Author: amanda-gray

Coworking in Asia to challenge traditional hierarchies and make room for innovation?

In January 2015, the Hubud team created and hosted Coworking Unconference Asia, which had around 120 attendees from around Asia. During the last session at the event, the team asked the audience whether or not they should form an Asian Coworking Alliance.  The simple question led to an impassioned discussion about the potential alliance, concluding with 3 coworking spaces offered to take the discussion forward. As many coworkers and space managers know, it’s difficult to get there types of projects off the ground, especially because they are often born from passion, not revenue.

Fast forward to the 2nd Coworking Unconference Asia in 2016, and the CU Asia team decided to get things off the ground and launched the Coworking Alliance somewhat unilaterally. In its first year, CAAP has 30 paying member spaces and has offered 17 webinars for coworking space owners and staff. We caught up with the co-founder of Hubud, Steve Munroe, to discuss the coworking scene in Asia and how the formation of a coworking alliance can help global coworking communities grow.

Coworking has grown exponentially in some parts of Asia. Is the model considered to be a viable option for corporate players and local freelancers? 

Like with a lot of things, the industry is younger in Asia but it is moving faster.  Corporate players are getting involved, which includes both CRE players and corporate customers. As a result, investment is scaling up, for example, Spacemob in Singapore just completed a $5.5. million raise.  At the same time, there has been an explosion of smaller players entering the market.  Last year when we held the Coworking Academy there were only 35 attendees, and this year there were over 100. Attendees came from major markets, such as Jakarta, as well as rural areas.

On that same note, what role do you see coworking playing in the context of redefining “traditional” work culture in the region? 

In Asia,  relationships are traditionally hierarchical, within institutions like companies and governments, as well as within society. So the flatter social systems that are typically seen, and also encouraged, in coworking spaces is a bit of a change.

Steve Munroe, co-founde Hubud, Bali

Are corporate entities in the region embracing coworking? 

Some, particularly in more internationalized markets like Singapore and Hong Kong where some corporates are placing some of their staff in coworking spaces. There are also examples of corporations hiring coworking space operators to consult them on how to ‘import’ the coworking culture into their internal environments, in relation to design, internal communications, etc.

Who are the most likely members to join coworking spaces in Asia? 

This varies greatly by location. The markets in Bali or Melbourne or Hong Kong are very different from one another.  In many countries, however, the early adopters tend to come from places where coworking has been around longer so they tend to better understand the value proposition, such as North America and Europe.

What are the benefits of forming a coworking alliance? 

In its first year, our focus was simple and modest. we aimed to create the kind of networking connections and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for coworking space operators in the same way that we do for our members. Therefore focus has been on hosting events, online webinars and just creating channels for us to communicate more frequently.

This year we are looking to move increasingly into collective negotiating, such as getting discounts from vendors that benefit both our members and/or their members. In addition to increasing beneficial relationships, we aim to focus on research and advocacy that will allow us to support operators looking to start discussions with their local governments/partners and approach regional bodies like ASEAN.

From your experience, what types of partnerships/collaborations have sparked from the alliance that would not have had otherwise? 

Again, the biggest thing for us this year was having members teach each other and share resources (templates, checklists) that benefit one another. Right now we are not actively collaborating with other bodies, but we would like to going forward. The truth is, any kind of alliance is challenging to operate and deliver meaningful value to its members and partners. When we started it, our stated commitment was that we would not start a ‘talking head’ kind of industry association.  So we will see how we and others do with that and navigate what works for everyone in the process.



COWORKING EUROPE 2017 (Dublin, November 8-9-10) : REGISTRATION IS OPEN

The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions-Ben Gattie,The Working Capitol

Ben Gattie, the co-founder, and CEO at The Working Capitol wanted to nurture creative work environments in his home country of Singapore. After working for a real estate developer focused on SoHo loft conversions in New York City, Ben returned to Singapore about 8 years ago and set up The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate company specializing in the redevelopment of neighborhood shop houses. Deciding to enter a more meaningful and multifaceted industry centered around creating inspired work environments for companies big and small, Gattie co-founded The Working Capitol with his sister, Saranta.

Today the professional landscape in Singapore is changing, and it’s all thanks to places like The Working Capitol. We caught up with Ben to discuss these changes and how his work is enabling more open and flexible work environments.

Hi, Ben. What is work culture like in Singapore? Have people embraced social workspaces? 

It was quite conventional in a lot of ways until a few years ago with the mainstream emphasizing job security and working out of the central business district. Singapore has made a conscious effort to decentralize, and independent operators such as ourselves have legitimized fringe locations and social workspaces. Thankfully, Singapore is accustomed to change at an aggressive pace and is very adaptable to new things. Singapore apparently has over 60+ co-working spaces so I certainly hope this means people have embraced social workspaces! That said, in our earlier days, it was essential to educate people about what we were doing and to adopt a genuine spirit of giving before we could expect to get in return.

