I have been observing and investigation coworking since 2015 or so. From my earliest explorations, it was very clear to me that the key feature of a coworking space is that it is a face-to-face community. As Zachary Klaas put it in 2014, coworking is “a respite from our isolation” .
As I have put it more than once: “Community, community, community”
Furthermore, I have argued for more face-to-face time, and less digital “community” throughout all aspects of life. “Turn It Off”.
I stand by these arguments.
But, of course, in the face of a global pandemic, we are all forced to isolate. All we have at this moment is digital community, for better or worse. (And we should all be thankful that back in the day my generation was down in the basement booting up the Internet designed to survive a nuclear war. We sure need it now.)
It is impossible to know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that coworking as we knew it has completely halted along with practically everything else. Freelance workers and coworking space operators are facing extreme losses, no one can work together. It just isn’t safe.
So whatever coworking used to be, it sure isn’t that right now.
We will make it through this.
But for a blog about “What is Coworking?”, we must surely turn to the question, “What Will Coworking Be Next?”
I can’t answer that question today. But here are a few thoughts.
The gig economy will likely reboot, and there will be plenty of freelancers. (Who knows whether there will be a living wage, though.) These workers will still need and want places to work.
Absolutely everybody knows about digital remote working now. A lot of people are going to be (indeed, already are) hungry—starving—for face-to-face community.
So, yeah, the basic psychological drivers for coworking is and will be there.
The big question is, how will this demand be met?
Another interesting question is how existing coworking communities may weather a period of digital only contact. One scenario would see communities coming back together in person as soon as it is safe to do so. But it is also possible that community will disintegrate if the separation is too long.
So, we’ll all stay tuned.
Stay safe. Be good to each other. Hang in there.
- Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity
- Robert E. McGrath, What is Coworking? A look at the multifaceted places where the gig economy happens and workers are happy to find community. 2018, Robert E. McGrath: Urbana. https://whatiscoworkingthebook.com/
What is Cowworking? What Will Coworking Become?