What is this coworking anyway?

Note: I wrote this article as a guest post for the Accelerate Acadaemy blog in German.

To get the cow off the ice early: It is not worthwhile to work out a definition for coworking, which is then ignored by everyone. The first generation of coworking pioneers tried this in 2012 with the Coworking Manifesto. More than 2,320 people worldwide signed it, but you don’t see much of that in a branch of one of the big coworking chains today – coworking is not a protected term which is why it’s used inflationary.

Whether bank branch or library: Coworking can also be used here

Perhaps it is not important what coworking is by definition. When you cross the threshold of a place where you want to work, you quickly have a feeling for whether you like it there or not. Some people like the more scalable Starbucks imitation of a WeWork, others love the individuality or authenticity of coworking spaces like the St. Oberholz or the betahaus. This is a matter of taste.

In the end you can also do coworking in a library, a bank branch or even a café, feel it or profit from it. Coworking is not a business model, but a culture of togetherness. This makes it so universal and, unfortunately, very difficult to explain. If you want to know what coworking really is, you have to experience it.

Too loud? Too quiet? What you personally like.

So shoes on, scarf on and with the laptop under the arm off into the next Coworking Space. Be brave! But I wouldn’t leave it at one coworking space. Maybe you don’t like the wall paint in the first coworking space, the next one is too quiet and the third one is too loud. You quickly notice what you personally don’t like or what kind of place you need yourself to go to for your work. However, important is, above all, which people you actually want to have around you. Also in this point the coworking spaces differ from each other.

So coworking is not always the same product that can be rolled out uniformly all over the world and that always looks the same. Rather, coworking is an individual experience of how you can go about your work yourself. It enables people to work from any location, but at the same time to be networked with each other in the here and now. This makes coworking spaces the ideal places to work.

Pleasant structure and cool community

Of course things like tables, chairs, coffee, Wi-Fi, electricity and of course free beer on Friday evenings are important for the experience of a coworking space. But basically these are just features. They don’t form the core of coworking, being together with other people. The community management is responsible for this and is therefore elementary. It has to be warm and honest, not professionally friendly like the reception at the dentist.

A coworking space allows you to work as freely as at home, but as a place of work it offers you the pleasant structure as the office I used to go to specifically to do my job does, but has the cool community of a café where you enjoy sitting together with other people. It’s not without reason that around 90 percent of coworkers interviewed say they feel more comfortable and healthy in a coworking space.

Being aware of your own needs.

As I said, coworking is used a lot these days, but not all of it is the right place for you to work. Finding them, being aware of your individual needs, listening to them, and aligning yourself with them is much more important. For me it’s the coworking space. That’s why I didn’t want to work anywhere else after it became clear to me, but made a point of doing coworking professionally.

If you close your eyes and imagine happily doing your job, where would that be?

Header Image: Tobias Kremkau, Malmö 2018