Coworking in the city

Author Janet Merkel

This 2015 academic article from Janet Merkel, documents the rise in coworking spaces in cities across the world, since the 2007/2008 financial crisis. Based on interviews with coworking hosts in Berlin, London, and New York, it focuses on how they facilitate trust, collaboration, and a sense of community between the users of such spaces. The resource can, therefore, provide insight into the growing multifunctionality of places.

Date added 5 October 2021
Last updated 5 October 2021

*This resource is about coworking spaces. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to liveability, non-retail offer, and adaptability priorities for High Street vitality and viability. This resource is more than 5 years old but has been included as it contains information that is still relevant and useful*

This article documents the rise in collaborative coworking spaces in cities across the world, since the 2007/2008 financial crisis. The author defines coworking as "the practice of working alongside one another in flexible, shared work settings where desks can be rented on a daily, weekly or monthly basis” (p.122). Whilst the more recent Covid-19 pandemic has shifted working patterns, with many people now working from home, the resource can still provide insights into how our cities, towns, and high streets might become more multifunctional, repurpose vacant units, and help to encourage social interactions, once it is safe again to do so. As the article suggests, coworking space can inspire "community, collaboration, openness, diversity, and sustainability” (p. 124).

The article focuses, in particular, on how coworking space hosts manage these places and encourage the collaboration and creativity of those using them. Based on interviews with coworking hosts in Berlin, London, and New York, two key types of coworking host emerged:

  1. The service provider- focus on creating an effective work environment and related services.
  2. The visionary- focus on enabling communication, community, and collaboration amongst co-workers.

Through presenting example interview quotes, the article also shows how it is not enough to just provide a space for the community to work in. Instead, active strategies are needed in order to animate these spaces, and to facilitate trust, communication, and social engagement between those using them; for instance, through bulletin boards, blogs, social events, collaborative projects, regular meetings, educational programmes and peer-to-peer learning groups. Furthermore, the physical coworking space is identified as an important consideration when facilitating social interactions, such as open layouts, table shape/height, meeting rooms, sofa corners, whiteboards, and creation of a homely atmosphere.