Where It All Began: A Brief History Of Coworking

By: Eric Asare

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” – Socrates

In businesses of old (we’re talking prehistoric times: 1950s-80s) stark, zero-atmosphere offices and cramped cubicles were the norms, and they didn’t exactly encourage creativity or boost morale. When workspaces began to change, open plan was the first big step. It opened up interaction and ideas, and as technology became a bigger part of the environment these spaces adapted to accommodate computers, cables, and more. Tech and innovation have always been at the heart of coworking. In 1995, one of the world’s first ‘hackerspaces’ was founded in Berlin. It was called C-base, and it’s considered one of the first early models of the coworking concept. In 2002, C-base was also one of the first of these hubs to offer wi-fi to its members! Revolutionary!

Early Entrepreneurship

Fundamental changes in the nature of business played an important part in the evolution of office space. An increase in new, smaller businesses meant more demand for smaller offices, and office sharing began – it was just practical, but people soon began to notice the benefits. Entrepreneurs were also more likely to join forces and share ideas. In 1999, the term “coworking” made its debut: it was used to describe, “Collaborative work, supported by computer and new technologies of the day.” (Ringley - Coworking and Offices in Camden Town)

Growth Trajectory  

In 2005 the coworking concept was applied to a shared working and living space in San Francisco. The idea took off! That year, a total of 3 coworking spaces officially existed. There were 75 coworking spaces around the world by 2007. That reached 1,130 in 2011, and more than 2,000 in 2013. In 2018 there are an estimated 18,900 coworking spaces worldwide, according to Statista, and GCUC.co estimates that by 2022 there will be 30,432 spaces around the world, with more than 5.1 million members between them.

London: Coworking Capital 

London is currently the heart of the coworking world with the largest number of coworking spaces – even more than New York, San Francisco, or Berlin. Property group Cushman & Wakefield report that coworking is a key sector in the leasing market, occupying 10.7 million square feet of office space in central London alone! Most of that growth has taken place in the last 5 years.

The Same But Different 

Trends show that most new coworking spaces are getting larger, but there’s also more variety in specialized spaces. Many focus on tech, of course, but there are also now spaces for people working with food services (there’s one in Covent Garden that even has professional kitchen facilities), professions such as law and accounting, and of course creative sectors. While larger coworking spaces tend to offer general amenities for just about anyone, smaller spaces – like Camden Gateway – focus on their members’ specific requirements and these offices are tailored to provide more specialised support. They also enable members to build more relevant networks and strive to create more opportunities for like-minded members to collaborate.

Looking Into The Future 

How much more will those larger spaces grow – will they reach a tipping point where members revert to smaller, more specialised spaces with personalised services and a warmer atmosphere? We believe that they will, just like the people at the start who were tired of the unfriendly corporate format a few decades ago. We believe motivation, inspiration and innovation will break out of giant coworking formats too, making smaller and more tailored coworking spaces the place to be, and we’re not waiting for trends or statistics – we’re making it work right now.

By: Shereen Mann

Tags: collaborationcoworkingcoworking conceptcoworking evolutioncoworking historycreative spaceentrepreneursfreelancefuture business trendsinnovationshared office spacestartup

Camden Gateway is London’s most eclectic Coworking space for creatives.
The perfect community for Entrepreneurs & Small-businesses.

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