The coworking observer | Part 2

Marc Navarro
Sep 19, 2023
The coworking observer | Part 2

Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

This is the continuation of the article that you can read here.

Coworking has been hijacked but no one has asked for a ransom.

“The concept has been hijacked”, says Fernando. As one of the first Cowork Lisboa coworkers said, coworking has been domesticated. The entry of new audiences (which today outnumber the “original” audience in many markets) has caused the concept to change, adapting to the “new community” that these spaces host.

We discussed how a community is affected by whether members choose to be in the space, or whether someone from national headquarters (or even from another country) or the team leader (something that if you are a regular to these articles you know I like to point out). These communities, focused on medium and large-size teams, have a different look and feel and also different objectives that make them more aligned with those of their audience and clients they serve. In a space for freelancers, remote workers, and others who work physically separate from their colleagues, coworking serves a different function. For veterans like Fernando, who saw coworking as an opportunity to work from a third space (not your office or home). Where you could work remotely without being alone, a space where you could discuss freely, and celebrate diversity and differences, these new spaces are often viewed with some reluctance. But these spaces must respond to the needs of companies that are obviously not flat structures and that have their own objectives and dynamics that in the end lead operators to “domesticate coworking”.

Fernando's position responds to an ideological and formal discussion. It responds to the eternal question of what is coworking and the consequent eternal debate on the use of the coworking label. In other words, to the mainstreamization and commoditization of this service, or even to talk about the service itself. This debate has led many coworking spaces to change their name to “creative hub”. Those on the other side of the spectrum, focused on large teams to define themselves as flexible workplaces, and those of us who have suffered as spectators to this now eternal struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Talking to people like Fernando makes you rethink the value of the work that coworking spaces dedicated to serving these communities of freelancers do. But not all coworking spaces are good, nor should we assume that a flexible workspace is bad: each one serves a very different audience and therefore has different functions and objectives. Does it bother me that a space that is not a coworking space is defined as coworking? Sometimes quite a lot, but it also bothers me that a coworking space is not economically viable and ends up affecting the welfare of its own promoters.

For all this, I think it is difficult to judge a space under your subjectivity, especially when you do it without knowing firsthand how it really works. However, I must admit that if you tell me that your space is the best for freelancers after you tell me that you focus on 30, 45, and 300 teams, I will judge you in silence.

You may be wondering what Fernando's next step in coworking is. “I don't plan” he comments, That sounds like Ana does, he just states that he doesn't know what he wants to do, but he knows he wants to do something combining education with coworking, two of his passions. If you start this topic with Fernando, the minutes will fly by as he tells you how he has found coworking to be the perfect environment for much more efficient learning to take place than in a university. He will tell you how in the years that he has combined both experiences he has detected that, on many occasions, the members of his spaces absorbed the knowledge that Fernando transmitted to them in a deeper and faster way. This project, while taking shape in his head, not only unites two of his passions but also relates to the beginnings of coworking in which training was closely related to coworking.

We will see what surprise Fernando gives us in the future: Will it be the project that unites his two passions? Will he be “seduced” by another partner to create the third coworking of his life? Or will he simply continue to observe the sector from a corner to intervene only when he feels he has to? We have no idea, because the plan is that there is no plan, but what we do know is that in Portugal coworking is not orphaned, because even if its father leaves, at least for the moment, its mother continues to take care of the ecosystem.

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!

Marc Navarro

Coworking and organization consultant. Content Director of the CoworkingSpain Conference. Created the coworking with social return concept.