Note: I wrote this article as a guest post for Wirtschaftszeitung. The business newspaper reports every month on the most important economic topics from Eastern Bavaria.
Coworking is no hype that passes by again. Instead, it is a profound and lasting trend that is changing the working world. The image of this still young development is strongly influenced by clichés that all carry a spark of truth in them, but have long since ceased to be the only reflection of reality.
When you think of coworking, you think of procrastinating freelancers who sit in cafés with their MacBooks and also call their clicking on the keyboard work. And so it really began 14 years ago, for example in St. Oberholz in Berlin or the Republikken in Copenhagen, what is now called coworking.
But nowadays not only freelancers and startups sit in the coworking spaces, but more and more permanent employees and teams from companies. From listed stock companies to traditional medium-sized companies, everything is there. There are various reasons for this.
The company must fit coworking – not the other way around.
There are good and bad reasons why companies let their employees work in coworking spaces. But no matter why, if a company does not have a corporate culture suitable for coworking, the project is doomed to failure anyway. Coworking is a culture that influences spaces and people.
I see this regularly in St. Oberholz. If teams from companies are sent to us, the individual people only become strangers with the new environment. It does not express the accustomed culture, but openness. That can be challenging. It often takes around six months for certain acclimatization to take place.
First and foremost, this decision must, therefore, make sense. Renting less space for jobs is a terrible reason. However, if employees decide to take this step, for example, to have shorter travel distances, this protects not only the environment but also their health – they are often more relaxed.
In coworking spaces, companies seek inspiration and exchange, access to new communities and people, and space to test new ways of working. Sometimes it just takes a change of scenery. What they find is unexpected, where no one has searched for. This is called serendipity.
By taking the step of letting their employees work as a team or individually in coworking spaces, they get to know new people who pursue entirely different professions. Exchanging ideas, for example over lunch, broadens the perspective of one’s own employees on their work.
Coworking also works in rural areas.
However, this development is not limited to the big city. In Hausham, Upper Bavaria, Michael Heinzmann, head of Wohnbau Hausham, founded a coworking space in which architects, structural engineers, and engineers as well as people from the social and creative industries work today. They are all from the region.
The coworking space Haushamer Hof originates from both economic considerations and human needs. The old office in a private house became too small, the new rooms a bit too big. Now Heinzmann no longer works alone and can communicate with other people.
Heimat 2.0 in Bad Tölz began similarly. Marco Tunger was looking for new rooms for his advertising agency. They found what they were looking for in an old brewery, but this was far too big. What his own team does not use is accessible to creative people from the region. These, in turn, form a kind of talent pool for the agency.
In Felde in Schleswig-Holstein, a few kilometers from Kiel, Johann Engel and Heiko Kolz take the same path. Their sun sail manufactory is located in the old hayloft, which is also the name of the coworking space – Alter Heuboden – they founded, where people from the village also work after a short time.
In the end, coworking is something for people, not companies. Employers should, therefore, let their own staff decide how they want to work and where. This can be in the office, but also in coworking space. Those who work there will be much more likely to find new impulses, which they can only then carry into the company.
Header Image: Tobias Kremkau, Amsterdam 2018