Hot or Not? Coworking Abroad

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If coworking were a runway model it would be the fashion world’s “it girl” – it is that hot right now.  When something grows over 80% in just 12 months, it’s hard not to get excited. However, unlike fashion trends which ebb and flow like the tides, it seems as if coworking has staying power.  As managers of a coworking space in downtown Boston and as co-founders of the national League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces, Workbar has a fantastic insider’s perspective on just how popular this movement is in the US.  But sometimes we wonder if coworking is as popular abroad; and if it is what those communities look like?  Luckily for us, one of our former teammates has been coworking all over Europe for the past few months and has been filling us in on what’s happening across the globe with the way people are changing the way they work. Infographic Designer and Digital Media Marketing Consultant, Evona Niewiadomska, has always had the travel itch, but was unable to study abroad during her college years.  After spending more than three years on our Workbar team watching entrepreneurs and startups flourish, she began to realize that coworking is the perfect vehicle for travel.  So she and her boyfriend Mike Rheaume (co-founder of startup SnapKnot) packed up, bought plane tickets and decided to blog their way across Europe, under the name of EnTRIPreneurs. She used her diverse network of friends, peers and colleagues from Workbar as support, gaining many new work connections just from word of mouth.  She and Mike are now several months into their trip and absolutely loving it. We sat down with her this week via Skype and got her take on what the coworking movement looks like abroad.

coworking abroad

Popularity Abroad:

The remote work force around the globe has tripled its numbers in the last 3 years. Reports, like this article (http://blog.deskwanted.com/2013/02/press-release-new-study-reveals-coworking-boom-worldwide/) by Desk Wanted, show that there has been over an 80% increase in demand for coworking spaces. How do these statistics measure up to what Evona has seen? It seems it depends on the area. Some places, like Starter Inkubator   located in Gdansk, Poland, have been thriving for a few years with high numbers, where as We Coworking located in Alicante, Spain was just starting out and Evona and Mike were their first and only members. Coworking works well with the European lifestyle of putting life before work. Most people work around 5 hours a day, making lots of time for themselves and their families. Coworking provides the flexibility needed for this type of lifestyle.

Cost:

The costs for coworking spaces are roughly the same as the US, accounting for exchange rates. All of them are membership based. Some memberships are by the hour, others by the number of days. European coworking spaces are very flexible and willing to work with the various schedules and budgets of their members. Some say they have hours from 7am-5pm, yet Evona and Mike ended up working outside of these hours several times without issue and without having to pay extra.

Perks:

American coworking spaces usually come with various amenities such as coffee, snacks and discounts.  European spaces are less focused on providing food and beverages, mainly because part of the culture is to take leisurely coffee breaks out at cafes, as opposed to take-out “drink while you work” coffee.  They prefer to instead supply their members with a variety of activities and events. We Coworking has a tennis court, pool and beach to stay active. Similar to incubators in America, Starter Incubator has a foosball table and offers free access to major networking events hosted in the space.

coworking abroad

Demographics:

Unlike coworking in the US, which is male dominated, the male to female ratio is very balanced. It seems there are roughly equal numbers of males and females in the entrepreneurial scene, which is exciting news. As Evona puts it “The ladies are rockin it!” The age group is slightly older there, ranging from 30s-40s. Evona was pretty sure she was the youngest member in both spaces.

Spaces:

Both spaces are very different. We Coworking is set up in a space within a large apartment complex, meaning the kitchen and bathroom areas are comfortable and homelike.  The workers also have access to the complex’s fitness amenities, just down a short path from the coworking space.  Starter Incubator, on the other hand, is set up like a real office space, with cubicles and conference rooms.  Each brightly colored cube comes with its own computer, monitor and office supplies. The conference room is decorated in an “Alice in Wonderland” theme, with a grassy green rug, tables painted like playing cards and hanging chairs mounted from the checkerboard walls.

coworking abroad

Problems with Coworking Abroad:

Evona and Mike’s biggest issue so far has been trying to find reliable internet sources.  Connections are slow, and hacking routers are a big problem abroad.  As a result, privacy and security issues are hard to avoid and you may find that European definitions of “fast” internet is different from what you might be used to.  Evona suggests investing in remote internet technologies that can allow you to have the internet wherever and whenever you need it.  Finally, time differences may present an issue if you are still doing business with the United States. Mike’s business partner is located in California, and with over an 8 hour time difference, it’s difficult for them to stay connected.  Some nights, Mike will work well after midnight to allow for calls to the US.

coworking abroad

It’s exciting to learn that coworking, a community-spirited need with humble beginnings in San Francisco, has turned into a global movement. The reports are showing that there are over 1,100 coworking spaces in Europe alone.  We at Workbar are sure that this number will only continue to grow.  Fast Company states that over 40% of the American workforce will work remotely by 2020.  Now that you know these trends, aren’t you excited and inspired to become a greater part of the growing coworking movement? We know we are.

 
 
About the Author:  Abigail Taylor is the Digital Media and Events Manager for Workbar. Contact her here to set up your event.
 

Evona Niewiadomska is an Infographic Designer.  

Mike Rheaume is a co-founder of startup SnapKnot.