The History: Breakdown
From the factories of the Industrial Revolution, to the cubicles of the 1980's and the ping pong tables in the board rooms of modern day startups, the workplace has been ever evolving. However, if we focus our attention on the “coworking revolution,” when and how did this all happen? According to DeskMag, the concept as we know it today popped up in 1995 in Berlin with Hackerspaces, and the term “coworking” was coined shortly thereafter by DeKoven in 1999. It wasn’t until 2005, though, that the first official coworking space opened in San Francisco and soon after that the term “coworking” popped up as a trending term in the Google Database.
Before coworking even became a trending concept, Work Better opened its first location in 2003 in Chelsea using a shared office concept .
From the first coworking spaces to the more recent hybrid models, we can see today that coworking has truly turned into an entire industry of makers and dreamers.
“Working independently, yet together”
Why does coworking still seem to be so new and yet somehow nostalgic and familiar?
I first started working in a coworking space in 2012, back when many people just “didn’t get it.” I recall the weird nostalgic feeling when working at a communal desk seated beside programmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. If this was such a new concept, why did it feel so familiar?
The answer = college and school libraries. Throughout high school and college, I spent countless hours working out of public and school libraries at these same communal tables in a very similar setting. In school, we were all piled on top of one another working on completely different projects, yet often saw a familiar face or could take a break to chat with another student with a completely different major.
In truth, this type of work environment has been around since far before 1995, but it has just been neatly packaged and marketed as the “newest and greatest” thing recently. Society has been “coworking” for a VERY LONG time. We have just now figured out a way to package the concept.
Is the term “coworking” a buzzword?
The term “coworking,” like "millennials" is often reconstructed and misused. True coworking spaces proudly fly their “coworking” flag as they should, and then there are spaces that are throwing some desks together and trying to create an alternative revenue stream and call it coworking. In order for it to truly be a coworking space, there has to be one very important variable at play: “community.” There may be many naysayers on this opinion, but that is the difference between a library and a coworking space: the community that’s been created in the space.
Once big businesses catch on to a concept there is the potential for diluting the once cool and hip term. This year, the Financial Times wrote an article about how big business are moving into coworking spaces to gain the “cool factor” from clients. This concept is like a very familiar scenario we have all encountered… Facebook was the coolest thing ever until our aunt joined, and then it became slightly “less cool.” I believe that since modern day coworking is still in its early stages as an industry, there is going to be lots of volatility with the term and concept until we as a society stop viewing it as a fad and instead as a real revolutionary concept that will be fused in with the way we work now and in the future.
What does the future look like for coworking?
The future of coworking will be defined by the hyperlocal areas in which they are created. There will always be the traditional coworking spaces, but there will be a larger rise in more niche/ industry specific makerspaces. We are already seeing a rise in industry specific spaces like brewery space, artist studios, hackerspaces, coworking for moms, dog friendly spaces, etc. Get it? We are in control of where the industry goes and what demand it generates. That being said, go get to work... preferably in a collaborative environment.