The Pecan Street Inc. Lab, opening in May.

Inside Brooklyn's Secret Clubhouse, which hosted staff from Gawker, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Vimeo, whose offices were without power post-Hurricane Sandy.

Another look at Secret Clubhouse.

Regus's new street-level business lounge, set to open at 747 3rd Avenue in New York in April.

Regus's business lounge in New York.

Another look at the New York office of Regus, which offers flex space to more than a million people a day worldwide.

Inside Coworklisboa, in Portugal.

Chicago's Onward Coworking space, in the West Loop.

The Scotch bar at Hatchery San Francisco, which holds monthly happy hours for tenants. Note to self: get Scotch bar at work.

The lobby of Geekdom's 2nd full floor. At 45,000 square feet, it is the largest coworking space in Texas.

The 20,000-square foot CoCo in Minneapolis/St. Paul operates out of the historic trading floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

The Future Of Coworking And Why It Will Give Your Business A Huge Edge

Here are the numbers that support the case for coworking—and why it's not just for startups or freelancers anymore.

Fun. Friendly. Inspiring. Collaborative. Productive. If you wouldn't define your workplace with any or all of those terms, you may have to ditch your own desk and take a seat at a coworking space near you. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur or freelancer, the benefits of coworking, according to Deskmag’s annual Global Coworking Survey, are pretty hard to ignore: 71 percent of participants reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space, while 62 percent said their standard of work had improved.

The study also found that half of all coworkers access their work space around the clock—with only 30 percent preferring to work during normal business hours. “The future of work should not be dictated by space or place, but by the individual and the tasks that he or she has to deliver,” Regus CEO Mark Dixon tells Fast Company. “Many employees are now measured by output and productivity, and not just 40 hours spent sitting at a desk. Workers and the companies for which they work are increasingly realizing that they need to provide and utilize a wide range of workplaces to accommodate an increasingly diverse workforce with very different expectations of what work is, and where and when it should happen,” he explains.

That’s why Dixon says, companies such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, and half of the Fortune 500 offer their staff temporary spaces at Regus to hold meetings or to get work done on the road. Regus offers flex space to more than a million people a day worldwide.

Dixon notes that coworking allows for businesses to test new markets relatively risk-free. “Our research tells us that today anywhere between a third and half of all workers are flexible and mobile. Four years ago flexible working was the reserve of quirky marketing agencies and IT shops. Today, it’s a way of life influenced by the growth of the freelance economy and the need to expand the top-line by market expansion,” Dixon explains. For example, Regus plays host to real estate agencies that ironically don’t have their own real estate. Instead, they give all the agents cards to check into a nearby coworking center when they need to print materials or get paperwork done.

Compared to a traditional office, Deskmag found that an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of coworkers said they got a self-confidence boost, likely due to the fact that many spaces are filled with supportive communities that enable creative collaboration.

Dodd Caldwell, founder of Loft Resumes and MoonClerk, has been coworking for two and a half years in Greenville, S.C. Most recently, he’s sharing space with other startups at Iron Yard. “We're a pretty curated coworking space, so even though we're made up of different companies, we're all fairly kindred spirits,” Caldwell asserts. By running his small businesses in a curated coworking space, he says, “I get the advantages of the culture of a medium-size business without having to deal with most of the downsides that come with it, like bureaucracy.”


One of the main advantages to coworking, Caldwell says, is the ease of collaborating with other companies sharing the space, many of which don’t have more than three people. “Sometimes that's just tapping someone outside of your team on the shoulder and asking their opinion. Other times, it may be a 15-minute whiteboarding session with a developer on another startup.”

The ability to approach problems from a variety of angles is the undercurrent running through coworking spaces like Secret Clubhouse. Originally established by Rick Webb (cofounder of The Barbarian Group) in September, the Secret Clubhouse addresses a simple, but critical, need for entrepreneurs in the already crowded coworking scene in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn: it gives them a place to sit every day and take advantage of being elbow-to-elbow with other startup impresarios.

In the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, those seats were filled with staff from Gawker, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Vimeo, whose offices didn’t have power. Now that things have settled down, manager Alison Vingiano says Secret Clubhouse isn’t quite filled to capacity of 35 desks, but those who are working from there can work alone or plug into the local tech community through hosted events or just from hanging out in the basement lounge, which is appointed with a pool table, musical instruments for impromptu jam sessions, as well as food, drinks, and cushy seating.

Vingiano says that while collaboration is now a main focus of Secret Clubhouse, “a lot of it happens naturally.” Between hosted meetups and skill-sharing events, Vingiano says Secret Clubhouse members are encouraged to announce positions for hire or talk about what they are working on.

Contrary to popular opinion that an open environment like the Secret Clubhouse is just as distracting as a coffee shop, 68 percent of those polled by Deskmag said they were able to focus better, and almost as many (64 percent) reported they were better able to complete tasks on time. 