Does TWC aim to promote shared work culture and if so, how?

Ben Gatti

Definitely. We try to promote shared work culture across as many touch points as possible. The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions, ensuring there are different environments suited for different types of work or social engagement.

We want all our members to feel a sense of ownership of the entire building regardless if they may have signed up for a dedicated workspace. Our events and programming ensure that people come together across different points of interest, which we populate according to the verticals of arts and culture, personal and business development, health and wellness and lifestyle and entertainment.

Furthermore, our team is genuinely interested in what our members do and aims to facilitate interactions and connections whenever possible.

When TWC was being developed, was special attention paid to design? 

Yes. Design with intention is key  i.e understanding why the spaces exist and for what purpose it serves. Design is always best when it puts the member experience first and naturally weaves these human experiences into the built environment.

In your experience, what type of design promotes a better work culture, while also increasing productivity?

Specifically, in the case of The Working Capitol, the flow of one space into another, the incorporation of natural light, a lively color palette and ensuring there are different types of micro-environments suited for different types of work made accessible to everyone have been major contributors to our unique energy.

Do you believe that the physical design of a shared workspace is an essential part of the model? 

It is an essential part of the model. It directly influences not only how well we can perform operationally, but how successful we can be at creating the right energy and interactions. If the hardware is poorly designed, it makes it that much more challenging for our team and all their efforts to bring the space to life successfully, ensuring people are inspired to do their best work.

What types of members do you attract? For example are you focused on the local community or do does TWC extend themselves to digital nomads? 

Our members truly span a broad cross section. Being fortunate enough to have an international upbringing and exposure to different cultures, it was extremely important for us to champion diversity in terms of the type of industries we cater to, as well as different stages of development. We welcome everyone from solo-preneurs to large companies. That diversity can only help to provide different perspectives and learnings to local businesses in Singapore and enable people to grow in both business and personally.

On that same note, do you have corporate members or business partners? If so, why do you think that they are drawn to a place like TWC?

Our corporate members tell us the main draw has been to attract and retain the best talent. They want to provide their teams with access to inspiring spaces, access to amenities and opportunities to engage with other members and companies.


“70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements”-Sam Rosen, Deskpass

Deskpass was born from the experiences of the founders of The Coop, a dedicated coworking space in Chicago. While all coworkers can appreciate the benefits of having a dedicated community, the growing freelancer economy demands variety and access to a range of communities and spaces. This is where Deskpass comes in. Founding member Sam Rosen, who also worked on Desktime, a software used for booking and managing spaces, based on work at The Coop, aims to bring the coworking world easy access to a global network of spaces.

Currently, Deskpass’s flexible membership allows the platform to partner with spaces and offer coworkers a monthly package in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver to give you access to all of them. There are also several plan options for people who want to cowork someplace new every day or just a few times a month. We spoke with Sam about the platform and why coworking memberships will be an integral part of the future workplace.

Hi, Sam. How long have you been operating and from your experience what have been some of the common threads that you’ve seen regarding worker’s needs? 

Deskpass has been in operation a little over a year and a half. In that time, we’ve found that most of our users primarily work from home, and like it!. Instead of replacing their home office, they are looking for a place to go once or twice a week. They either want a creative boost, a place to meet clients or a work base close to other things happening in their lives. While traditionally folks who use coworking spaces value location and community, Deskpass users also value flexibility and access to lots of spaces.

As coworking has become more popularized in recent years, it has attracted more traditional workers, and corporations. Do you see a lot of corporate players who are interested in programs like Deskpass?

It’s important for those of us who work in coworking to remember that it is still a new idea and that a vast majority of people may have never heard of it before. We’re seeing more and more mobile and remote workers across industries. Pair that with companies starting to adopt alternative workplace strategies, and innovative options like Deskpass become more and more compelling.

Sam Rosen

Sam Rosen

For example, suburban companies want flexible options downtown for talent recruitment and retention. Forbes tells us at least 70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements. One study from GWA showed 95% of employers say remote work has a high impact on employee retention & 36% of employees would choose it over a pay raise.

Businesses that want to compete for the best people need to keep those things in mind but also don’t want to rent offices all over the place.

What are some of the experiences that you’ve had with more traditional workers that have signed up for Deskpass? 

Most of our folks use Deskpass to augment an existing setup. They like working from home, or from the office most of the time, and Deskpass serves as an attractive alternative a few times a month. Maybe they need to travel for work or they just want to get out of the house. Again, for many people, coworking is still a new concept. We find that a lot of folks are trying coworking for the first time and come to wonder how they have worked so long without it.

On that same note, would you say most of your users are full-time freelancers and part-time remote workers who are able to leave the office from time to time?

We’re pretty evenly split between freelancers and remote workers. We definitely expected to be more freelancer-based when we launched and have been excited to see the benefits membership offers remote workers.

As Deskpass encourages flexible use of space, what is your take on the future of real estate in the workplace? 

