Who Is Coworking Now, And Who Will Be In The Future?

At the Coworking Unconference, there was a lot of talk about how different spaces offer different types of communities, and how as a result, different types of independent workers are attracted to them.

Many agreed that as coworking becomes more prolific and mainstream, spaces will begin to “niche out” as a way to differentiate themselves from other spaces, and as a way to better serve the needs of the growing mobile workforce.

Although my initial thought was that Cohere would be a “safe place to be weird” for technically creative types, we’ve grown to include writers, non-profit professionals, marketers, and both climate and meat scientists! I loved this about our community, because it allows us to be more valuable to each other.

I loved it so much that at the beginning of the year I published a Wish List of other unique professionals I’d love to see join in 2011 (keep an eye out for them in the coffee shops!)

At the end of the Unconference, moderator Alex Hillman of Philly’s Indy Hall posed a great question to the panel about:

a) which types of professionals space owners have been most surprised to see show up in their communities, and

b) the types of people that space owners would love to introduce to the benefits of coworking, but that aren’t showing up quite yet.

See their answers below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP0ao3BIeQ

Image Credit: Trip Advisor – Trip Wow

Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Small Table With Laptops

Most humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Read more insights from the survey:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Flickr – #96

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