great. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve seen some entrepreneurs slog away at it for too long, past the point that their businesses were no longer viable, but they didn’t want to give up on the dream.

Melissa Mesku

Melissa Mesku

The dream is reinforced in coworking spaces, and for those people, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Of course, in the end you also come away with a network of people, too, and that alone makes it worth it. The issue is that while coworking spaces lose members to other spaces sometimes, often the reason people leave coworking entirely is that they went back to having a traditional job. It’s an issue, and I don’t know that much can be done about it. The economy will largely be what dictates that one.

On that same note, what can you say about the coworking scene in NYC?

Until a few years ago, NYC had more coworking spaces than anywhere else. A few years ago I naively set out to see them all, but there are so many that it became a Borgesian impossibility. We since launched an interactive map of every real coworking space in the greater NYC area – it’s the most comprehensive and up to date tool of its kind here, and it makes the sheer magnitude of coworking offerings only slightly less impossible to for locals to negotiate. The great thing about having all these spaces here is, from the standpoint of a potential member, I have lots of good choices. This place is sleek; that place has cool people; this place isn’t a place but a community that meets in different restaurants, etc. I’ve always said that if you have multiple spaces to choose from, to treat coworking like Tinder and try ’em all.

Over the years I’ve run into a number of the same people in different spaces here and there. I really got my start at New Work City, the first coworking space in New York. Years in, it turned out it was really true: that anyone who was anyone in the NY tech and startup scene had passed through New Work City’s doors at one time or another. Some of them even went on to run their own spaces. But as for a scene uniting these spaces? I can’t say that there is much of one, though many, many spaces definitely have their own social scene orbiting around them. There’s a lot of potential for these groups to come together, and sometimes they do, but it generally overlaps with or is simply absorbed by the wider tech scene of Silicon Alley.

How do you think that magazines/media can help to grow the movement productively?

Any movement needs a place for dialogue or there won’t be a movement at all. If we don’t continue share stories within our own groups, I guess we’d have to wait for outsiders to tell us what’s going on with us until we were no more. But when ideas are generated internally within a group, they spread easily and become part of who we are individually and collectively. This shared internal discourse authenticates ideas as they pop up, and we find ourselves acting upon them and refining them naturally. When we share what we know, we help each other without even realizing it.

What are some of the things the coworking movement needs to embrace in order to smoothly transition into the future of work?

Coworking started not too long ago and most practitioners have kept fairly close to its origins; most coworking spaces are small community-oriented institutions that are naturally focused on integrating the business and personal needs of their members. At the same time you could also say that coworking – as an industry – is now dominated by major players who have taken the original concept of coworking and turned it into a business above all else. I think it’s natural that those O.G.-style coworking space operators who have kept coworking true to its roots will feel a schism here. I think in time this will continue to grow until the two splinter off from each other, perhaps one carrying the word “coworking” with it and the other adopting another name and perhaps even a different model as things change.

Coworking in Manhatten, Deskmag

Coworking in Manhatten, Deskmag

No business model is sustainable anymore. Coworking emerged to meet a need, a need that has grown exponentially, and many have stepped in to bank off that. But the model will shift as people’s needs shift. It’s not that coworking as we know it will look so very different ten years from now – it’s that other institutions that are also experimenting with integrating people’s personal and professional needs will have come up with their own combinations that might end up looking very similar to this one. A childcare facility with space for parents to work next door is not so different from a coworking space with childcare, and we’ve seen such spaces start to bloom all over the world.

How coworking really broke the mold was in normalizing mix-and-match experimentation as a business model for the mobile millennial workforce. Anyone out there experimenting on the bleeding edge of providing people with innovative ways to live better will be following in coworking’s footsteps, and if it’s actual coworking spaces leading the pack, it won’t be the big guys. The big guys aren’t lean, they can’t pivot like small organizations can, and they aren’t in the business of solving a community’s unique needs. The leaders of coworking 1.0 have aced the essence of today’s entrepreneurialism in that they’ve started businesses intimately tied to a specific group of people who identify with them and trust them. Those who know this implicitly are the ones who will be met with success in the future.


“Education is massive and there’s innovation to be found through coworking”-Laura Billings (Edspace)

Edspace was started by four co­founding directors, who all worked in education in some way, but felt that changes needed to be made. The Edspace Team were inspired by the coworking movement, realizing that that could not only benefit from working in a sector specific space, but that they could foster change via a shared workspace that focused on education and community.
We spoke with Laura and James from the Edspace team to learn more about the role that coworking can play in changing education for the better.

Hi, Edspace team. Can you please tell us a bit about how you started your space? 

(Laura)We started off  in a temporary space in Camden in London, that was around 4,000 square feet. Once we outgrew that, we had the opportunity to move to our official home, in partnership with the Hackney Community College. Today we have 11,000 square ft, with over 40 companies who are out members, while continuing to grow.