There’s little doubt in my mind we are in a transformative moment for our concepts of the office. For the first time ever, “work” doesn’t have to both be a thing we do and the place we do it.

We’re going to see more variance in and more kinds of ecosystems for work. I imagine folks will still have a traditional office available to them but will be equally empowered to work from home. This could be done from wherever it is that’s going to allow them to get the most work done, be more focused and have a better quality of life. An ideal environment might change based on the personality type and the job. Furthermore, my ideal environment might change based on what specific project I am working on or what my schedule feels like for the week.

Overall, we’re going to see more hybrids with less dedicated space and more awesome thoughtful drop-in environments supported by better and better technology.



“Coworking can bring tired workspace back to life”-Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

In 2012, husband and wife team Patrick and Suzanne Murdock took a big risk. They decided to develop a coworking space in Newry, Northern Ireland, at a time when the city was still in the depths of the recession. Three years later, The Hub Newry is still standing, offering a community environment for start-ups, freelancers, small businesses and community groups based on a sustainable and ethical working ethos. With a “combination of hard work, perseverance, and the support of the local business community”, the Hub is now one of the leading coworking spaces in Northern Ireland.

Hi, Patrick and Suzanne. What inspired you to open the Hub Newry and can you please tell us a bit about the space today?

Patrick: We had just returned from England and I was self-employed working out of our spare room and living a solitary existence where days could go by when the only face to face contact I would have was with family. I needed to be a part of a coworking space and the only way this was going to happen in Newry was by starting our own.

The Hub Newry was born from modest beginnings, located behind the boarded up façade of an old pub, which had become another victim of the recession. Today the space has evolved into an established city centre fixture, housing a community of entrepreneurs and micro businesses who work in partnership with each other to achieve the most elusive of business goals in recent years. We recently won the award for ‘best premises’ at the 2015 Greater Newry Area business awards, which comes hot on the heels of the Hub achieving “Gold” sustainability certification during the summer by Green Tourism.

What is the coworking scene currently like in Newry and did you need to introduce the community to the concept?

Suzanne: It has not been without its challenges. When we relocated from the UK, which is essentially a pro- business environment, we had no idea of all the difficulties that we would face when dealing with the infamous Northern Ireland red tape. Many of the things that we took for granted in London came as a shock in Newry, especially coworking!

It took a good year at the onset of our project to roll out the concept of coworking to Newry and the surrounding areas. Even though there were shared offices, hacker spaces and technical hubs, coworking, in the true sense of the word, didn’t really exist in Northern Ireland.

What types of action did you take in order to introduce the public to the concept?

In the early days, a second business helped to fund The Hub Newry as the office was literally empty. The first residents were those who were travelling or who worked abroad and had already seen the benefits of coworking. But, we were resilient and our ‘can do’ culture helped us to overcome many of the problems we faced. A lot of networking and obscure events including hosting the Oktoberfest Promo Video helped us along the way!

How does the coworking scene in Newry differ from the very advanced community in London?

Newry certainly has some “quirks”. A very strong sense of community and the need to succeed helps to drive the coworking concept here. We seem to attract various clusters of industries, which are successful in Northern Ireland including building, construction as well as creative & digital businesses, which all work together effectively.

What are some of the different needs/expectations of your members?

Businesses here seem to have to work harder in order to be profitable. There is far less start-up capital and most of the local government money is allocated to public sector and charitable projects. Despite this, coworking is now very effective and residents have higher expectations. Desks are far cheaper than in London and our businesses feed off each other well with regards to referrals, contacts and shared expertise.

In your opinion, is coworking self-sustainable and why is that? What do you think can be done to increase sustainability?

Yes, very much so. The local government has recognized the benefits of coworking and also sees a need to lower local taxes, which applies to coworking spaces. There is also much more collaboration between coworking spaces and local traditional businesses, but there is still work to be done in regards to solidifying partnerships between these businesses. Overall, coworking is certainly more sustainable if there is a “twinning system” or more of an international network of coworking businesses to give residents access to international offices.

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

The Hub is now planning to expand and will be opening a second premises in 2016. Since we are growing and we have basically mapped our growth to that of our residents, we have received feedback letting us know that our members are outgrowing our workspace, but that they still want to continue to be a part of our community.

Can the open workspace/coworking model play an important role in regenerating communities? 

Definitely. Tired workspace can be brought back to life for low cost and in a very sustainable way.

We now have a huge expertise to tap into when engaging with local colleagues, communities and businesses. This not only works from a business perspective but also allows us to mobilise members to work on voluntary and community projects such as the urban garden.

Why is this innovative model of work important in regards to how we understand the future of work?

Coworking plays a vital part in giving work experience placements, interview practice, coaching and assisting the resident businesses as well as the coworking business.

The Hub Newry is very community driven and also a big champion of green ethics, sustainability & culture for which we’ve recently been awarded the “Gold” certification by Green Tourism UK. Being very involved in community initiatives for both local businesses and social groups, we’re also really keen to participate in wider geographical areas with other coworking groups, businesses & community groups both Irish, UK & European.

