Five Co-Working Spaces Around The World, And Five Things They Have In Common
The concept of co-working is one that has ballooned in the past couple of years. It started as a solution for entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelancers seeking an alternative to working in cafes and home offices. Now, co-working has grown into a huge opportunity to develop spaces that not only give these people a desk and fast wifi, but also access to extra facilities, a valuable network, and even community events. What is more, co-working is growing in popularity across the globe.
Europe has the most co-working spaces than any other continent with 1,160 spaces. North America is second with 853 spaces, and Asia comes in third with 245 spaces. While in totally different locations all around the world, really successful co-working spaces do have a few things in common.
At Women’s iLab, we reached out to a collection of people to find out about their experiences at co-working spaces. Here are some perspectives on five co-working spaces around the world and the five things they have in common.
1. The central location
Any good co-working space, no matter where in the world it is, will have a good location. Co-working spaces are usually close to whatever ‘hub’ is important to the companies working out of it (be it tech, fashion, media, etc). Natasha Petrukhin, who has worked out of Atomhouse in both Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, says “both were great spaces that were centrally located to the tech hubs of the respective cities, allowing me very quickly to get plugged into the tech ecosystem.”
The location of a co-working space often sets its culture and the types of people it attracts. “You can definitely get a sense of how the culture of the city or neighborhood impacts the clientele and the culture of a particular co-working space location” says Christian Rodriguez, who has worked in numerous co-working spaces around the US. “For example, Workbar Cambridge, located in Central Square, has a diverse, eclectic mix of people working on all sorts of different kinds of businesses. From architects and lawyers to engineers and salespeople, everyone at Workbar Cambridge brings something interesting and unique to the table. And being in Central Square, where everything is walking distance, leads to a vibrant after-work social vibe.”
Proximity to amenities such as public transport, restaurants, cafes and bars is also extremely important to the success of a co-working space. Hunter Perry, who works for WeWork, talks about the importance of location. “We have two locations that I work out of, WeWork South Station and WeWork Fort Point. South Station is directly next to public transportation and the train which has made it incredibly easy to travel to different parts of Boston and NYC. The neighborhood feel of Fort Point makes you feel like you’re at home even when you’re working long hours. This area has amazing restaurants and an inclusive and innovative community.”
2. The aesthetically pleasing, yet functional space
Co-working spaces around the world vary in interior. However, one thing is for certain, a successful co-working space needs to create an environment that is pleasing to the eye, as well as conducive to working.
The size, layout and general ‘feel’ of a co-working space can affect both your productivity and your attitude. “Workbar Cambridge is a modern, beautiful, open workspace with a large windows and a lot of sunlight. There are three rooms of varying sound levels: a quiet one (the study) for concentrating, a social one (the commons) for teams and individuals that enjoy chatting, and a room specifically for phone calls (the switchboard)” Christian tells us. “It can get overly social and sometimes distracting, so the quiet room can be great for putting your head down and getting work done.”
A central interior feature of many co-working spaces are the large, common areas designed to encourage collaboration. Fishburners in Sydney, Australia, is one example of a co-working space that takes this concept to the extreme. “The space is large and open plan, with approximately 4 companies on one floor” says Monica Graulund, who worked for a startup based out of Fishburners. “It is a lively, interesting space. Our base was moved once whilst I was there, so it’s quite a fluid location.”
Successful co-working spaces are also able to give people a good work-life balance. “Atomhouse combined the concept of work and play” says Natasha. “Common areas were made for collaborative meetings, speaker series and general space to get to know the other members. Additional rooms allowed teams to privately work together, with the upstairs devoted to sleeping spaces and couches for hanging out.”
3. The ability to gain access to a supportive community
One of the main things that defines a co-working space is its community. There are a few reasons for this.
A community gives you access to resources and knowledge. “Atomhouse co-working spaces were great in being able to provide me with the best resources in gaining access to the brightest and hardest working entrepreneurs that were in the area, as well as allowing me to get to know them on both a personal and professional level” Natasha tells us.
Being part of a community gives you a lot of opportunities to network. “Alpha Lab Pittsburgh skews heavily towards young CMU and PITT graduates so everyone is eager to connect and learn from one another. The surrounding colleges provide access to deeply interconnected networks that allow for a lot of introductions and social interactions” explains Christian. “At Workbar, we were able to tap the network to talk to multiple people that had been in our shoes. Without those conversations we would have likely fallen into some of the common pitfalls people make.” WeWork is another example- “we have 34 locations around the globe and give members the ability to utilize the space and meet the community in all of these locations” says Hunter.
A community provides you with support. “As a small team it can get lonely. It’s nice to have other people to talk to, get feedback from, and confront with difficult realities” says Christian. “People really care. When things aren’t going great everyone is there to check up on and look out for you.” Monica had a similar experience at Fishburners- “neighboring teams were friendly to each other, and would offer and lend things to one another freely. There were also Friday night drinks held each week.” Working at a startup or running your own business can be draining. Having a community to support you helps to stay in the right frame of mind. Hunter says that at WeWork, “the contagious and upbeat energy the promotes hard work.”
4. The great facilities
Along with the location and overall space, good co-working spaces around the world offer great facilities to their users. This ensures that the community remains strong and continues to grow.
Christian identifies the incredible amenities as one of the big benefits of co-working spaces. “It’s great to be able to pay someone to give me an awesome place to work. We wouldn’t be able to afford this if it were just us.” Christian describes the facilities at Workbar Cambridge- “there’s a big open café, two kitchens, two patios, multiple meeting rooms and offices, idea paint on walls, and a zen meditation room.” Although a little more simple, Fishburners provides extra facilities to its users too. “It has a large bike rack, basic kitchenette, clean bathrooms, central location, and inspirational phrases written on the back wall” explains Monica.
5. The types of companies
Despite where you are in the world, co-working spaces seem to attract similar sorts of companies. Here’s a snippet to get a feel for the types of companies you might find at a co-working space.
At Atomhouse, “the companies were early stage, from various industries and building global products aimed at the Latin America or US markets”- Natasha.
“Workbar Cambridge and Boston is mostly independent contractors and small start-up teams. Alpha Lab Pittsburgh was typically teams of 2-4 working on early stage incubated projects”- Christian.
At Fishburners Sydney, “most companies were based on tech platforms, and were all relatively small teams up to 10 people”- Monica.
The startups at WeWork “range from bootstrapping tech startups made up of two people to larger companies that heavily support the innovation community like Silicon Valley Bank with over 50 people. This eclectic group of entrepreneurs naturally creates a setting that allows people to grow off of one another each day”- Hunter.
If you’re looking for a co-working space, getting a good feel for the above things is crucial. Like any other workplace, you have to make sure that the co-working space you’re considering is a right fit for you. “Shop around and find your right fit” advises Christian. “Each space has a different personality and culture and where you end up will significantly impact how happy you are to come to work each day.” Natasha agrees, “the experience will be what you make of it. If you can structure your time to prioritize getting work done, and [at the same time] tap into all the other opportunities the space provides, then it will be a great fit!”
I’d like to give a huge thank you to the people who contributed to this piece.