Julie Tucker
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Has coworking gone global?

Coworking is growing rapidly in the 21st century, with the number of coworkers rocketing from a handful in 2005 to more than three million today.

It has become a global phenomenon, with the number of coworking spaces worldwide rising to almost 20,000 – a figure that’s expected to double by 2024.

Since software engineer Brad Neuberg, of American startup Rojo Networks, officially launched coworking in San Francisco 15 years ago, its growth has been meteoric.

Coworking has caught on in a way no-one could have anticipated, with its annual growth rate of 21.3% expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the Global Coworking Growth Study 2020, published jointly by Coworker.com and Coworking Resources.

How many countries are using coworking spaces?

There are 195 countries in the world, and 172 of them are making great use of coworking spaces. The biggest concentration is in the Asia-Pacific region, where there are more than 11,000 coworking spaces.

Asia ranks as the continent with the largest number of people using each space, with 114 coworkers on average in each building. China is the country with the largest capacity, with an average of 282 people per coworking space. In the United States, where the practice began, there’s an average of 105 people per space. Each coworking space in the UK hosts an average of 121 members.

How many coworking spaces are in the UK?

With around 1,000 coworking spaces in the UK, London is known as the coworking capital of the world, dedicating 994,000 square metres of space to flexible desks. In terms of the size of the country, we have a higher concentration of coworkers than bigger nations, such as the US.

More than half of the UK’s coworking spaces have less than 50 desks in an area of around 5,000 square feet and 42% are run by companies who operate more than one space.

How many countries have only recently found out about coworking spaces?

While the UK was one of the earliest operators of coworking space, dating back to 2005 with The Hub in London, some nations have launched it more recently.

In April 2019, when Servcorp Qatar refurbished the 21st floor of the Burj Doha complex to introduce coworking spaces, coworking was described as “the future of business” in Qatar. Heralded as providing a flexible workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs, it also became a base for larger businesses aiming to cut their operational costs. By December 2019, coworking was described as having transformed Qatar’s real estate sector.

There are now five coworking spaces in Afghanistan, after the first was opened by Daftar, in Kabul, in 2016. The online reviews are all positive, with users describing it as the “ultimate innovation space” that brings together the “best start-ups, entrepreneurs, mentors and investors”.

Are coworking businesses expanding from country to country?

Coworking is expanding all over the planet, according to research conducted in March 2020 by Coworking Resources. Statistics show that coworking is on the increase everywhere: Vietnam currently has 251 coworking spaces; Colombia has 282; Indonesia 290; Germany 791; Brazil 393; Mexico 508; Japan 411; France 339 and Italy 298.

The list of the world’s most expensive cities for coworking is topped by Palo Alto in California, where the average price is $511 per month. Zurich was second at $456 per month.

Predictions show that coworking will grow further over the next few years, with Luxembourg topping the list for predicted growth. Despite being a small country with a population of just under 600,000 people, coworking spaces are expected to grow by 8.5 spaces per person.

Second in the growth stakes is Singapore, where coworking began in 2012, after the government issued grants to encourage people to open shared workspaces. The subsidies changed the market and Singapore has become a magnet for start-ups today.

New Zealand is also experiencing a boom, with a coworking company called Spaces renting properties in Auckland to increase the number of desks, and WeWork adding more than 1,000 desks in the area. In Africa, there were only 24 coworking spaces in 2013 and now there are 295.

Are there any countries that are not operating coworking spaces?

Officially, there are none in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, or in Nauru in the Oceania region of the central Pacific. However, it’s difficult to say with complete certainty whether this is true, as new spaces are springing up all the time. Although the official statistics claim 23 nations don’t have coworking, further research shows this may not be the case.

For example, St Lucia, an island state in the Caribbean, launched 3H Space last year, describing it as “coworking space for entrepreneurs” and listing it as being an “incubator, accelerator and market space”.

It’s safe to say that other countries who aren’t known for their coworking space may well have a small market that isn’t well-publicised yet.

How has hot desking developed globally?

Analysts hoping to predict a post-coronavirus world believe coworking will become even more mainstream as businesses move towards remote workforces. An increasing demand will come mainly from larger organisations and enterprises decentralising their workforce into smaller branch offices. This will include coworking spaces and hot desks, with all offices having the potential to turn into flexible, on-demand spaces.

Hot desking (when office desks are allocated to employees when required, or on a rota, rather than each staff member having a personal desk) is also on the increase. This is partly due to the fact it reduces the costs of running an office by up to 30%.

A study of 500 office workers in the UK by Workthere revealed almost half (47%) of employees preferred hot desking. Many employers prevent employees from moving between just two desks all the time, or from occupying particular areas of the office, preventing cliques from developing.

According to 54% of respondents, this makes the office a more “open and welcoming” space, as they spend more time getting to know colleagues they otherwise wouldn’t mix with in a regular workplace.

Despite the challenges faced by many organisations and sectors in 2020, coworking’s global appeal gives it the potential to continue to grow and adapt in the “new normal” workplace environment of the future.

For information on the best coworking spaces in the UK, contact Headspace today.


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