Have you been to the Coworking Europe Conference before?

This is our first conference! We’re looking forward to gaining an international taste of what’s happening in the world of coworking. We are also very much looking forward to sharing experiences and ideas while simultaneously promoting our country and city to an international audience.

What will you be speaking about at this year’s conference?

We will be speaking about establishing a coworking space in an economically disadvantaged area. We will discuss the challenges of bringing a new concept to a traditionally conservative audience, and how our space helped resident businesses succeed. We will also speak about what it takes to establish a coworking space on a budget while still being able to remain sustainable and achieving a design excellence on a budget.

“Many people who came to work at Starbucks discovered that the coworking environment was a much better solution”-Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor runs both Creative Blueprint and Foundery in the vibrant city of Toronto, Canada. The newly renovated 15,000 sq ft community hub is an accessible venue run by Ashley and her business partner, Jake Koseleci, who also owns the property and leases space to Creative Blueprint and Foundery, in addition to a Starbucks.

Established in 2006, Creative Blueprint is a pioneer and leader in Toronto’s arts and coworking communities. Creative Blueprint provides studios, services and support for artists and entrepreneurs. The CB Studios in downtown Toronto are home to practicing visual artists, designers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Ashley to talk about what it was like to partner with Starbucks and how coffee culture can help coworking spaces grow.

Hi, Ashley. Can you please tell us a bit about the current state of Foundery and Creative Blueprint?

Established in 2010, Foundery currently operates two Coworking and Event Spaces within The Foundery Buildings. Foundery is one of Toronto’s first coworking spaces and we are home to a diverse and vibrant community of passionate, independent freelancers and artists. Foundery provides 2 unique shared coworking environments in addition to private offices and meeting rooms.

In the new year, we are planning to launch an exchange program with our newest Creative Blueprint location in Seattle, Washington (in partnership with Office Nomads).

Why did you decide to partner with Starbucks rather than opening your own coffee shop? 

My original plans for a coworking space included art studios, as well as an art gallery and cafe. The businesses are all complimentary and they support each other. The Foundery Buildings were the first venue where we could open all of these elements under one roof. Yet, we had an entire building to renovate and a mortgage to cover, so we decided that it would be a good idea to partner with an established anchor tenant that we didn’t feel bad about charging market rental rates.

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

At the time when we bought the building, there was construction on the street and we needed to increase foot traffic. Also, coworking was not as popular as it is today and many people were still unfamiliar with the concept. Thus, the cafe gave people a reason to come by and check out the newly renovated building.

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

Yes. Overall, it’s really events, coffee and casual opportunities that make connections and what helped to introduce the community to our space and to the coworking movement.

It has been a great way to find and to introduce people who need a community to the coworking concept. The partnership also offers a secure stream of patrons for the cafe and a secure revenue stream for the building. It also works out well when we need breakfast or coffee for our in-house workshops and events!

What are some of the specific benefits of having a partnership with Starbucks and what does it bring to the tenants and to the space owners?

Our members love coffee. We drink coffee all day and we also like snacks. Since we have our own desks next door, we don’t take up precious real-estate in Starbucks.

As a coworking space operator, I also visit the cafe to tell those people who are working on laptops that there is a better option that’s right next door. I’ve actually invited many cafe customers in for a trial day at Foundery and that worked out well both for Starbucks and for us.

Does having a partnership outside of the space provide the ability to impact the greater community on the whole as you have a wider reach?

Our reach was initially wider with Starbucks as a tenant, but now we have since established our location and our own community. Today, our events and members attract new visitors, like the CB Gallery, which is open to the public during exhibitions and we also participate in many city-wide initiatives that open our doors to the community.

Have you found that there could be a potential risk that your members would want to work in Starbucks, rather than your space?

Quite the opposite. Many people who came to work at the cafe discovered Foundery and decided that the coworking environment was a much better solution. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going out for coffee, but I’d rather work from the Foundery rooftop patio or in my studio with friends. I’m so much more efficient and productive in a coworking space than I could be in any cafe.

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

Now that we have established the model at this location, we’d like to see another service provider operating in the space. We are actually in the process of replacing the Starbucks with an independent operator that is more in line with our vision and mission for the space and community.

As we are a building full of independent artists and entrepreneurs, so it would be nice to see our peers using the space. Yet, we are taking our time in looking for the right cafe partner or collaborator who can provide amazing coffee, healthy food options and catering options for our members and many events.

Coworking Grows Up: An interview with Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of Coworking Europe

Like many of the major players in today’s coworking scene, Jean-Yves Huwart, started off as an unsatisfied employee. Driven by a need for more freedom, Huwart quit his job at a media company and started working as a freelancer. Yet, it didn’t take much more than two weeks before he started to get cabin fever. At the same time Huwart was going crazy in his home office, there was talk in Brussels about creating one of the first European Hubs, Hub Brussels, which launched in 2009. Huwart was one of the first members to join the space and he quickly realized that coworking was the epitome of what he had been writing about as a business journalist. For him, this budding movement met the requirements of the rapidly transforming modern workforce and was much more than just a fad.

