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The most prominent sign of the rise of coworking is the tremendous growth in the number of coworking spaces worldwide. Every month, new coworking spaces pop up in the market like mushrooms in the rain. In 2011 there were only 1000 coworking spaces worldwide, with a dominant presence in Europe and the US. Three years later, in 2014, there were almost 6000 coworking spaces. The forecasts suggest that the growth is unstoppable: by 2018 there will be 37,000 coworking spaces spread across all of the continents.
Coworking spaces are not only a cheaper alternative to stand-alone offices; they have become a symbol of connectivity and efficiency. And that is no coincidence. The ‘shared economy’ based on sharing costs with multiple people affects all aspects of our lives: travelling, shopping, living and now also working.
The huge growth in the number of coworking spaces seems to be met with demand from coworkers. In 2011 there were only 43,000 people working in coworking spaces, while three years later the number had increased to 295,000. It is expected that by 2018 there will be 2,370,000 professionals who buy membership at a coworking space.
Coworking is largely supported by the increasing interest in working independently as a start-up entrepreneur or as a freelancer. In Europe, freelancers are the labor group with the highest, uninterrupted growth rate. In the US, by 2020, more than 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, contractors and temp workers. A growing entrepreneurial spirit, internet-based technologies and the desire to be ‘free’ in one’s own choices, all contribute to this new way of (co)working.
There is a revolutionary shift taking place in the way we work. People naturally like to connect and discuss ideas. Until now this has been difficult due to the hierarchy in offline communication and the lack of online collaboration tools. Sharing opinions and information online has been a part of our lives since social media networks first emerged. It would be insane to think that spending hours on Facebook each day has not changed our way of thinking. Generation Y and the young professionals of the future live and breathe community, openness, and collaboration.
Coworking spaces are riding on these needs. Coworkers can become part of a community, share ideas, network and work together. Besides the shared physical space, the best coworking spaces offer online collaboration for their members by providing a private social network, discussion forum, or a full-fledged collaboration platform like Bisner. The latter help turn a coworking space into a smart environment.
At first, coworking spaces arose due to the need for small and medium-sized companies to share costs and to gain access to a larger network. However, what they started out of need soon became ‘the thing’ to follow for large corporations. These large enterprises also noticed the added value in working with cross-functional teams instead of the employees working only within their own department or function.
Today both large companies, which are slowly waking up, and early adopter small businesses can see the importance of collaboration within their teams. Nevertheless, the market shows that connecting to outside peers, experts and companies will be the next big step. The virtual collaboration market in 2016 will be worth $6.4 billion and such services will flourish. They enables workers to access peers from outside their close network with the expertise they need to tap.
Coworking has never been this open before and it is time to join the wave!
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