It seems like coworking spaces are popping up everywhere like mushrooms. Here in the Indy area we have the Speak Easy in SoBro, Launch Fishers, the Hinge Bureau in Fountain Square and the Platform downtown. 2 years ago none of these existed and I expect that we may have 2-3 more in a year from now. What's going on?
First a quick definition of coworking courtesy of Wikipedia. "Coworking is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity."
I think there are three major forces driving the rise in coworking spaces: freelancers, tech startups and corporate disruption. I think they also build on each other.
Freelance Nation: the personal computer, the laptop in particular, along with the tech/web revolution has empowered a generation of freelancers. These are (usually) talented individuals that prize freedom and flexibility over security and routine. With laptops getting smaller, lighter and more powerful they are now free to roam. First this lead to coffee shops filled with freelancers slowly milking their $2 coffees. Now they are flocking to coworking spaces which are set up to accommodate not just their coffee and internet needs but also provide printing, conference rooms and, sometimes, beer. But it's more than just amenities. It's also about community, which leads to...
Tech Startups: if you get a bunch of smart people hanging out sooner or later they are going to start working together. It's just the way humans are wired; we magnetize around shared passions, interests and opportunities. So one of the byproducts of these coworking spaces is business startups, specifically tech startups. I would agrue that every business is a tech startup at this point. It's hard to think of a business that doesn't have technology as a key component.
Corporate Disruption: so larger organizations (meaning ones that are beyond the startup years) initially watched this coworking movement with curiosity, not quite sure what relevance it would have to the way they worked. But as freelancers began to form startups that then became competitors, coworking spaces got their attention – "what's going on here?" They are beginning to see the value; coworking spaces attract and engender new ways of collaborating, they are silo busters. This often leads to healthy disruptions in the way people work. Corporations are now using coworking spaces to hold company off-sites or to give their creative talent a secondary space to collaborate and focus without the distractions of the office. They are also looking for ways to bring the coworking vibe back into their offices, often moving from cubicles to open work spaces.
On a related note, it's great to see Indy's coworking movement begin to get some national attention. A recent MSNBC segment featured the Speak Easy. Check it out!