Hi Jean-Yves, what initially pushed you to start the first Coworking Europe Conference?

Jean-Yves Huwart: While I was working at Hub Brussels I was witnessing, first hand, a growing need for shared workspaces that prioritized human interaction over production. I started looking elsewhere for similar spaces to the Hub, and I quickly figured out that coworking was a growing phenomenon that could be found all over Europe. This was the initial inspiration to start the first Coworking conference, and because Brussels is the capital city of Europe, it made sense to identify as a European conference.

When did you have the first event, and what was coworking community like in its early stages?

The first event took place in 2010. We expected around 50 people but instead 150 showed up. At that moment, we understood that something was really cooking. At the time, spaces were still in their nascent stages, Betahaus in Berlin was just one year old, and many of the big names you see in coworking today were just starting out. Because things were still operating on a smaller scale, we were able to easily connect with a lot of people who were developing spaces, and also the individuals who had knowledge about the coworking movement.

What countries, at the time, had the most advanced coworking scene? And how did these developments help develop the Coworking Europe Conference?

In 2010, many of the people we met at the conference came from Germany, which was the most advanced coworking scene at the time. They were already organizing themselves into an association, Coworking Deutschland, which was something that was ahead of its time. After the conference, Coworking Spain started and you also had a strong Italian scene growing.

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Because of these coworking associations that were forming, people started looking at ways in which they could come together, thus the people in Berlin invited us to have our conference there for the next year, which was in Betahaus, and Club Office. Then, when we were in Berlin, we met the people from Paris who invited us for the next year and from there we gained more traction and the interested has never stopped growing.

From the first Coworking Europe, a real community was formed, so while the conference is still a yearly event always open to newcomers, it’s also an annual gathering of people who see each other as a family.

As someone who has been there from the very beginning, what are some of the major developments you have seen in the coworking over time?

In a lot of ways we grew up alongside many of today’s more developed coworking spaces, so we have really seen the ways in which the movement has changed over time. We also had the chance to see the way that spaces [have] experimented since the very beginning.

One thing that has changed over time is that coworking operators have learned how to monetize their spaces. Many of the people who attended the first conference were interested in coworking, not so much from a business perspective, but rather as a side project.

Today, the coworking community is playing a major role in how new economies will be structured in the future, as they are paving the way for an innovative workforce.

What are some of the major trends that you see currently in the coworking scene?

This year we had 360 attendees in Milan, which was comprised of experts in the field and also many newcomers. After Milan, we can really say coworking is steadily growing as an industry, which has become more and more mature, while still acting as a source of inspiration for various curators. One thing we’ve seen is that there is a whole new set of players interested in coworking, from government, employees to corporations.

These different sectors are interested in coworking because it is shaping the workspace of the 21st century. They realize that the function of the workplace is changing and that it is more focused on interaction and the human experience. Overall, the sharing economy, co-living, and collaboration are key elements to success in the business world today.

What do coworkers expect today that they didn’t before?

There is certainly more insight available, but what we do see, now more than ever, is that people are interested in growing a business and the proportion of spaces created purely as a social project has decreased. This doesn’t mean that the passion and the ideals have disappeared, but it does mean that coworking is approached in a more mature way. The more the movement grows, the more we understand the economics behind it, such as the importance of having private offices and services, which can generate income.

For example, the initial results of the Global Coworking Survey, which was presented at the conference, showed that more spaces than ever are looking to expand.

We also heard a lot about the emerging trend of coworkcation, what does that say about the way we approach contemporary work styles?

This year’s conference presented more data and hard facts than ever before. We are seeing the rise of different concepts driven by coworking, like “coworkation,” which presents a completely new approach to freelancing. We had several presentations on the topic, from Hubud in Bali and also Neo-Nomad. This increasing global mobility for employees and employers will be a cause a dramatic change in the way we see travel and it will also impact tourist destinations. In the future we could see a significant population of the workforce moving freely and it may eventually be the standard way to make global connections.

In addition to nomadic freelancers, many people are discussing the relationship between coworking and corporations. It has always been a topic, but now we see people developing strategies to make this relationship a reality. Corporations in the future will most likely look like today’s coworking spaces. In many ways, large enterprises need to look towards the coworking model in order to remain relevant in the future.

You also had the first Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town this year. What were some of the most significant takeaways and what did this experience tell you about the global coworking community?

The reaction was very positive. We saw that in the same way that coworking is important in Europe, it is equally, if not more, important in developing countries. For us, basic standards like fast internet in an office space is a commodity, but this not the case in Africa. In the coworking community in Africa, the primary role of the movement is to provide basic infrastructure at an affordable cost. In addition to meeting basic needs, coworking also brings a lot added valued in regards to social engagement, both on a local and global level, in the African community.