Since your space is focused on transforming education can you please tell us why you chose to create a niche space, rather than one that would be open to various startups and professions? 

(Laura)There’s a huge movement of coworking spaces of course, and many of them are open to anyone, but for us we saw a benefit to being sector-specific. One of the main benefits of narrowing our focus was to pinpoint the specific shared challenges by our community and therefore we make space for highly productive collaboration. We are all sharing a social mission in addition to a business one.

We get feedback from a lot of people who have found that they didn’t have much in common with other companies when they were a part of other more broad coworking spaces. As we are not just a space, but also an education institution, there is no better place to look at education in terms of the opportunities that the college gives , which includes access to students and teachers.

What were some of the challenges that you identified in the education system that you are now attempting to change/improve? ­

(Laura)The education system is still very traditional but, education is a huge ecosystem that involves not only institutions but also libraries, parents, grandparents, in addition to life long learning, career development, employment opportunities and various other specialties. In short, education is massive and there is innovation to be found in an amazing variety of ways and areas.

Edspace as a co­working space does not tackles a specific challenge, but moreover, supports members who are tackling specific challenges.

How does a coworking facilitate progress within education? Can you give us any examples of projects between co­workers that have led to changes? ­

(Laura)One of the things we offer is support to members, including connecting them to professionals experts from the college, as well as external experts for anything from public speaking, to investment, to making an effective pitch or even how to hone the skills that are need to build a successful education company.

Edspace, coworking

Edspace, coworking

Also, Emerge Education is our sister company and they are a three month accelerator program for edtech companies. Some examples of how things are currently moving forward would be a company called Empowering Futures, who is in touch with the Careers office at the college. We are also organizing events that link the companies that work here with school leaders in the local community. We are also organizing an event that links the companies that work here with school

(James) The idea behind this event is to showcase the most innovative companies and companies that we have at edspace with that hope that the schools wll use them and in turn imporve the quality of education. One of the biggest problems for schools is that they don’t know what some of these companies can offer because, there is a a gap between school leaders and edtech companies and we are trying to currently bridge that gap.

How can coworking spaces create room for collaboration with outside partners, and, does your community work with external communities?

(Laura) The classes we offer are put on by different experts, only some of which are members. We also have breakfasts that anyone can attend in which teachers from the college have joined , as well as people interested in becoming members. We support local businesses, including the store where we buy fruit for our members from Buzz Bar, a one stop media shop up the road with whom we partner and with and through we have various discounts.

In the future we could possibly utilize other aspects of out resource rich neighborhood, including the public library on site, the nursery and the primary school. The longer we are here the more relationships we build.

Do you believe that coworking spaces should be implemented in classrooms, or should students have access to a space? How do you imagine the role of coworking in education in the future?

(Laura)  More and more people are working in careers or roles that suit coworking spaces. Also , more traditional offices are trying to become more like coworking spaces, so there is a benefit for students to see the advantages of coworking spaces as that will be the direction of a lot of companies. There are some schools such as the Stockholm school without classrooms that is descrbed as a “meeting place with a positive and open atmosphere” that are also deisigned like a coworking space , so tht are schools experiementing with this type of dynamic and trying to translate the lessons of an effective coworking space into a school.

Also, how do you see technology changing the way we approach education? ­

(James) Firstly, education is going to move away from traditional ways of consuming knowledge so we’ll start moving away from textbooks and seeing different ways to learn. A good example is Now Press Play, an edtech startup who uses wireless technology to give children a unique learning experience. I also think technology has a big tole to play in helping teachers provide feedback and communication with students. Technology aims to make teachers’ lives easier so that they can focus more on teaching and less on administrative tasks.

What types of skills do the future generation of workers need to learn today to prepare them for professional success? ­

(James) Clearly there is a greater need in the UK for better IT and computing skills. That is something that is lacking. There needs to be more emphasis on character traits such as wit and determination that aren’t being measured presently.


“A workplace retreat needs to be versatile, welcoming various individuals with unique needs”–Julianne Becker (Coconat)

In 2011, Julianne Becker answered an ad for a job at Deskwanted/Deskmag. The position was for someone to research, write articles, and manage social media, regarding all things coworking. This was Julianne’s first encounter with coworking, and she’s been involved ever since. Since then she assisted in the organization of the 2nd Coworking Europe conference in Berlin and is also the cofounder of Coconat, a workplace retreat just outside of Berlin.

Creating a a successful workplace retreat takes work. You not only need that idyllic location that will help your members reflect and relax, but you need to know your community. We spoke with Julianne about what it takes to build up a functional retreat for workers and how that reflects on the digital nomad community.

Hi, Julianne. Can you please tell us a bit about the concept behind Coconat?

