About Jo Meunier

Jo is a Senior Editor at Alliance Virtual Offices. She loves chatting with people about virtual offices and is always eager to share stories, tips and ideas about remote work on the Alliance Blog. Connect with Jo on LinkedIn.

In Good Company: Workspace to Help You Connect, Collaborate and Grow

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Alliance Virtual Offices has just added coworking plans to our virtual office and live receptionist platform. Learn more about this style of shared workspace and how it developed from a freelance favorite into a global, multi-billion dollar industry.

There was a time when ‘going to work’ meant heading to the same office, working for the same company and surrounding yourself with the same people, day in and day out.

Times have changed.

Entrepreneurship has flourished. Data from the Kauffman Foundation suggests that of the roughly 4.4 million firms created in the U.S. over the last ten years, about 30,000 are high-growth companies. These, say The Economist, “pack a powerful punch” and are reflective of a rebound in high-growth entrepreneurship in the U.S., which is now “rocketing”.

Business is accelerating, growth is fast and investment opportunities add fuel to the fire. Even the lifespan of large companies is shortening as digital innovation burns through corporate America; the average lifespan of corporate firms is now less than 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s.

In this exciting age of disruptive technology and rapid expansion, the workplace has evolved to match the high-energy nature of 21st century entrepreneurship culture.

Cubicles and private corner offices are a dying breed. Coworking – a style of open, collaborative workspace – has blossomed, offering an invigorating, vibrant place to work where chance encounters rule and occupants thrive on collaboration.

Coworking spaces provide a flexible workplace for people who work for different companies, ventures, and projects. This desire to work independently alongside like-minded people is not a paradox – it’s human nature. We are social animals. We thrive in the company of others with whom we share similar values – like creativity, freelancing, entrepreneurship, or just because we love turning up to work in jeans.

And it’s booming.

The first coworking space opened in 2005 (read the backstory here), and the movement quickly gained momentum. In 2018 there are now more than 14,400 coworking spaces around the world, and the market has grown more than 200% over the past five years. A study by GCUC and Emergent Research suggests that by 2022, more than 5 million people will work at over 30,000 coworking spaces globally.

In cities like London, New York and Chicago, coworking is expanding at an annual rate of 20%. In fact, the largest occupier of office space in London is now WeWork – a major provider of coworking and flexible workspace.

But it’s not all about city centres. In suburbs, on the wild coastline of Norway’s Lofoten Islands, in tropical Bali and even high in the frozen peaks of Whistler, coworking thrives anywhere people wish to gather… or to retreat.

Why is Coworking so Popular?

You may be wondering, what’s the buzz?

Coworking gives the world’s gig workers and midnight-oil-burning startups an easily accessible, flexible and cost-effective place to work. But it’s more than that. In addition to Wi-Fi and desks, coworking grew out of a common need for companionship and support.

Because if you just need a place to lay your laptop, you can do that at home.

What drives people out of their (free) home offices into coworking memberships? It’s the pile of laundry stealing their attention. The cat walking across the keyboard. The kids squabbling during teleconference calls. The uncomfortable feeling of transforming your beloved home into a place of work. It’s all of these things, but most of all it’s the stone quiet isolation of working at home, alone.

It’s this combination of factors – and more – that’s pushing entrepreneurs out of the home office in search of inspiration and human interaction.

That’s why there are certain coworking spaces that you want to keep going back to. It’s home to people just like you, who share your enthusiasm, your ups and your downs.

You’ll often hear coworking operators talk about ‘community’ in their workspaces. It’s not about singing Kumbaya around a campfire; it’s about serendipitous relationships and a feeling that you’re on the same wavelength with those around you. Entrepreneurship may be booming, but it’s a lonely business. When you’re building a brand – be it a freelance venture, a part-time craft or an ambitious startup – you need the right people around you.

That’s where coworking comes in.

‘Corporate Coworking’

With so many startups and independents thriving in coworking environments, it didn’t take long before corporate firms wanted in on the act.

Large firms are now utilizing coworking in a variety of ways. Some distribute local coworking memberships to their staff, which eases their commuting times and enables the employer to cut back on expensive, traditional real estate. Others are introducing their own collaborative workspaces as internal hubs for employees, while some are going further by launching mixed-use spaces for internal staff as well as independent entrepreneurs.

Other models are continuing to emerge. Among them, some corporates are introducing incubators in order to build partnerships with high-growth startups. Others are recruiting coworking companies to build out bespoke spaces on their behalf.

One example is Verizon, which engaged Grind – a coworking space in New York City – to create a 10,000 sq ft coworking space inside its former headquarters in Lower Manhattan. According to Benjamin Dyett, co-founder of Grind, Verizon’s intention was to “bring together an external community of entrepreneurs, technology developers, community leaders and academics to build connections, spark ideas, collaborate and innovate.”

Nick LiVigne, global lead of Verizon’s coworking business, said: “Through coworking, our doors are open to those with the desire to develop great products on our network and interact with our talented professionals.”

According to the latest Deskmag survey, most recipients expect to see more big corporations using coworking spaces over the coming year, as well as increased levels of cooperation with them.

This approach offers numerous benefits. In addition to enhanced working flexibility for staff, it enables teams and employees to work alongside a huge array of skilled people from different industries and backgrounds. And for freelancers, it gives them the freedom to work independently without isolating themselves from the structure and community that comes from working with others.

Finding the Right Coworking Space

There are thousands of coworking spaces across the globe and more springing up every month. When it comes to finding a coworking space, location is still a top priority – be it close to home, near your client base, or on the school run. It’s natural to search for a space that’s local and easily accessible.

Not every coworking space is open to new members – some, like the corporate style workspace or those that function as accelerators or incubators may only allow startups from specific industries. But as the coworking market grows, there is now more choice than ever before. You may find more than one coworking space on your doorstep. So what’s the difference?

In every coworking space, you can expect to find certain elements as standard:

  • Shared workspace
  • Variety of seating arrangements – such as large shared desks, smaller individual workstations and bar seating
  • Wi-Fi
  • Coworking manager – someone who runs the space and keeps things humming along
  • Flexible plans – most spaces operate on a flexible monthly basis, like a gym membership
  • Events, networking opportunities and social gatherings
  • Meeting spaces – usually available to reserve on-demand
  • Private serviced offices – the next financial step up
  • Mailing point – most spaces will receive your incoming mail and may provide a mail forwarding service on your behalf, too

These are the coworking basics. On top of that, you may find additional amenities such as lounge areas, phone booths for private calls, a cafe, fitness facilities, and so on.

Where to Start?

Start by searching for local coworking spaces.

Alliance Virtual Offices works with hundreds of flexible workspace and virtual office companies, and you’ll find a range of coworking plans to suit different needs and budgets across multiple U.S. cities.

Go check it out. We’re adding new coworking locations every week, and given the rapid pace at which the coworking sector continues to grow and diversify, there’s plenty more to come.

Got questions? Simply ping us on live chat, send an email or give us a call.

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