What do you predict the future of coworking will look like?

If we keep seeing the value system of the sharing economy as a main force behind the development of new economic models, coworking spaces will be one of the most visible parts of this transformation. The coworking movement will go beyond the conceptual stage and become the physical manifestation of the collaborative economy. While walking through a cityscape, coworking spaces will line the streets, much like factories and offices did in the last industrial boom.

Note: This article was originally posted on Shareable

A coworking retreat in rural Serbia realizes another benefit that coworking can bring to corporate players

An increasing amount of companies are realizing the benefits of the coworking movement. Retreats are a big part of the changes taking place in the workplace, and offer a welcome opportunity for both newcomers and experienced players to get away from their everyday routine. The majority of people imagine these retreats to be on tropical islands, yet as the concept has spread rapidly, there are now getaways being offered in more off the grid areas.

In Mokrin, a village in the the province Vojvodina Serbia, a new coworking retreat will be launching this year, offering workers the chance to explore the idyllic Serbian landscape while also gaining exposure to potential local and international collaborations. We spoke with Ivan Brkljac, project leader of Mokrin House about what their latest project offers to nomadic workers.

Hi Ivan, can you please tell us a bit about the project and what inspired you to start Mokrin House?

I am the project leader of Mokrin House, which is an urban coworking retreat in a rural part of Serbia. We offer an ideal place to get away from the large city chaos and focus on your work. Even though Mokrin House is in the remote countryside, you will feel anything but isolated. We offer the chance to connect with like-minded people, such as other digital professionals who enjoy a work-life balance at a rustic pace.

What would a typical day at Mokrin look like? 

Imagine your day like this: A morning jog through the fields, giving you energy to then focus on your work or current projects. For lunch, you will have a healthy home-cooked meal prepared for you at the estate. After some more work, you have the option of going on a bike ride into the village, or a swim in the pool (best in summertime) or even just relaxing with coworkers, over a glass of wine on the porch. That’s how we envision our coworking retreat.

How long have you been in operation and did you face challenges when introducing your space to the public?

The estate has been in operation since 2012, however, most of the activities to take place there so far, have been corporate and large enterprises. In addition to these events, we have also had many arts and culture workshops, such as ceramic workshops, concerts, exhibitions, and so on. Today, we are focusing more on the rising coworking movement, as we feel it is a better fit for us.

The coworking retreat will start in the Spring of 2016 and in the beginning, spreading the word  has been challenging. But the more we explain the concept to the people, the more they become interested. In fact, several reservations for the spring launch have already been made.

Most of the coworking activity is located in Belgrade, what could you offer to those who are unfamiliar with rural parts of Serbia?

Belgrade has a vibrant startup and freelancing community buzzing with new ideas and projects. However like all large cities, living and working there has its downsides. Traffic jams, lack of parking, air pollution, and higher prices are just some of the difficulties that you might encounter. On the upside, Belgrade has great nightlife scene, a lot of cultural events, interesting young people and much more. What we offer in Mokrin House is not opposite of what Belgrade or other large European cities offer,  in fact, we consider our space to be complimentary to urban environments.

Ivan Brkljac, Mokrin House

Ivan Brkljac, Mokrin House

All of us sometimes need to get away from the noise and crowd and just restart ourselves, and there is no better way to focus on your work than changing your environment, especially one that is designed to to boost your productivity during your “work” time and ensure maximum relaxation during “after work” hours.

In Serbia, many of the rural areas have faced economic hardship. Do you think that offering a space where people can create and also stay for an extended period of time will help revitalise rural regions? If so, why? Have you already seen any positive signs?

There are several positive effects a coworking space in the rural area has to the local community. First, and most apparent is the positive economic impact. We hire several people from the local village as staff and these jobs wouldn’t exist without the space. Also, most people who stop by Mokrin house, usually purchase some of the local produce, such as excellent cheese or homemade rakija. Apart from the sheer economic benefits, the local community is always invited to take part in educational and cultural workshops and seminars, which has unmeasurable nonmaterial benefits.

Are there any government/state initiatives that have helped you grow and develop? If you were to make such a partnership how would you define your added value?

No. We have not worked with any government bodies and at the moment we are not really considering these types of partnerships.

What types of services/perks do you offer and what kinds of people do you typically attract?

The most important thing we offer is an ideal work environment. Everything else, from cooking classes, pottery classes, healthy homemade food, afternoon bike rides, mulled wine, to swimming in an eco-friendly pool comes as an extra perk. People who are attracted by the idea of Mokrin House are the ones who cherish the work-life balance and who understand how important it to travel, change working environments and meeting new, creative people.

Do you have any plans to expand/make changes/ add-ons to cater to a certain group?

Our expansion plans depend on the markets readiness to adopt this new concept. Our final vision is to revitalise an entire rural village of Mokrin, by making it the biggest and the most diverse coworking village in the world with Mokrin House in its centre.

