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Unfolding coworking

, March 22, 2019, 0 Comments

Coworking in the modern context redefines the concept of ‘working together’. As the economy moves towards a knowledge economy, the emergence of the highly individualized labor market in which urban professionals work as casuals, project based and freelance workforce is noticeable.

Three waves of work virtualization, and thus three models of work organization, have developed in the past two decades, reflecting changes in employee priorities, evolutions in employer demands and the emergence of new information and collaborative technologies (Aurelie & Isaac, 2016)

  • The first wave appeared at the end of the 1980s and intensified during the 1990s, corresponding to the first democratization of personal computing at home (Toffler, 1980), combined with the development of email, which offered organizations new flexibility, manifested in the development of telework and telecommuting.
  • The second wave corresponded to the development of mobile technologies in organizations and teamwork at a global level, thus favoring spatial and temporal dispersal of work and enabling employees to work anywhere and anytime, as manifested in the growth of mobile, distributed work and work performed remotely (Leclercq, 2008; Mark and Su, 2010)
  • The third wave of virtualization is embodied in the current development of “coworking spaces” characterized by work that spreads beyond private and professional spaces (e.g. the office) (Johns and Gratton, 2013)

More than any other type of space, co-working spaces have developed rapidly in the past five years. Since originating in San Francisco in 2005, they have grown at rates as high as 250 % annually. The number of global co-working space in 2018 is estimated to be 17,725 and is expected to increase to increase to 30,000 by 2022. However, the global forecast suggest that the number of co-working members is expected to grow even faster from 1.74 million in 2017 to 5.1 million in 2022.  Co-working, today is a global phenomenon and most of the major cities have coworking spaces.   China is emerging as the largest coworking market and India is emerging as one of the world’s top five coworking markets by 2022. US and Europe has a relatively more mature coworking markets. (Emergent Research, 2018)

The increasing demand for coworking space can be linked to three behavioral aspects (a) <strong>collaboration</strong>: the need for a more collaborative work for multi-dimensional fields –(b) knowledge creation– the intend to foster interactive dynamics among individual and local communities of entrepreneurs, freelances and startups. Coworking spaces are increasingly being regarded as promising physical sites for knowledge creation given their focus on professional interactions between the actors that make use of these environments (Spinuzzi, 2012; Moriset, 2013; Capdevila, 2014).  However, the empirical evidence of innovation, resulting from assuming collaborative practices taking place among coworkers is limited. (c)<strong>Affordability</strong>- Coworking space offer an affordable proposition for the rental of office space (Moriset, 2014; Gandini, 2015).

Coworking has been defined by multiple scholars in different ways. Table 1 summarizes the important concepts of coworking brought out by various researchers.coworking

The concept of coworking as explained by various researchers brings forth two important dimension-degree of contact and degree of diversity. An illustration given below shows how a coworker can be high in both contact and diversity as compared to freelance worker, small scale entrepreneurs and organization members.

A freelancer working independently can acquire greater autonomy than people in organizations. However, if they set their office at home or in a rented space they have less physical contact and communication with others which is essentially required for knowledge creation. At the other end, if a freelancer works in a coworking space, the degree of diversity is very high or differences of attributes are higher than those who work in the same organization.

Small scale entrepreneurs, jointly execute a business. Therefore, the degree of contact is higher than of freelancers and also coworkers. However, the diversity is far lower than that of coworkers

Organisation members have a high degree of contact as compared to freelancers or coworkers. Coworkers despite sharing a common space need not co-operate with others, whereas organization members are bound together by certain organizational rules and regulations and therefore must cooperate.  However, the level of diversity between contacted people in an organization is not only lower than that of coworkers but also lower than that of small scale entrepreneurs.coworking

Degree of contact refers to the degree of “physical” contact and communication with other people. The degree of diversity refers to the extent of variety of attributes among other people that contact in the “workplace.” In terms of the degree of “physical” contact and communication with other people, coworkers have less than the organization members and small-scale entrepreneurs. However, in terms of diversity among others that contact in the “workplace,” they rank higher than organization members and also small-scale entrepreneurs and freelancers.

The need for diversity, innovation, etc. will demand for more coworking spaces in future. Therefore, there is a dire need of adapting to the rapid transition of the economy towards a knowledge economy.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of MarketExpress – India’s first Global Analysis & Sharing Platform or the organization(s) that the author represents in his personal capacity.


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