Coworking Spaces: Collaboration, Community & Sustainability

Coworking Spaces: Hubs for Collaboration, Community Building, and Advancing Sustainability

By Howie Robleza

Over the past decade, coworking spaces have rapidly grown in popularity around the world. They provide professionals with flexible, collaborative environments and office amenities without the overhead and leases of traditional offices. They foster unique communities that break down barriers between industries and catalyze innovation.

But perhaps most importantly, coworking spaces increasingly serve as hubs for relationship building, mentoring, and launching sustainability initiatives. Through their eco-friendly operations, engaged member networks, and partnerships, coworking spaces are pioneering a model that supports both collaborative work and creating collective change.

This article will explore the meteoric rise of coworking spaces and their multifaceted value. We’ll examine how coworking spaces are designed to facilitate collaboration. We’ll discuss how community-building activities create meaningful relationships and belonging. And we’ll highlight how coworking spaces integrate and champion sustainability practices.

The Rise of Coworking Spaces

The first coworking spaces emerged in the early 2000s, founded by entrepreneurs seeking professional communities and flexible workplaces as alternatives to working from home or commuting to isolating corporate offices. In 2019, there were over 19,000 coworking spaces globally, up from just 300 in 2009. Industry forecasts predict continued rapid growth of upwards of 21.3% annually in the coming years.

The diverse makeup of members is a major factor in the appeal of coworking spaces:

  • Startups – 27.12%
  • Freelancers – 42%
  • Digital remote employees – 2.82%
  • IT industry employees – 20%
  • Others– 8.06%

Professionals from all backgrounds choose coworking for the community and collaborative opportunities. Members can rent anything from a single desk to multi-person private offices, with the flexibility to change month-to-month. They enjoy office amenities and networks without long-term leases or capital investments.

For many, the alternatives of working from home or a cafe quickly lose appeal due to isolation and distractions. Traditional leased offices offer consistency but lack flexibility. Coworking offers the best of both worlds – stable workplace infrastructure combined with the dynamism of the broader community. Members can choose to work heads-down or connect with others as needed.

People working on PCs in a wooden floored, mustard walled room - Coworking Spaces: Collaboration, Community & Sustainability
Citizen Space, a coworking space in San Francisco, CA.
Source: Citizen Space – San Francisco, CA
Author: Josh Hallett from Winter Haven, FL, USA
Statistic: Flexible office space in San Francisco from 2010 to 2018 (in million square feet) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Coworking Spaces Designed to Facilitate Collaboration

A major appeal of coworking spaces is their intentional design to spark collaborations and creativity through both physical layout and programming.

A major factor in the appeal and success of coworking spaces is their thoughtful design to facilitate collaborations, creativity, and innovation. Coworking operators intentionally engineer their spaces to enable chance encounters and peer-to-peer collaboration through layout, amenities, and programming.

Open Floor Plans

Coworking facilities feature open floor plans with a mix of common areas for community gathering and open desk seating for individual focus work.

This flowing layout lacks the walls and separation of traditional offices, enabling visibility across the space and making it easy for members to connect.

Shared lounges, coffee bars, huddle rooms, meeting rooms, event spaces, and other amenities are situated to promote natural collisions and interactions between members throughout the day.

Diverse Workspace Types

Coworking spaces curate a variety of workspace settings to empower members with choices:

  • Open desk seating
  • Enclosed focus pods
  • Lounge areas
  • Phone booths
  • Small huddle rooms
  • Large meeting rooms
  • Event/classroom spaces

This diversity of workspace types supports members across all work modes – collaboration, focus, learning, socializing, and more. The flexibility enables “microchanges of scene” to re-energize throughout the day.

Ideation Spaces

Innovation-oriented coworking spaces incorporate areas specifically designed for ideation, creation, and skill-building:

  • Whiteboards for group brainstorming
  • 3D printing stations
  • Podcast studios
  • Workshops for hands-on learning
  • Demonstration kitchens for cooking classes

Cafe Community Spaces

Cafes, coffee bars, and other comfort-oriented amenities provide positive collision points for members to pause, nourish, and connect:

  • Coffee bars facilitate quick catch-ups
  • Shared kitchens enable cooking together
  • Lounges create space for longer conversations
  • Game rooms drive community bonding

Unique Design Elements

Thoughtful space design, artwork, decor, and engaging aesthetics make the environment feel inspired rather than generic:

  • Local art installations
  • Exposed architectural elements
  • Vibrant, textured materials and textures
  • Dynamic lighting schemes
  • Indoor greenery

Wellness & Convenience Amenities

Covering core needs on-site enhances convenience, happiness, and productivity:

  • Fitness studios or bike storage
  • Parent rooms and on-site childcare
  • Healthy snacks and beverage options
  • Library spaces for reading breaks
  • Resting spaces

Technology Integrations

Digital tools and virtual elements facilitate connections between members:

  • Online member directories with expertise indicators
  • Member networking and matching algorithms
  • Digital monitors highlighting space availability
  • Smartphone apps to book meeting rooms or order amenities
  • Virtual community events and gatherings

Surveys show over 90% of coworking members have collaborated with someone else in their workspace. This level of peer-to-peer collaboration simply doesn’t happen in traditional private offices. The coworking model offers exposure to new perspectives, potential partners, and mentorship opportunities.