As a space operator, what are some of the key changes needed in your community? What do people need to improve their professional lives, and how can your space offer this?

As a space operator, I need to make sure that all the coworkers are living the experience that they expect. The spring of 2016 will be the first time that we focus solely on coworking, so we will consider the many changes needed to be made in order to fulfil everybody’s needs.

You were at Coworking Europe this year. Was it your first time, and what were you looking to gain from the experience? Was there some good input you were able to take away and apply to your own projects?

This was my first European Coworking Conference, and surely not the last. The conference gave me a chance to get to know many people who are on the same path as Mokrin house. Two things left the biggest impression on me. The first one was the statistics that have showed how fast the coworking movement is expanding, confirming that we are on the right track. The second thing that was very noticeable that almost none of the coworking spaces have an identical model. Every space is different and unique, showing that the industry understands that each community is different and requires different things.

“Over time, coworking spaces are going to transform the way businesses is done in India”-Innov8 Coworking

Last year, the coworking movement hit an all-time high. With conferences in Europe, Africa, the USA and Canada, it has become evident that coworking is not only growing in established communities but all over the world.

Dr. Ritesh Malik, founder of Innov8 coworking in Delhi, believes that coworking will be essential to business growth in India. We spoke with Ritesh about the current coworking scene in Delhi and what the emerging movement has accomplished so far.

Hi, Ritesh, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Innov8 Coworking?

I am a doctor by education, but a passionate entrepreneur and startup lover at heart. I started my first venture back in 2012 and eventually sold it to Times of India group (Alive App). Over the last 2 years, I have been deep into startup funding, and I am actively working with the government of India in order to help build college entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.

I have also spent some time in Boston, Santa Clara, LA, London etc. and have understood how these types of silicon valleys have been built over time. I realized that Silicon Valley is not a real estate but a mindset, and that is what we’re trying to build today in Delhi.

You say on your website, “we believe Entrepreneurs & Startup Enthusiasts of Delhi deserve better”, can you explain what was lacking, and has coworking improved the lives of professionals in Delhi?

24% of all the startups in India are from Delhi, but until now Delhiites weren’t exposed to startup community building. I personally feel that the most integral part of startups is the community building. It’s all about people. At Innov8, we are not focusing on the office spaces, which we provide, rather office spaces are just 10% of our business, and 90% of our focus is on community building.

We organize events (almost 1 per day) based on skill development, which helps entrepreneurs to scale up, build, break and innovate. The idea is to provide an innovative space right in the centre of Delhi where we can converge the biggest talents and create the most vibrant community in Delhi.

Dr. Ritesh Malik

Dr. Ritesh Malik

I feel that the most vital aspect of a startup is the community building, startups are all about tinkering. They’re about meeting new people, interacting with them and synergizing win-win situations to create growth hacking and disruption within conventional business models.

How would you describe the coworking movement in Delhi? Is it popular, and if not, what are coworking leaders doing in order to help spread the movement?

Delhi is very immature when it comes to coworking awareness. We only got our first coworking centre back in 2012. There is a very thin line between coworking, accelerators and incubation centers in Delhi. Most of the coworking centers in Delhi are not focused on coworking, but rather focused on incubation. At Innov8 we’re very clear about our mission, we’re a pure play-coworking centre and we just aim to build the most vibrant & helpful startup community in the city.

At Innov8, we are also reaching out to the universities and educating the students about coworking. In Delhi people still have a notion that coworking is all about shared office space, but we want to change that.

What types of members do you typically house at Innov8? Are they mostly freelancers or are there members from companies?

We have a strict application process to join our coworking centre. This is for the first time in the world when coworking centers screen the applications before allowing applicants to be a part of the ecosystem. The reason for this process is because we want to keep track of the people who are part of our community. We want to attract the most intellectual and innovative minds.

Today, we focus on getting more entrepreneurs, investors, and product-based startups to be a part of the ecosystem. We are also working on a program to help freelancers build their own products by bringing 2 to 3 freelancers together.

In your experience, is coworking helping to transform work in Delhi. For example, are more corporate entities open to changing their work environment, like using a coworking space?

Not yet, but I feel that over time coworking centers are going to transform the way businesses are done in India. Perceptions of coworking are already changing. For instance, we got a request from the Kotak Mahindra Bank, as they want their CIO & his team to move into Innov8 so they have the chance to think outside the box and have a wider vision of the startup ecosystem.

What types of services do you offer and are there any particular needs that your members have? Such as events, support, education?

Mortar office space is just 10% of what we offer. We believe that more than the office space, what startups need most is the community, mentorship and access to networks. We help them build these networks by creating a fertile ground for ideas via thought leadership. We focus on skill development and also offer a virtual acceleration program where we provide our startups with a startup handbook, which includes the the do’s and don’ts.

How would you describe the design of your space? Were you inspired by any particular model, such as open workrooms, private offices, café, breakout rooms, etc.