Scott Hinson, lab director at Pecan Street Inc.’s new Pike Powers Commercialization Lab, is going to be in the unique position of fostering collaboration in the space, while also helping the companies working there to stay focused and retain privacy.

The $1.5 million lab, located in northeast Austin, will be officially opening in May to promote research, commercialization, and education tied to smart energy grids, advanced information technology, clean energy, and health care applications. As the nation’s first nonprofit smart-grid research lab, it’s going to give smaller businesses the ability to use equipment like a spectrum analyzer that would cost roughly an engineer’s annual salary, without the huge investment.

The challenge, according to Hinson, will be to keep proprietary projects a secret. But he’s not overly concerned. “We just have to be conscious of who can’t be around whom [when scheduling work],” he says. In addition, the facility has security controls such as thumbprint readers and secure Internet access. If need be, says Hinson, they can wipe all data from computer terminals every time someone new sits down to use it.

“As long as we set the right expectation we can minimize challenges,” Hinson says. “If you set the expectation you get a place to do really cool stuff and there might be some other folks that are doing that too, so we can avoid it from the get-go.”

Dixon believes that the flexibility to “work your way” is leading to greater productivity and job satisfaction. He points out a recent survey conducted by MindMetre in which 64 percent of U.S. employees are happier with their jobs today than they were two years ago because of the increased flexibility and shift towards a clearer work/life balance. “In addition, there is a plethora of research that shows flexible workers experience lower levels of work-related stress and higher levels of work satisfaction,” Dixon adds. “The healthiest option for employers and employees is to continue to work together to redefine the parameters of work, and how it is conducted and rewarded.”  

—Do you cowork, and how has it changed your career? Leave your tips in the comments below.

Find more tips on creative collaboration in the daily Co.Lead and Fast Company newsletters. Follow Lydia Dishman on Twitter @lydiabreakfast.

Add New Comment

19 Comments

  • Annabelle Fox

    We've seen demand for executive suites, flex office and shared office space really pick up. We're also seeing bigger co's use them as auxiliary offices to meet short term needs. Here's our inventory: http://suitesearch.com/

  • Mr Deskcamping

    The world of coworking can be a bit worthy at times. What's often overlooked is the very human, fundamental reason we come together. It's about camaraderie, a sense of belonging and having a laugh!

    That's why we set up deskcamping.com. We're a bunch of freelancers in London. We couldn't find a descent desk listing site that focused on office culture. When looking for shared spaces online, we wanted to know about the office vibe, not just what the wifi speed was.

  • Paul Jones Winlund

    Nice article, but I do miss the synergy effects of coworking (real time meets) with the support of great digital tools (elapsed time meets - meaning the possibility to contribute after the actual real time meet). We all know that collaboration is not always at the point we meet, but sometimes (or more often) the meet spawns ideas and clarity several hours later. And its the re-contribution of this that gives those fantastic evolving coworking situations. So coworking in combination of great tools can take the outcome to even greater heights. One such tool could be www.coworkit.com

  • Tom

    An octave of the benefits of sharing an environment with other flesh & blood humans is collaborating visually with people not onsite.

    I cringed when I saw the Regus space and it's marble surfaces.  I'm assuming there are more acoustically private rooms for visual meetings?

    How to balance the stimulation of being around other energetic people without the detractions of a loud conversation?

  • Jason Lewis

    As one of the first commercial real estate brokerage firms that focuses on helping tenants find the most efficient and effective office space solutions to fit their current and future needs, coworking and shared spaces is a HUGE part of our discussion with each tenant.  Is a traditional 3-5 year lease in their best interest or is one of the multiple other options more suited to fit their current needs?   I would be honored to keep in touch with anyone who would be interested.  jason@ecospace.co or  www.ecospace.co   

  • Creative Distillery

    My husband and I worked from a home office in Jackson, Miss., for several years before we rented a large office for our ad agency, Creative Distillery. Half of the office is dedicated to coworking space, with several work stations and common areas. The feedback we've gotten from the folks who've worked here is in line with the Deskmag stats: people are more focused, productive, and creative than they are when they work from home, or a coffee shop. For me, the separation between home and office is a blessing -- no longer am I distracted by the dishes in the kitchen sink, and I don't work around the clock like I did before. Also, my social skills have improved now that I have to leave the house and interact with other humans. :)

  • Daymaker Lavon

    I am the Director of SoHa Arts in South NJ.  We are helping forge the way in this area with cowork, collaboration and the maker revolution.  This way of thinking has improved my life, our residents and the community around us.  We wholeheartedly support the human spirit connecting with technology.  sohaartsbuilding.org 

  • Jeremy Krakowski

    I love working out of my coworking office. I work out of Link Coworking in Austin, TX, and since starting my productivity went up over 400% - I LOVE it, and the people here are so cool :) I don't know why I didnt do the "coworking thing" sooner because I knew about it for a while but was like "eh, i don't need that" now I'm a firm believer in the value and it's worth every penny!

