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Why coworking is a hit for telecommuters and entrepreneurs

Jen A. Miller | July 2, 2014
Telework and mobility are driving the popularity of coworking spaces, with close to 800 locations in the United States alone. Entrepreneurs, telecommuters and freelancers use the spaces the most, with local political consultants and 'creatives' occasionally joining them.

Cowerks Asbury Park NJ
Cowerks, a coworking space that opened on the Jersey Shore in 2010, attracts writers, designers, developers and attorneys to its shared space. Credit: Jen A. Miller

Despite Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting last year, working in places other than a traditional office headquarters is becoming more popular. Not only has this been a benefit for workers who want more flexibility in when and where they work, including at home, it has also been a boon for coworking spaces, which support both the self-employed and more traditionally employed.

"In terms of personal productivity, it's the ability to share and collaborate on a mobile device through applications that give you the ability you draw information from the cloud," says Vanessa Thompson, a research manager covering enterprise social networks and collaborative technologies at IDC, of why non-traditional work setups have been and are continuing to be popular.

From 2005 to 2012, telework grew nearly 80 percent, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Coworking spaces have grown with that work. In 2005, the U.S. had one coworking space. In 2013, that number jumped to 781, according to a workplace innovation report by the National Association of Industrial Office Professionals.

Coworking spaces have seen a more recent spike, too: Memberships in these kinds of office communities rose 117 percent from 2012 and 2013, according to NAIOP.

"This changes the old line that it's just another day at the office. America has always been the land of innovation, and we are seeing that in commercial real estate like never before," says Thomas Bisacquino, president and CEO of NAIOP, in a statement.

The report notes that the Internet, social media and Wi-Fi have "profoundly affected workplace communications as well as workplace flexibility" and that a younger workforce who grew up on this technology is changing the idea of what constitutes an office.

Thompson adds that access to mobile enterprise application has had a profound impact, too. "Being able to get work done where you would have previously had to go to a quasi-desktop system," she says, frees up both employers and employees to create work situations that benefit the worker and productivity.

Creatives, Techies and Politicos
Coworking spaces aren't cubical farms. Yes, there are a few traditional offices, but overall they're more likely to have large, centralized open spaces. That's the case for Cowerks, a coworking space that opened in Asbury Park, N.J. in 2010.

Bret Morgan, co-founder of Cowerks, and his business partner started the space initially because their company, Bands on a Budget, had too much room in its 2008 office space. "It was a natural fit where we had some extra space," he says. The demand for co-working space was so great that they moved their offices and expanded the coworking space as well.


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