Is Coworking Actually Going Anywhere?

With the recent US election resulting in shock and awe all over the world, among the multitude of other worldwide crises that seem to be unfolding, one might think coworking, coliving, and the institutions surrounding such are of too little importance to be given much priority. I disagree, and here’s why.

When I started on my coworking journey in 2013 I was filled with hope and dreams for a new future. But as we built Impact Hub Salt Lake it became clear that, while others saw potential in our vision, they weren’t about to take the risk or invest their hard-earned money in helping us realize it. We pushed and pushed and pushed, but the community struggled to get the joke. It took us two years to achieve break-even. We barely made it.

Add to this experience the time I worked in San Francisco, where coworking and coliving were merely about startups raising rounds, pitch nights with investors (or investor wannabees), and getting as drunk and high as possible on the weekends to forget it all. It was sad. It was pathetic. All these people running around trying to make a billion dollars, whether it made a difference to the world or not. Some deluding themselves into thinking they were making a difference when the sad truth was their gluten-free, organic food delivery app wasn’t adding any value outside the 7×7 mile grid of San Francisco.

One might be left to wonder what the hell the point is. Is any of this going anywhere?

Yes. It is.

The original inspiration behind coworking is still alive and well all around the world, even in the United States, where it seems to have been coopted by such McCoworking giants as WeWork.

As I’ve begun traveling more and more I’ve experienced first-hand the effects that coworking can have on interpersonal relationships among people with entirely different backgrounds. In Bristol, UK I met individuals throughout the city that, when told I worked in Hamilton House (an eclectic coworking space attracting social innovators, artists, and performers), immediately opened up. Hamilton House has earned a reputation in the city of Bristol. They were critical in transforming a formerly derelict part of the city which had become overrun with drug addicts. Now, the place is a thriving center of commerce, art, and underground culture.

Yesterday I arrived in Budapest, Hungary, where I immediately felt very out of my element. Since I’m working completely remote, this is my first time travelling totally alone with no support network to tap into. My first thought, when I arrived, was to fall back on coworking spaces as a way to tap into an immediate network.

Since I’m working completely remote, this is my first time travelling totally alone with no support network to tap into. My first thought, when I arrived, was to fall back on coworking spaces as a way to tap into an immediate network. Today I visited Mosaik, a coworking space in the northwest part of Pest (which is eastern Budapest), and tomorrow I’ll visit Impact Hub Budapest to reconnect with my roots. I feel a complete sense of relief after chatting with the folks at both.

So, this is what it’s about:

Remote workers, freelancers, startups, community organizations who are just starting out feel alone. In truth, they are alone. That’s where you step in. Everybody needs friends, and your job is to provide these individuals and small teams with an entire army of friends and support to help them live, work, and play in a way that is fulfilling and meaningful.

Let’s take this back to the US election and the turmoil we’re beginning to see all over the world as far-right political elements pray on people’s fears and exploit those fears for power. Coworking and coliving is a potent antidote to that hate and power-grabbing. When we bring people together, especially from different cultures, in close proximity we bridge the divides that exist in religion, economic status, upbringing, language, and politics. When you live with somebody, you get to know them as a human, not a demographic. When you work with somebody, especially alongside another freelancer, entrepreneur, or changemaker, you share a struggle that few in this world can understand.

We are changing the world in ways most don’t even realize yet, so yes, there’s a lot to look forward to.

Ryan Chatterton
ryan@coworkinginsights.com

Ryan is the founder of Coworking Insights, a coworking media platform focused on delivering unique and in-depth insights for coworking founders and their teams. He’s the Marketing Director at Habu, a quickly growing coworking management platform that is simple, fast, and intuitive for managing recurring billing, bookings, and other admin tasks. Formerly with Impact Hub and PARISOMA, Ryan now has over 4 years of combined experience in a variety of roles in the coworking industry, including marketing, events, operations, sales, software, and partnerships He’s a digital nomad and a lover of wine and tacos..