  • Neil Steiner

    Kansas City is developing a REAL co-working space. In the first Google fiber-hood the Kansas City Startup Village and Homes For Hackers, an area that is now an eclectic neighborhood that sits within major university campus resources will soon have great creative and knowledge worker density because of local grass-roots, organic efforts. Co-creating, collaborating, and colliding is the goal for a community hub center where ideas will soar!      

  • RAD Moose

    "Contrary to popular opinion that an open environment like the Secret Clubhouse is just as distracting as a coffee shop, 68 percent of those polled by Deskmag said they were able to focus better, and almost as many (64 percent) reported they were better able to complete tasks on time." ....

    Major difference between coffee shop work and cow-orking environments is that you have a dozen customers wanting your table and power outlet when in a coffee shop.

  • Mojo Coworking

    Interesting article.  Well actually, it seems there are at least 3 different articles above.  The first is about SHARED OFFICE SPACE.  This article was pretty much written by the guy from Regus.  Regus isn't actually coworking, but more of a place where business professionals come to work and share the Internet and electricity.  

    The second article is more about "real" COWORKING - it talks about collaboration, community and co-creating in an energizing environment ... where members not only share coffee but share ideas. The stats from DeskMag showcase the power of the coworking system and how it has been vital for growing the small business/entrepreneurial boom spreading across the US and the world.

    The third article was about INCUBATION AND COMMERCIAILIZATION and showcased the Next Space in Greenville and Pecan St. in Austin. Coworking does take place in these spaces but the intent is more directed toward various levels of the startup eco-system.  All of these play an important part in the changing real estate landscape (and all were able to borrow from the excellent research from DeskMag about coworking).  But be sure to remember that true COWORKING is really it's own thing.  Unique and powerful.  Collaborative and individually functional. Inspiring because of the collective intent toward community building.

  • Lydia Dishman

    Thanks for your comments. I wrote this piece (not the Regus guy as you suggest) and during my time talking with people and researching, I discovered there are a lot of different ways people cowork as you can see in some of the other comments. In an era of change, people are working in a variety of spaces and businesses all use them for their own unique purposes. I am glad to see you submitted a photo of MOJO so our readers can see yet one more example of how people are working together in shared spaces.

  • nicole lara

    This trend continues to grow in Chicago too. Hopefully Chicago's corporate culture embraces the idea and encourages employees to seek out a more convenient location or environment that they are able to provide. Spots like 1871, Onward Coworking and Coop offer totally unique experiences down-town Chicago and really can provide a collaborative setting for free-lancers or start-ups too. 

  • Craig Baute

    Thanks for giving great context to the benefits of coworking and how it creates a vibrant culture. Coworking in Denver at Creative Density has made working alone at home all the time seem like a fad that is forced on poeople with the technology of the 1990s. Creative and professional people love the flexibility of working from home, but wireless technology has allowed us to be flexible, but with smart and amazing people. 

    Coworking Rocks!

  • Kristin Donaldson

    Great article! From working in (and for a coworking space) I agree with many of the points made. However, I don't know if comparing Regus in the same realm of coworking is fair since they admitted themselves that "coworking is something of the past" (http://www.unwired.eu.com/WT12.... They are trying to make it very corporate; which I think is still pretty cool because the future of work spaces will be nontraditional. However, I don't think that just any business space can hop on the "coworking" bus and call themselves a coworking space. We will have to see how it all evolves.

    I love the idea of Pike Powers Commercialization Lab. This is a great concept by allowing growth and innovation with less overhead. I like how the collaborative work environment allows people to share space and work independently despite keeping the proprietary projects a secret.

    I am curious to see how large companies start to integrate coworking spaces in the future, since many of the demographics are independents, but then again, the great thing about this movement is that the only constant is change.

  • Sam Dounis

    I share a co-working space with a graphic designer, videographer and animator.  We share ideas, help each other out and do work for each other and together.  It's a million times better than working alone and well worth the investment.  

  • Rick Reubenstone

    We are about to launch Collaborizm, an online collaration app that targets entrepreneurs broadly, and engineers, research scientists and artists/creatives, specifically, i.e., anyone who needs or would benefit from being able to identify "ideal collaborators." Collaborizm incorporates a matching algorithm to match collaborators, by skill set, akin to the way a dating website matches people; we use personality/psychological criteria as well as objective criteria to ensure collaborators have shared values as well as complimentary skill sets. We launch our public beta in late May. Please see: Check out interview with Collaborizm's Co Founders: http://bit.ly/14c7VOw  (posted on our twitter page: @collaborizm.)

  • Dave Thackeray

    Coworking rocks. Sometimes if you're in a space occupied by dullards you can wish you'd stayed at home but by and large it's what to do if you need a regular infusion of creative inspiration in your working diet.

    I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence. What an ass jockey!