Experts agree, coworking is booming. The idea of working out of a shared space of mixed professionals rather than a company-sponsored office (or, for freelancers, your local coffee shop) is still a rather new idea, but it's one that's clearly taking off.

Thanks to an uptick in the number of independent and remote workers and an increasing number of large companies embracing the idea, the number of spaces worldwide has shot up from a little over 1,000 to more than 11,000 in the previous five years.

But while that's good news for the movement as a whole, it causes problems both for those pondering joining such spaces and those running them. A new tool is aiming to solve both sets of issues.

A gateway drug for would-be coworkers

For owners of independent coworking spaces the industry's upswing has been a mixed blessing. More awareness means more potential customers, but the rise in interest in coworking has also attracted the attention of larger competitors like Regus and WeWork. Battling behemoths puts a predictable squeeze on the owners of smaller, independent spaces.

For the coworking newbie this flowering of choice has obvious benefits. But if you're only just starting to work this way, how do you choose between a welter of larger and smaller options? It's a good problem to have, but it is still a problem.

Enter Deskpass. Now operating in Chicago, L.A. and Denver (with Austin and other large cities on the way), the company offers those looking to get their feet wet in the world of coworking an attractive alternative to signing up (relatively) blind for a space that may or may not end up fitting with their lifestyle and preferences.

Billing itself as a sort of "Classpass for coworking," Deskpass allows members to visit any one of more than 80 independently owned spaces a set number of times a month depending on the plan they choose ($49 gets you four visits, $199 unlimited weekday access). And Deskpass isn't just pitched at tech-savvy Millennials and digital nomads, the company is finding that more and more larger companies are willing to shell out for employee memberships.

The idea is to act as a sort of gateway drug for coworking, allowing more people to sample this work style and figure out just what sort of space and membership they need. Hopefully, they'll end up hooked. (Unlike some other addictive habits, coworking has been shown to increase happiness.)

"Opposed to just finding a space through a directory, our users have an actual monthly membership," co-founder Sam Rosen explained in an email. "They can book a space for the day and just show up when they need the space. Instead of committing to one space you're committing to 80+ spaces."

Bringing new people into the coworking fold in this way is good for space owners too, obviously -- particularly for independent operators who can struggle to get noticed in an increasingly crowded market. "It's tough for the smaller independent spaces to compete through traditional marketing, and now they are playing against folks that are savvy marketers with lots of money," Rosen adds. "Deskpass has proved to be an excellent source of new members."

Have you considered trading in your cubicle or coffee shop for a coworking space?

Published on: Feb 22, 2017