We have one of the most beautifully designed campuses in India, we were featured in OfficeLovin, one of the best office design magazines in the world. Our space is a combination of modern design and contemporary artwork.

What seems to be the most effective types of spaces that nurture productivity in your community?

We have an ideation cube, a white boarding room, an amphitheater, common innovation zone as well as an open terrace. These are the areas, which are full of innovation and entrepreneurial drive.

Your site often mentions Silicon Valley. Do you aspire to be the next Silicon Valley or are you creating your own ecosystem specifically for your community? Do you think coworking spaces are important to creating hubs for innovation, and if so, why?

I believe that coworking centers are the mecca of innovation worldwide. We are on a mission to make Delhi as the next Silicon Valley after SFO, Tel Aviv, Bengaluru etc. Silicon Valley is not a real estate, but a mindset; we’re changing the mindset.

Coworking in Japan is still in its nascent stages, we hope Startup Retreat Japan can help popularize the movement.

Daniel Klose was working as a project manager in Berlin, enjoying the vibrant startup scene, but looking to get outside of the city. Having always dreamt of working remotely, but not willing to commute on a daily basis, he decided to change things up in a big way. He and his wife packed up their things and moved to Japan and open a Café in the countryside. Combining the café and web development they got settled in Setouchi-Shi, Okayama. Today, Daniel is working on brining coworking retreats to Japan, though Startup Retreat Japan and navigating the startup scene one day at a time.

Hi, Daniel. Can you please tell us a bit about how you established Startup Retreat Japan? 

Daniel Klose

Daniel Klose

I was still following the startup scene and tried to get involved as much as possible with tech expats in Japan. I quickly realized that for some reason this is a huge correlation between tech company employees and their interest in the Japanese culture.

At the same time I saw the potential for growth in my area as it used to be a touristic resort area during the Japanese assets bubble. So you the environment was in place, but there was no one around anymore to populate it. So my co-founder Aimable and I decided to just give it a try.

What was the coworking scene like in Japan when you first started Startup retreat? 

Startup Retreat Japan is still in its beginnings at the moment. We are currently evaluating some potential clients but have not yet had any bookings in place. In general coworking spaces in Japan are not much of a thing.

Freelancing in japan is still pretty much ten years behind the rest of the world and is considered “unprofessional” I suppose. The city of Okayama has 2 coworking spaces, but they seem to be mostly used by sales people for companies. Also, I have yet to meet any developers there.

Is the concept of work in Japan still traditional? 

I would say that South East Asia is especially popular due to its nice weather and more importantly cheap cost of living. Japan is not necessarily known for neither, especially not cheap cost of living! Whilst the tourism sector in Japan is seeing the strongest growth in all of Asia, it is still well behind the tourist hotspots like Thailand, or Vietnam. Also, tourism in Japan is largely dominated by South Korean and Chinese tourists. I saw some numbers showing that these groups make up about 75% of all the tourists at the moment.

How have people responded to the overall movement in comparison to coworking in other Asian countries ?

I believe the concept of co-working can not at all be applied to Japan as it is seen as in for example Thailand. We were discussing our project with the tourism department of our town and they weren’t even aware of the concept of remote work and especially not work retreats. It is important to understand that we only market our services to foreign companies because of this. Whilst it would be easier for Japanese companies to use our services I think there is far more potential in targeting modern businesses.

You are based in Okayama. As it is a relatively rural area, was it difficult to get the project off the ground? 

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

To be honest, it was surprisingly easy. As mentioned above the area used to be a Japan tourism hot spot in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays almost all the space run under capacity and they are desperately looking for ways to improve their situation. The city was very cooperative too.

What are the benefits of offering a program to coworkers in a more natural setting?

I believe the most important aspect for any business is to get things done and ship. There are usually two types of work retreats nowadays. Team building retreats and the ones where a team should actually work. We try to market our space towards the second one. Getting things done in a beautiful environment, without distraction. This is also why we offer a complete package experience, which includes airport pickups/drop-offs. We also offer a concierge service, meal delivery and transport to restaurants, activities, etc. Basically we keep all the noise away and make sure that you can reach that milestone.

What types of members do you usually attract? Are you focused more on nomadic workers, or are you more focused on the local community?

As mentioned earlier we are mostly looking abroad. There seems to be a great affection for Japan and their culture in the tech economy especially in NA and Europe. I would be happy to welcome Japanese firms in the future but I believe we have to wait a few more years before work retreats becoming a thing here.

What are some of the unique qualities of coworking in Japan that might interest coworkers who travel frequently?

I believe one of the biggest advantages that Japan has to offer for digital nomads is their broadband connectivity. Countryside town cafe surrounded by farms, with 1gbps up and downstream fiber, you find it here. Besides Korea, Japan is probably one of the only places in the world that opens the digital nomad door for people who have to handle a lot of data to make a living e.g. video editors and such. Other than that, I believe Japan is still a place that is relatively untouched by Western cultures, so you experience these “wow” moments quite often.

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.