Does your city have a coworking space yet?

If you live in a major metropolitan area, the answer is probably yes--in fact, you might have several. In 2018, 2,188 brand-new coworking spaces opened around the world, 1,000 of which were in the United States (which, if you're doing the math is an average of 20 per state). By 2022, there will be an estimated 25,968 coworking spaces worldwide.

In case you aren't familiar, coworking spaces are shared workspaces that offer a combination of subscriptions, day passes, and open houses to allow professionals to use their resources. These resources typically include all the features of a conventional office, like desks, collaborative areas, meeting rooms, and even amenities like kitchens or break rooms.

So why is it that coworking spaces are becoming so popular? To say demand is increasing is an understatement; what it really comes down to is how versatile coworking spaces can be, and just how much value they provide to their communities.

The Gig Economy

The obvious observation is that coworking spaces started to flourish around the time that the gig economy started to develop. New technologies have made it easier for people to start their own businesses, or rely on existing apps to connect their services to the clients who need them most. They've also made it more possible to work remotely, even in positions that traditionally wouldn't tolerate such an arrangement; in fact, more than 3.9 million Americans now work from home at least half the time.

That's a lot of people who are suddenly working outside of a conventional office environment. Even with a nice home office setup, it's natural to miss the presence of coworkers, the luxury of separate meeting rooms, and the proximity of your work environment to an urban center. Trying to lease an office on your own simply doesn't make financial sense, so coworking spaces are the perfect middle ground for millions of professionals. It's a place to focus on your work, meet with clients, and possibly find the partners you need to make your business work efficiently.

Startup and Community Support

For many coworking spaces, it's not just about providing an office environment to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote working professionals who want or need a conventional workspace. It's also about supporting an entrepreneurial environment, and nurturing the community.

Take, for example, Venture X, a coworking space with several locations across the country. Most notably, its West Palm Beach location is utilizing its space for the upcoming Palm Beach Startup Week, a free five day-long event bringing together entrepreneurs, small business owners, innovators, and other professionals for workshops, speakers, and networking opportunities.

"When entrepreneurs succeed, the community thrives. With more resources and more career opportunities, community members flourish. That's why we've offered our space as the central hub for Palm Beach Startup Week. It's a chance to show off our space, sure, but it's also our chance to give back to the community, and drive more economic growth," said Josh Shronce, Community Manager of Venture X West Palm Beach.

This is just one example of a coworking space helping its city thrive. Coworking spaces quickly turn into community hubs where entrepreneurs can provide mutual support, and connect with mentors, advisors, and investors who can help turn their dreams into reality. Better, more diverse coworking spaces lead to more small businesses, better-established freelancers, and ultimately, better economic conditions for everyone in the city--including the development of even more coworking spaces, resulting in a snowball effect.

Real Estate Considerations

Coworking spaces may also provide healthy growth and improvements to the commercial real estate market. Turning a building into a coworking space is relatively easy, and gives savvy real estate investors the chance to capitalize on properties that might otherwise go unused, such as unoccupied office buildings or even old factories. It also grants more flexibility for urban environments and real estate investors alike; rather than being forced to make a big purchase with one niche focus, you can buy a property with a versatile range of offerings for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other potential tenants. There's also evidence to suggest that flexible workspaces result in higher property value growth, which can increase the appeal of a major city and encourage more residency.

Coworking Spaces: Versatile, Valuable Assets

Coworking spaces get a lot of attention for being valuable to side hustlers and remote workers, but they're more important and more flexible than that. These buildings have the power to improve a city in multiple ways, from stimulating further economic and population growth to nurturing a more supportive community of professionals. Be sure to visit your local coworking space if you haven't already; you might be surprised at what you find there.

Published on: Jun 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.