Does your city have a co-working space?
If you live in a major metropolitan area, the answer is probably yes. In 2018, 2,188 new co-working spaces opened around the world, 1,000 of which were in the United States. By 2022, there will be an estimated 25,968 co-working spaces worldwide.
In case you aren't familiar with the concept, co-working spaces are shared workspaces that offer memberships, day passes and open houses to allow professionals to use their resources. These resources typically include all the features of a conventional office, such as desks, meeting rooms and high-speed internet, and they also often have amenities like kitchens, bars, upscale decor and pleasant break rooms.
Not only are co-working spaces great for the people who use them, they also add value to their communities.
Co-working spaces started to flourish around the time that the gig economy started to develop. New technologies have made it easier for people to start their own businesses or rely on existing apps to connect their services to the clients who need them most.
They've also made it more possible to work remotely, even in positions that traditionally wouldn't tolerate such an arrangement; in fact, more than 3.9 million Americans now work from home at least half the time.
That's a lot of people who are suddenly working outside of a conventional office environment. Even with a nice home office setup, it's natural to miss the presence of co-workers, having spacious meeting rooms and the proximity of your work environment to an urban center.
Trying to lease an office on your own doesn't make financial sense for most people, so co-working spaces are the perfect middle ground for millions of professionals who can afford the membership fee.
For many co-working spaces, it's not just about providing an office environment to freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote working professionals who want or need a conventional workspace. It's also about supporting an entrepreneurial environment and nurturing the community.
Many co-working spaces hold special events, such as panel discussions, classes, Creative Mondays or Lunchbeat, which combines a business lunch and a rave party. And there are women-centric co-working spaces that allow female entrepreneurs to have a safe space in which to focus and work on their businesses.
Venture X, a co-working space with several locations across the country, has a West Palm Beach location that hosts Palm Beach Startup Week, a free five-day event bringing together entrepreneurs, small business owners, innovators and other professionals for workshops, speakers and networking.
"When entrepreneurs succeed, the community thrives. With more resources and more career opportunities, community members flourish. That's why we've offered our space as the central hub for Palm Beach Startup Week. It's a chance to show off our space, sure, but it's also our chance to give back to the community, and drive more economic growth," said Josh Shronce, Community Manager of Venture X West Palm Beach.
Co-working spaces quickly turn into community hubs where entrepreneurs can provide mutual support and connect with mentors, advisers and investors who can help turn their dreams into reality. Even better, more diverse co-working spaces lead to more small businesses, better-established freelancers and, ultimately, better economic conditions for everyone in the city.
Co-working spaces may also provide healthy growth and improvements to the commercial real estate market. Turning a building into a co-working space is relatively easy, and gives savvy real estate investors the chance to capitalize on properties that might otherwise go unused, such as unoccupied office buildings or even old factories.
It also grants more flexibility for urban environments and real estate investors; rather than being forced to make a big purchase with one niche focus, you can buy a property with a versatile range of offerings for entrepreneurs, freelancers and other potential tenants. There's also evidence to suggest that flexible workspaces result in higher property value growth, which can increase the appeal of a major city and encourage more residency.
These buildings have the power to improve a city in multiple ways, from stimulating further economic and population growth to nurturing a more supportive community of professionals.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business and entrepreneurship.