Global Coworking Growth Study

The first six months of 2020 are over. They marked by the effects of the global corona pandemic. All over the world, governments are trying to help their national economies. It seems that the coworking scenes are the last thing on their minds. But this is not surprising.

One problem described by politicians and officials in background discussions is the lack of visibility and knowledge of the coworking industry to create appropriate support programs. They are right, and coworking organizations worldwide, where they exist, need to address this problem.

In England, the UK Coworking Assembly has launched the #SaveYourLocalCoworking initiative to show the government how essential coworking spaces are. Simultaneously, they started a petition calling for a year of financial relief, protection from evictions, and cash grants, as the hospitality sector also receives.

In Germany, the German Coworking Federation (GCF) is already holding talks with the Federal Ministry of Labour and investigates the impact of the pandemic on coworking spaces. The survey is being conducted together with coworking expert Carsten Foertsch from the Global Coworking Survey.

As the Global Coworking Survey 2020 is still to come, the Global Coworking Growth Study (GCGS) by CoworkingResources and Coworker is very timely. Coworker is a booking platform, and CoworkingResources is a coworking knowledge base supported by Kisi, a cloud access control system provider.

GCGS 2020: Study’s methodology

The number of coworking spaces is estimated using proprietary data from both platforms. Also included in the calculation are opening announcements for 2018, 2019, and 2020. One has to kindly disregard any filing-oaks in the databases and coworking spaces not registered there.

The number of people using coworking spaces is based on 2018 data from Statista (who likes to write off at Deskmag) and estimates for the years 2019 to 2024 from CoworkingResources, announcements of openings, and growth forecasts from Coworker from requests on their platform in 2020.

The post-COVID-19 predictions are based on data from a survey of 3,012 participants conducted by Coworker between February 2020 and May 2020. Further details on the methodology can be found in the blog post on the study. It is commendable that the data sources were listed so transparently. Unfortunately, not everyone does this.

There are glaring weaknesses in the study that should be taken into account when working with the figures. I lack a definition of what a coworking space is, i.e., what was counted and what was not. From the Coworker’s entries, I have to assume that providers who call themselves coworking spaces were also counted.

Pure announcements of openings are an uncertain source. Statista does not generate data itself, but only collects it. The predictions are made with the crystal ball and, in my opinion, do not take the consequences of COVID-19 into account enough. Therefore, the Global Coworking Growth Study 2020 should be treated with caution and is only a collection of different data sources.

GCGS 2020: Study results

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The authors of the study assume that the number of 20,000 coworking spaces worldwide could be reached this year. In the next four years, they expect the number to double by 2024. Although growth will slow down this year, they expect an annual growth rate of 21.3 percent from the following year.

It is estimated that almost 2 million people worldwide currently work in coworking spaces. This number could rise to 5 million by 2024. I don’t know how likely that is, but if we see more mobile working guidelines in companies as a result of the Corona pandemic, steady growth is more than possible.

At the Coworker Member’s Choice Awards 2019, 77 percent of the coworking spaces surveyed said they wanted to grow. Thirty-two percent wanted to open a new location by 2020, and 38 percent said they wanted to open 2-3 new locations. That was before Corona. At the moment, I don’t know anyone who wants to sign a lease.

The USA is expected to remain the largest coworking market globally, with over 3,700 shared workspaces. I do not doubt that either. The only thing that bothers me is that it has not been defined what has been counted and what has not. Otherwise, the figures for Spain (939) and Germany (791) could well be correct. Roughly speaking, they seem realistic to me.

The numbers of the predictions seem arbitrary or not well enough explained, but the basic statements seem logical. There will be a higher demand for private offices, more extended contract periods, and higher capacities quite merely because these are precisely the three requirements that companies have of providers of flexible workplaces.

GCGS 2020: My conclusion

I cannot say anything about the figures in the study. But what the statistics say was the prevailing opinion on the development of the coworking market even before the survey. Seen in this light, the GCGS 2020 only confirmed many views. Beyond that, unfortunately, it does not include new insights, which I very much regret.

Studies must be carried out. But we need to do less recounting of how many coworking spaces there are and ask ourselves more often how well the coworking spaces are run. We need regular market surveys over shorter periods; in other words, more accurate data.

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash.