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Coworking: What is it?

What is it?

In one simple sentence, coworking means working independently but together. Coworking spaces unite professionals from different backgrounds, who are self-employed or working for various companies. The aim is not only to share a space and facilities but more importantly to bring under one roof people with a variety of skills who can share their ideas and knowledge.

The origin of coworking

On the one hand, coworking was born out of a very simple need. Indeed, many self-employed entrepreneurs have faced the same problem: isolation. Although, entrepreneurship offers a high degree of independence and autonomy, social contacts and exchanges are important aspects for the well-being of a large number of workers. Coworking is, therefore, the perfect compromise between the need for freedom and the need for socialization. 

On the other hand, coworking also has its origins in the digital world. New information and communication technologies have revolutionized the organization of work within companies. Workers’ expectations have also changed and a growing number of them want more flexibility and mobility. The coworking concept is, therefore, perfectly anchored in this dynamic by challenging hierarchy theories and offering the possibility to work in networks and in a flexible way.

The history of coworking

  • 19th century: The first artists’ ateliers, such as the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre or the Ruche in Montparnasse, appear and already have great similarities with the coworking concept known today. They allow painters to meet, to develop their creativity, to extend their network, and to save money by dividing costs. 
  • 1995: C-Base opens its doors in Berlin. This “hackerspace” allows computer scientists to meet and share their knowledge. It is considered as one of the first coworking spaces, although still in a somewhat archaic form. 
  • 1999: Bernard de Koven, an American game designer and writer, invents the word coworking and uses it for the first time in a conference on collaborative work. He defines it as a concept that promotes collaboration while allowing people to work on their own projects in a non-competitive environment.
  • 2002: Several spaces are created, however the term coworking is not used to define them. For example in Vienna, a space called “Schraubenfabrik” allows entrepreneurs to meet each other. It is a true community hub for business. Later, this concept and 2 other Viennese spaces will be part of the very first local network of coworking spaces: Konnex Communities
  • 2005: Although the idea appeared in Europe, it is in the Silicon Valley that coworking first gained popularity. The first official coworking space opens its doors in San Francisco by the programmer Brad Neuberg. He created this space as a result of the development of several business centers, perceived as antisocial and hermetic. By partnering with Christopher Messina, creator of Twitter hashtags, the space took the name of Hat Factory. That same year, the first coworking café, named St. Oberholz, opened in Berlin and the very first Impact Hub space in London. Today it is the largest network of coworking spaces in the world.
  • 2007: For the first time, the term coworking is considered a trend in the Google database, and a Wikipedia page dedicated to the concept is created. In the same year, the first Spanish coworking space opens its doors in Barcelona under the name of Gracia Workcenter. This is also the case in Switzerland, with a brand new space in Zurich. 
  • 2008: Coworking spaces are multiplying. There are now about 160 in the world, including the very first in France, in Paris, under the name of La Cantine
  • 2010: The first conference about coworking takes place in Brussels. There are now about 600 coworking spaces in the world. 
  • 2011: Some large companies start to create their own coworking space. For example, TUI, a leisure, travel, and tourism group, opens Modul 57. In addition, the first Jelly Week is being launched. The goal of this week of worldwide animation is to create a community around coworking. 
  • 2013: Coworking spaces have been steadily increasing. There are about 3,000 spaces worldwide. Most of them are managed independently. 
  • 2016: There are about 83 coworking spaces in Switzerland. 
  • 2018: Coworking spaces are spreading all over the world and this is also the case in Switzerland with its 155 spaces and 10,000 members.
  • 2019: The concept of coworking continues to appeal. 20,000 spaces are opened in the world with no less than 3 million coworkers. 

Today, more than 30,000 coworking spaces, across five continents, offer their services! What are you waiting for to try? Come by and visit us, we will be happy to meet you!