Innovation at Work: The Rise of Coworking, Part 1


As we approach the end of the year, I like to look back to see where we’ve been, and look forward, to imagine where we will go.  And in 2013, one of the biggest trends we’ve seen in workplace design has been the rise of coworking spaces.  Coworking has become a popular workplace alternative where freelancers and entrepreneurs can share space and build community. Just as cohousing brings people together where they live, coworking does the same for people where they work.

The rise of coworking spaces is a response to the deficiencies of the other places we work. Over the past two decades, the size of the office has been steadily shrinking, and the private office has been replaced by the open plan. With the recession, this change was accelerated, and many more started to telecommute or start their own business from home.

This marked a great migration to the home office.  One in five Americans currently work from home at least once a week, according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics.  The flexibility and autonomy of working from home can be appealing, but before long, many stay-at-home workers realize that isolation is not always the best recipe for productivity.

As a result, the local coffee shop has become a popular workplace hangout.  More than just free WiFi and endless caffeine, the appeal of the coffee shop lies in its atmosphere of productive energy, with dozens of people hunched over their laptops for no more rent than the cost of a small latte.  Soon, though, it can become tiresome to share a business address with so many other wandering workers all fighting for a power outlet.

So now a fourth way of working has emerged, offering the professional atmosphere of an office, the autonomy and flexibility of a home, and the community feel of a neighborhood coffee shop.

In part 2, I will share how the coworking movement is impacting Vermont, with one example of the newest coworking space opening soon in our region.