Conferences and Events

#cowork2021: The Future of Work Has Arrived in Germany

Sam Bender
Jun 22, 2021
#cowork2021: The Future of Work Has Arrived in Germany

Towards the end of last April, we sponsored and attended the German Coworking Federation’s (GCF) conference #cowork2021. We’ve been a longtime supporter of the work that the GCF has done and this year, they followed up on last year’s successful event by focusing on quality keynote speakers, networking, and topics designed to spur a conversation about what it means for coworking now that the future of work has arrived in Germany.

Martin Permantier: Mindset Matters

The opening keynote was led by Martin Permantier, whose work focuses on how businesses find themselves during times of change, and who wrote the book Haltung entscheidet (Mindset Matters).

The way that he sees new work evolving has as much to do with our changing mindsets as with our changing technology. We are each in a continuous process of development shaped by our circumstances, which relate to both how we perceive the world and how we interact with it. He divides people into six different mindsets:

  1. Self-orientated-impulsive seeks to outdo others.
  2. Group-centric-conformist does what they are asked to do.
  3. Rationalistic-funtional follows processes, reaches goals.
  4. Self-determining-confident thinks and creates together.
  5. Relativistic-individualistic believes in working together through individual strength.
  6. Systemic-autonomous seeks creative exchange and wants to know how different areas/industries work.

How has the pandemic changed the equation?

The shock of the pandemic changed our work and home rituals and forced us into greater reliance on self-determination. Which leads to the question for employers: How do we deal with the self-determination of our employees?

  • Leadership of the many
  • Attitude
  • Values
  • Informal structures
  • Formal structures
  • Standards, tools, and processes
"Everything is evolutionary, no concepts standing against each other. You develop a new form of working within the capitalist system."

Heike Bauer: Evolution of the Post-Pandemic Work Environment

Heike Bauer is the co-author and co-initiator of the 2019 study published by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland: "Arbeitswelt 4.0: Als KMU die Arbeitswelt der Zukunft erfolgreich gestalten." (Working world 4.0: Successfully Shaping the Future of Work) She supports companies in empowering employees on their way to a new, digital working world with the instrument of a contemporary "new work" approach.

"One thing we can say with certainty is that work is getting a new framing."

Heike used to work for a corporate-style company and after getting acquainted with their company practices, and she realized: "work can be different." It’s more about the structure of the work environment than the work itself. She believes that the working world of the future will change so much that it will go beyond the change of the industrial revolution.

The origin of the work was in the home office, thinking back to a mother with children at home, working. The first modern office plan that we’re familiar with dates back to 1903-1906.

Today, we are seeing the fourth Industrial Revolution, which could also be seen as the first Digital Revolution. As the knowledge economy grows, our work structure is shifting completely.

What trends does she foresee?

  • Demographic development: From 2010 to 2020, the proportion of people over 50 years of age will increase by a quarter.
  • The decreasing half-life of knowledge: Knowledge is growing, but the half-life of that knowledge is decreasing—especially professional qualifications and technological knowledge need constant updating.
  • Technological development: The real and digital worlds are merging into the Internet of Things, as more and more routine activities are being digitized.
  • Farewell to the normal biography: In the past, life paths were clearly defined: school - training - career, the individuality of life plans was taken for granted. This will no longer exist.

What does this mean for the working world?

  • Purpose
  • Diversity
  • Permanent Beta through open innovation
  • Less competition
  • Digital literacy
  • Work life blending

What does this mean for the future of the labor market?

  • We will see greater personal development and education at all levels!
  • Freelancers or "clickworkers" will emerge who are available to companies only for certain periods of time.
  • Companies will need to develop employees and let them grow.
  • More and more virtual companies will be created all over the world.
  • The entire real estate world will be reshaped.
  • Sales processes will be rethought.
"People shape cultures
Cultures shape people"

Collaborative learning communities are becoming the problem solvers in a world where agility, creativity, and innovation are needed to meet most future challenges.

Workshop Session with all attendants

A highlight of the conference was a workshop called Coworking in the Countryside and in the City. Across Germany (and the world!) we’re seeing an explosion in the number of suburban and rural coworking. But this presents its own challenges around accessibility, affordability, and what the future of coworking will look like in different places.

Questions from the group

  • Where does funding or financial support come from?
  • There are financing channels, e.g. coworking as a cultural initiative, many municipalities have cultural development plans through which one can build a wider financing circle.
  • Are there any post-Corona studies on" rural coworking" or"coworking in the city" yet?
  • There are different scenarios, but no complete studies yet.


  • Flexible work requires flexible utilization concepts with plenty of room for possibilities, test operations, and adaptations in the sense of prototyping.
  • Make funding frameworks more visible and adapt them to needs, and create support for funding offers.
  • You always need people who are passionate about it, otherwise you are completely replaceable. People & community cannot be copied. It's vital to create a "core team."
  • Look for ways to offer programming courses for girls and women, for example, together with people who work there.


  • We’re seeing a massive rise in coworking for service providers. One of the main goals for these targeted spaces is over the administration so that the specialists can concentrate on their actual work
  • Seminars, workshops, etc. will bring new people into coworking.
  • Due to Covid-19, libraries are closed and in the countryside, there are no alternatives. This is a massive opportunity to bring students into coworking.

The Future of Work

After spending three days among some of the most passionate advocates for coworking and people driving the massive shift toward new work, we can say with certainty that the workplace as we know it will continue to transform and that coworking spaces are leading the way in workplace innovation. We’re eagerly awaiting next year’s event—hopefully we will get to see everyone in person!

Opening a coworking space?
Cobot’s essential management tools mean you’ll be ready for growth from day one

Sam Bender

Senior Communications Specialist at Cobot and all-around connoisseur of useless trivia, reading on airplanes, sleeping in late - and working from interesting places!