Freelancing used to seem like a unicorn in the business industry. People that could pull off a business while “working from home?”
But now freelancers are popping up everywhere. They’ve even created a new term around it: the Gig-Economy. Many freelancers even have their freelancing gig on the side from their normal job. The allure of creative freedom and choose-able hours is too strong to resist!
And with all these new workers floating around in the industry, a new office space was born: the Coworking Space.
What is a coworking space and why do freelancers even need them? Turns out, coworking spaces meet some of the most basic needs of employees, but are still quite revolutionary.
The Coworking Revolution
Coworking spaces came about in conjunction with the rising workforce of freelancers and independent contractors. According to research collected by Rutgers University, over 34% of the current American workforce is made up of independent contractors and freelancers. That is 53 million workers, and those numbers are only expected to rise every year. The allure of working independently, without being tied down to an office or a schedule, has fueled much of the desire to grow this new freelance workforce, and businesses around the world are begin to embrace this new model of workers.
However, there are still benefits to working with others: mainly the ability to support each other’s decisions and work collaboratively. Collaboration and diversity are what lead to great innovative ideas, and freelancers are often stuck in isolation when working. Coworking spaces offer an intriguing solution to the problem, and rose due to a need for cheap and shared office spaces.
In areas such as New York or San Francisco, where rent is often ridiculously out of reach for new business startups, the coworking space arose. The allure of sharing space to save money helped fill the gap many business starters experience when working alone. It’s a new form of the shared economy.
They work much the same as offices: fit with cubicles or massive open-office floor plans, on site amenities, and meeting rooms. They typically charge a membership fee to individuals or companies to rent out rooms or desks. Many of these spaces are open to everyone that is willing to purchase a pass, but some of them function under shared guidelines or principles.
As coworking spaces have grown, creative people have found ways to make their spaces stick out in this new market.
For Greenspace in New York and Colorado, that shared idea stems from a love of the earth and a culture that focuses on environmental impact. Another example is in Tahoe, California, where Mountain Lab created a "Ski-in, ski-out” coworking space; where ski lovers and freelancers can meet over hot cocoa and shred the slopes.
There are also spaces that focus on Veterans that are building their own business, such as Landing Zone in New Orleans. Another unique collective of coworking spaces is Hera’s Hub, which specializes in female-fronted start up companies and promotes women leaders in small business.
Yet the most unique coworking space, so far, has been the Nissan WORKSPACe. Nissan and Studio Hardy teamed up to create this new and innovative car-office hybrid. It runs entirely off of a battery inside the car, and the interior is 100% renewable based. Throw in a coffee maker, pull-out deck, and convertible desk with swivel chair, and this creation makes the term “flexible office” even more literal.
Yet, out of all the innovative versions of coworking spaces, the message remains the same: to provide a space for freelance workers to meet, collaborate, draw inspiration, and build up their own projects or business. These spaces help provide a working environment that fosters a strong culture centered around like-minded business professionals. They are meeting a new need, and flourishing because of it.
The Future of Office Culture
With this new office format, as well as the growth of freelancers around the globe, it’s only natural to speculate about the future of office work.
Freelancers often report being happier with their flexible schedules and upcoming opportunities, but there is still a lack of certainty in the gig-economy. According to a ReportLinker survey, 68% of respondents replied “not likely” to join the freelance economy, while only 32% reported that it was a likely option. The main detractor seems to be the lack of guaranteed benefits, such as retirement or insurance, from being a freelancer.
Although some coworking spaces are adapting to meet those needs -- such as Canada’s new program, COHIP, a health insurance program for freelancers that was created by Coworking Ontario -- it is not appearing that coworking spaces will be able to change the office economy dramatically.
Instead, they will simply increase the allure of working in the freelance economy. Many independent contractors report that working in coworking spaces gives them a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment. According to the Harvard Business Review: “People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful.” These spaces not only offer a fun place to collaborate and work, but also harbor strong communities to help validate the often-wild ideas of the startups that use them.
So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about becoming a freelancer, maybe now is the time to join the movement. Coworking spaces are popping up all around the United States, and some of them offer some superb perks. Or if you’re small business is looking for a way to cut back on spending, maybe purchasing coworking passes for your employees can help your budget.
The shared economy is growing daily, and coworking spaces are a prime example of why this new shared model works so well.
About the author:
Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.