Co-working spaces: can they help employees and freelancers in the covid19 world?

At Edgeryders we just hosted an online event with the co-working sector across the world. We can learn a lot from what is happening with work-from-home today, and how co-working could open possibilities when the lockdowns are over. Many community members have written about the difficulties of working from home and uncertainty (@DanicaLacarac), the lack of support for our young generation (@Mila), for mothers and young families (@Pracownica, @matka), and climate action needed (@Arkadiusz). How you see your future at work nowadays?

The future is here - the transition towards remote work

We now see that nobody has a job for life anymore: you don’t have one job or a fulltime job your entire career. For the first time in history, we have 5 generations working at the same time, said @joduinn John O’Duinn in his introduction during our event. But the ways in which we work are changing: about 4 in 10 employees in the EU were working remotely this spring (source). There is a new normal and the work culture is changing, even before the AI, the globalized digital economy and other futures of work take over. Covid is said to have accelerated the transformations which were already coming.

Because of covid19, many companies will not be going back to the offices - and it’s not just digital companies and giants like Twitter, but also service providers are shifting to working digitally. This Portuguese veterinary care online is a good example.

Website at

From my own little research, there are many benefits coming from not using office buildings as we know them - crowded and concentrated around cities:

  • Economical benefits: In the US it was calculated that a typical employer can save about 11000$ per year for every person who works remotely half of the time (source).

  • Environmental benefits: what happens when we don’t have to drive a car to work? Reducing our commuter travel could drastically reduce our carbon footprint. An example from California: cars going to work make for 28% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (source). Imagine how our cities could begin to serve their people again and not just be office and pollution hubs.

  • Social benefits: Even if we are still to find out the exact ways in which remote working affects our interactions, social and family lives, remote working has also been raised as a way to create more inclusive workplaces. Some research suggests that for example women with young children value even more the flexibility brought by remote working.

Work life balance is a difficult thing in any situation: a Eurofound EU survey results reveal that 18% of all workers report working in their free time at least every other day; however, over 1 in 4 workers (27%) who work from home as a result of the pandemic state that they work in their free time to meet the demands of work (at least every other day).

Image source: Eurofound report (April 2020)

What about co-working spaces? Are they well placed to meet this need for healthy workspace, sociality and support?

Here are some key insights from the Edgeryders event with dozens of co-founders and managers of such spaces:

While in the early days co-working spaces were mostly the kind of business in real estate, this has changed: It’s not a real estate business anymore, because with social distancing and all, all of the economics of coworking have changed.

You’ll probably have to bring in less the number of people in the space… At least for some amount considering moving by a number of people. I think now it’s time to focus on building the human connection rather than building the space. - @mayursontakke writes about this here.
Nacho Rodriguez, founder of Coworking and Co-living Canary Islands, makes a similar point:

I think that more and more communities are going to have to suffer from loneliness, and they are going to need that community aspect.

Co-working is not only about startups, unicorns, and the digital economy. Nowadays some coworking spaces are focusing on the hyperlocal to meet real community needs

It seems that the days when co-working spaces were targeting only digital workers or nomadic workers are gone, and there is a shift to meeting more local, or ‘hyperlocal’ community needs:

  • More local membership. Some coworking spaces that were trendy for digital nomads are starting to see more local people coming in, due to the travel restrictions:

Before the pandemic, 80% of our members were foreigners. Now 80% are Indians. This change has happened in less than 4 months. -says @mayursontakke

  • More intimate and more social than normal offices: we are talking about 15-20 seats or more, but likely not hundreds. Within this range, you can actually focus on building a community, make knowledge more accessible for people who want to learn from others, who are also not their bosses.

  • Rural offices: Another benefit of having a co-working space around is that through 5G, wireless connectivity, it would allow people to work from areas that are more remote. Can we bridge the rural-urban gap by setting up offices in smaller towns or rural areas, connecting them to the Internet and teaching more people how to use it? In India, one of our community members is running skill sharing programs to bridge this divide and create more digital and work equality. In Ireland, the National Association of Community Enterprise Centers (NACEC) are developing quality standards for digitization and climate change and are using co-working as a regional development tool!

The government also needs to focus on building the ecosystem. Not just spaces, but then encouraging internet service providers to invest and have better networks at such places, or creating some basic facilities (source).

  • ‘Coworking has the potential to be a great equaliser’. It makes effective remote work possible, by offering access, opportunities, and community. Some spaces are very much pursuing inclusivity: My space managed using social enterprise principles. During this pandemic our beneficiaries (50 children workers) and children of farmers visits our space even more often to access internet because they have to, schools are close and things go online, so now they see the needs of technology, says Asih Murniasih. We also see opportunities for support groups: one co-working entrepreneur has started hosting Virtual Coworking Days to facilitate peer support among women workers:

Are co-working spaces going to be better prepared to deal with social distancing/ regulations than the traditional office?

Co-working managers told us they are of course dropping the shared desk, and have hygiene routines in place. But there are also challenges with regulations:

Just look back, and think, how many changes and new regulations have we had over the last three months. If we had implemented, or done things for each of them, we’d be first, crazy, and second, I’d spend a lot of money. For a lot of this, it’s not only for working spaces, it made more sense just to close, and wait until there is some sort of near-reality that they can understand, and know what the new rules are. -@nachorodriguez

What is easier to do than larger businesses or organisations is to shift quickly to technological solutions: they are granting and revoking access to the space to anyone in the community 24/7, through an app. This makes it possible for co-working spaces to practically self-manage.

What do you think about this? Tell us about your situation to connect with others who can support or give you advice:

  • Where are you working from, nowadays, and how is it going for you?
  • Is your government supporting work-from-home programs?
  • Does your employer have a permanent remote work policy or do you think this is just temporary, during covid19?

The topic of co-working and the tools used in remote work is very relevant for freelancing.
Since the freelancer week is coming up (deadline for proposal 30th of September) and we wanted to organise some follow up events for the co-working summit either way this would be a great combination.

my proposal would be a 1h triad conversation on the topic of freelancing, coworking and technological tools that is open to a live audience.

I would like to invite:

  1. A technology provider such as @jamieorr
  2. A freelancer
  3. A coworking space provider or an organisation that works a lot with freelancers

WIP title:
“What freelancers really need - How does technology help freelancers to thrive and where do we desperately need to improve?” (please suggest alternatives)

(also discussed this here)

Do you know people I could reach out to add to the conversation triad?


Ping @roremote

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hey Nadia, already in discussion directly with @MariaEuler on this. Also, to note @Berniejmitchell and @JvdLinden are doing some events on this too (via European Coworking Assembly) so worth joining forces??

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Maybe Jenny Bjorklof - Community Manager
Freelancers in Belgium, I attended last year’s edition of Freelancers in Belgium Day, she organised. I can send you her contact… This year they will organise several events,


would be great if you could connect us :).

We have our first confirmed speaker for the session:


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That’s really great Maria, I’m looking forward and hoping to be able to attend,
Will also reach out to other community members who I am sure will be interested in this topic!

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