The project is a combination of the community aspects of coworking with the tradition of artist and writing retreats that most of us are familiar with, some call it a ‘coworking hotel’, we say workation and co-living. This combination was first to satisfy the urban need for escape, to rethink the priorities of work with off-time. The project has grown to also encompass rural development and intracultural dialogue, between the city slickers and their country cousins.

Over the last several years the term “digital nomads” has made it’s way into the coworking scene. From your perspective, is this more of a trend or a growing movement?

I think the digital nomads are a kind of ‘tribe’ in what is becoming the ‘Location Independent Movement’. Those who identify themselves as digital nomads fit, from my experience, a pretty narrow demographic, and in general are pretty young. The location independent encompasses them, but also has room for those who may be more flexible in how and where they work, but who may also have some degree of in-flexibility, which can include family-life or a local business. I think that is where the real momentum lies, there is much more room to grow.

Coconat, and the growing number of places like it, are able to host people who may not be able to commit to a world-travel-all-the-time kind of life, to those who just want to break the cycle of normality. In our case, we are just a 1 hour train ride from Berlin to a completely different experience.

Are the majority of the coworkers who are utilizing Coconat coming from abroad or are they mostly from the area?

From our 2 test rounds we have a little data to give, though the real stuff will be from when we open in April. In the summer of 2015 we launched our summer of pioneers, and there we had a majority of Berlin based folks, with less than a handful that travelled to us, farthest flung from Switzerland. The following year, in May 2016, we marketed a bit more towards those who identified as digital nomads, and there we had only one German, and she travelled by car for 8 hours to participate in the week long workation event.

Both experiences were great! We get inquiries from US based people, and some permanent digital nomads who try to stay with the sun, and of course a lot of Berlin based people.

On the same note, from your experience with remote workers, are many of them looking for long term-travel or are they using retreat centers for short-term breaks/bursts of inspiration?

What is pretty amazing is that we really see a mix of both types of requests. We noticed the differing needs pretty early on and have already developed packages for many different situations. We have the ‘premium’, for lack of a better word, with really nice private rooms, everything included down to month-long workstays, where guests can chip in 10 hours a week to Coconat in exchange for a discounted rate.

Aside from the normal lingo used to describe digital nomads, such as “community” “relaxation” etc., what do you think workplace retreats can do for the overall future of work?

There are so many levels that we think about here, so I will list some of the central ones:

Community – Whether alone in a crowd or literally alone, if you don’t have people to share your ideas with, you will generally take more time to process thoughts, and in the end be less productive.

Digital nomads – On a retreat they will not only meet vacationers, but are usually tuned in to finding beautiful natural landscapes, so they will already have an appreciation for what is around.

Urban folks – For city dwellers, I can hope that a mindfulness of those moments when taking a walk in fresh air brings in some inspiration to their project that they just hadn’t thought of before. Nature and also rural spaces in general really creates a new atmosphere, where the environment is more plant based rather than cement.

Julianne Becker

Julianne Becker

The local community – They recognize the value of their community and environment with new vigor, as they start to see it through the experiences of others who visit. They will have a chance to explore interests with a larger circle of people, and possibly be introduced to topics and experts that they can really use in their daily lives

Concentrated work – Different work-styles and tasks require different kinds of workspace. This is where coworking really comes in to play for me. Quiet open floor plans, cozy café areas, private spaces outside with the trees, meeting rooms and spaces for the pow-wows. We take work seriously, so you don’t even have to think about it.

What I can imagine is that people can walk away with a mindfulness of what workspace works best for them. They can sit in a different space every hour, and feel where is right for them.

Do you think we should, or could, make it mandatory that employees take a certain part of the year to go away and work?

To be honest, that would be amazing. I think that it would really bring a lot of fresh ideas, perspectives, and in general more energy to the companies who did so. Of course they would have to keep in mind families and other external structures that may make these types of trips difficult, but in general I think that there can be solutions to these challenges.

Could this potentially blur the lines between vacation / work life?

No. This is definitely something that comes up a lot when I am introducing the idea of Coconat to people.
The time at Coconat should not be considered a vacation. It could be time when take time off from your ‘money-job’ to focus on your own passion project, and maybe a person uses their ‘vacation-time’ to do that, but that is it’s own situation. In general a person who comes to Coconat should be clocking their hours, taking their breaks, and getting some stuff done.

What are some of you current plans for the project?

We will be opening in April and hosting our stakeholder workshop in December, where we will start engaging the greater Coconat community to develop the project and the programming. We are also planning programmes for families, where the kids have activities and the parents can work.

Our community engagement strategy will also be implemented, which has already been significantly developed by a group of Master’s students from the Berlin School of Economics and Law.



Coworking Europe 2016 coverage on Social Media

Coworking Europe Conference 2016 took place in Brussels. Check out the storify:

Global Coworking Survey 2017

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The first results where presented at Coworking Europe 2016 (Brussels, Nov 28-30).

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