Cultivating Connections and Community

But coworking spaces aren’t just about bringing people together for transactional collaborations. They really strive to build meaningful communities and relationships between members.

In order to do this, many spaces host fun member events like lunch talks, trivia nights, fitness classes, volunteering outings, and more. These community-building efforts lead to stronger personal connections, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging among members.

In fact, studies show that 87.6% of coworking members say they interact more regularly with others compared to traditional offices. For many, their coworking community becomes like a second home. They build meaningful friendships that support their well-being and keep them coming back.

It shows these spaces are about more than just the physical amenities. They want to foster genuine human bonds and a spirit of community among members. The relationships formed there provide a deeper sense of purpose and connection.

This sense of community keeps members engaged and creates a culture of generosity where they help each other thrive. Members donate time mentoring new startups, provide advice, collaborate on projects, and more.

Integrating Sustainability Practices

Coworking spaces are also increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices and championing sustainability movements. Their communities act as springboards for launching and supporting environmental initiatives.

Their engaged member communities become springboards for launching and supporting environmental initiatives and driving participation in creating a greener future.

Efficient Shared Resources

By its nature, coworking spaces are more eco-friendly than traditional offices:

  • Open floorplans require less lighting
  • Shared amenities cut down on redundancy
  • Resource sharing reduces waste
  • Digital workflows replace paper processes

On average, coworking spaces consume 53% less electricity than private offices.

Green Building Design

Sustainable construction and operation practices reduce environmental impact:

  • Renewable energy procurement
  • Reused/upcycled furnishing materials
  • LED lighting and smart sensors
  • Low-energy HVAC and heat recovery
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Green cleaning products

Waste Reduction Initiatives

Many coworking spaces implement rigorous recycling/composting programs and partner with food rescue organizations.

Other waste reduction initiatives include:

  • Discouraging single-use water bottles
  • Availability of reusable containers
  • Digital publication vs printouts
  • Paperless billing and coworking management platforms

Alternative Transportation

In order to reduce carbon emissions, spaces encourage and incentivize sustainable commuting through:

  • Bike storage and repair stations
  • Carpool and vanpool coordination
  • Shuttle services to transit hubs
  • EV charging stations
  • Transit pass subsidies
  • Parking discounts for electric vehicles

Partnerships & and Raising Awareness

Coworking spaces frequently partner with environmental groups to promote sustainability initiatives through:

  • Hosting films and speaker series
  • Participating in advocacy campaigns
  • Coordinating Earth Day events or volunteer days
  • Showcasing eco-innovations developed by members

Tracking & Offsetting Emissions

Leading operators measure and take steps to offset their emissions related to energy, waste, water, and commuting.

They also educate members on how to calculate and reduce their office footprint.

Coworking spaces also often partner with environmental groups or green nonprofits to raise awareness through events, lectures, films, and initiatives hosted at their facilities. Their engaged member networks help drive participation and momentum for local sustainability efforts.

Statistic: Flexible office space in St. Louis from 2010 to 2018 (in 1,000 square feet) | Statista
Find more statistics at StatistaStatistic: Flexible office space in Chicago from 2012 to 2018 (in million square feet) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

The Future of Coworking Sustainability

The coworking industry is still early in its integration of environmental practices. More innovation and adoption of sustainable technology can be expected in the coming years.

Existing buildings of all kinds can be adapted into eco-friendly coworking spaces, reducing the energy and materials needed for new construction. Sustainable features such as solar panels, green roofs, passive heating and cooling, smart lighting, and renewable building materials will become more common.

Coworking communities are also poised to play an even greater role in sustainability initiatives as their member networks are mobilized for outreach and participation. They can coordinate collective action days, urban agriculture projects, advocacy campaigns, and more.

Looking ahead, many brands and companies will likely start implementing more rigorous tracking and offsetting of their waste, carbon emissions, energy use, and water consumption. Coworking spaces seem to be leading the charge in pioneering more sustainable models for gathering professionals to work and build relationships.

Final Thoughts

These shared workspaces are designing their facilities and operations to be greener from the 

ground up. They demonstrate how a community of workers can come together and make conscious, eco-friendly choices. Their example shows the power of collective action for change.

While serving as hubs of innovation and collaboration, many coworking spaces also foster a sense of belonging among their members. People describe finding real purpose and meaning through the relationships formed there.

This way, coworking spaces create engaged communities of professionals seeking both enhanced productivity and deeper human connections. More than just flexible amenities, these spaces allow diverse people to work in the same place while promoting sustainability causes they care about.

The meteoric rise of coworking hints at a workplace future that is more inspired, connected, and environmentally sustainable. These shared hubs demonstrate the power of community to spark change.

Leave a Comment