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According to the Global Coworking Census: 2013 [PDF] by Deskwanted, there are nearly 2,500 coworking spaces in 80 countries worldwide. In the previous year, more than 750 coworking spaces opened their doors.
The United States tops the list, with 781 coworking spaces, followed by Germany (230), the United Kingdom (166), and Australia (62). And here are the top coworking cities:
- London (81)
- New York (71)
- Berlin (68)
- Tokyo (63)
- San Francisco (46), Madrid (46)
- Paris (38)
Coworking, under their definition, includes a collaborative workspace with flexible membership options, ranging from one week to six months.
With so many coworking spaces on the market, enterprising startups have created sites to help you find one. Besides Deskwanted, you can find coworking spaces on Desktime and the Coworking Wiki. ShareDesk helps coworking space (or office) owners rent extra desks with a custom webpage and reservation system. Coworking franchises set up a network of spaces in several cities, like WeWork (national, plus Israel and London), ImpactHub (global), and NextSpace (California and Chicago).
These sites lavish praise on the concept of coworking: it creates community, can make you more productive, gives you a social outlet, and can lead to valuable business contacts – from employees to customers to investors to partners. Scott Allison of Moveline, founding member of the TechHub coworking space in London, made a contact there that eventually led him to 10 Downing Street to comment on the Prime Minister’s TechCity Initiative.
“The largest advantage that coworking spaces provide is the networking opportunity,” say Conrad Egusa and Eddie Arrieta, cofounders of ESPACIO. ESPACIO is a coworking space in Colombia that’s home to everyone from TechStars graduates to bestselling authors. “Every 1-2 weeks we have journalists and venture capitalists visiting to meet the startups working here. We don’t believe entrepreneurs would have these same opportunities in other working environments.”
And coworking can be a cheaper and more flexible option for early-stage startups, who may not survive to see the end of their two-year commercial lease.
But for all the hype and popularity, these packed startup factories have some drawbacks. They can be loud, which markedly decreases productivity for workers who like quiet. “Not everyone is used to the openness of a coworking environment. There is no audio and visual privacy of the same level as an office suite,” explains Michelle Woo, general manager of The Co. The Singapore coworking space has private booths and office suites for workers who need more privacy, as do many other spaces.
Coworking spaces are generally more suited to smaller companies, as some don’t have designated areas for big teams to collaborate. In the end, their saving grace is to stave off loneliness. Seeing other people around you going through the same struggles – high-fiving you when you succeed and taking you out for drinks when you fail – can help keep you sane in a high-stress environment. Happiness and positivity have a huge impact on productivity that shouldn’t be underestimated.
“People spending money to be anti-social in the company of others, it’s a hilariously irrational setup,” says Manpreet Singh, cofounder of Seva Call. “But it’s a worthwhile investment in the productivity and creativity of a sane mind – sure beats solitary confinement in the home office.”
There’s a reason why roughly 2,500 coworking spaces are currently in business. If you haven’t tried out this option, buy a day pass or see if you can get one for free. If nothing else, FOMO demands it.