The History of Coworking

The workspace is continually changing. Companies around the world are always looking to improve the spaces we work in and how we interact with those spaces. Whether those improvements come through tech and big data or through health and wellbeing, the office is always developing in order to meet the demands of an ever-changing modern workforce.

In recent years, one of the biggest innovations in the office landscape has been coworking. Originally an idea developed for freelancers to find the structure and community unavailable to them from their home offices, coworking has developed into a major part of the commercial property sector. In fact, companies of all sizes are buying into the flexibility and affordability of coworking spaces, taking up more and more commercial floor space in major cities across the world. 

As industry experts in prime office space, Colonial understands what it means to create innovative working environments and offices that meet modern demands. Through its participation in the company Utopicus, Colonial is positioned with 4 spaces in Barcelona and 6 in Madrid, in which The Window Building stands out thanks to its location at the CBD of the Capital.  

As a result, we wanted to take a deeper look into the full story of coworking. Luckily, FreeOfficeFinder delved into the history of coworking recently, tracing its story from small beginnings to the workplace phenomenon we know today.

1995 – In the autumn of 1995, seventeen computer engineers create one of the first ever ‘hackerspaces’, C-Base, in Berlin, Germany. Hackerspaces are obvious precursors to coworking spaces and they were intended as a not-for-profit space, which brings together computer enthusiasts, offering them facilities, as well as an opportunity to collaborate, share knowledge and equipment.

1999 – The phrase ‘coworking’ is coined by game designer Bernard DeKoven. However, the term refers to something different than today's concept. DeKoven uses ‘coworking’ to refer to the way we work, not the space that we work in. He hopes to evolve ways of working that involve collaboration, a breakdown of hierarchy and seeing co-workers as equals.

1999 – 42 West 24, another precursor to the coworking spaces we know today, opens in New York City. The space is started by a software company and provides the impressive work environment and short-term flexible desk space we know today. However, the space places no emphasis on the community aspect of coworking, not focusing on networking or events.

2002 – Two Austrian entrepreneurs set up an ‘entrepreneurial center’, Schraubenfabrik, in an old factory in Vienna. The space is aimed at entrepreneurs, giving them a place to avoid having to work from home, where they can collaborate and work with like-minded people, including architects, PR consultants, startups and freelancers. This space is clearly a precursor to what we know today. 

2005 – On August 9th, Brad Neuberg sets up the first ever coworking space in San Francisco. The San Francisco Coworking Space is intended to maintain the freedom of working independently whilst providing the structure and community of working with others. Although he struggles during the first month, finally an athlete and startup developer named Ray Baxter arrives, becoming the space first member and in turn the world’s first official coworker. 

2006 – The San Francisco Coworking Space closes and is replaced by the Hat Factory. This is of real significance, as Neuberg, working with around ten others, including Chris Messina and Tara Hunt, creates the first full-time workspace referred to as a ‘coworking space’.

2006 – Chris Messina, the inventor of the Twitter hashtag, sets up an open source online resource called The Coworking Wiki. This helps coworkers around the world connect and find spaces in new cities, whilst also helping coworking spaces get their name out. 

2006 – From 2006, the number of coworking spaces and members approximately doubles each year for the next seven years. This exponential growth will soon become known as the coworking revolution. 

2007 – A number of European countries see their first coworking spaces emerging. La Boate, in Marseilles, is France’s first, as well as Citizen Space in Switzerland. Gracia Workcenter in Barcelona becomes Spain’s first coworking spot.

2008 – Coworking visas are introduced, meaning that members of specific coworking spaces are given free access to other spaces also included in the agreement. Workers who travel can now use coworking offices all around the world without having to spend extra money developing the global coworking community. 

2009 – “I’m Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete” is released. This is the first book on coworking and charts the course of the people and the places involved in the coworking revolution, as well as how coworking is changing the way we view the traditional office. 

2010 – The first #CoworkingDay is celebrated on August 9th. International Coworking Day is now celebrated that same day each year at coworking spaces around the globe. 

2011 –Felena Hanson sets up Hera Hub, a coworking space and business accelerator to focus on and specifically help support female freelancers and businesses, so that women can innovate, collaborate and develop ideas.

2013 – Coworking Ontario launches the first health insurance plan for coworking spaces. For the first time, freelancers and similar workers without the backing of a company are given securities by their workplace provider.

2016 –HSBC moves 300 of its staff into coworking space. This is one of many examples of large corporations choosing the new workspaces over leased offices including KPMG, Microsoft and IBM. This trend of large corporations choosing coworking spaces is forecast to continue growing. 

2018 – According to a study carried out by Cushman & Wakefield about Coworking trends in Spain, Coworking operators have tripled the hiring of offices this year in Barcelona and Madrid with nearly 90,000m2 in comparison with the 30,000m2 rented last year. 


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