Did you know co-working is actually a very recent innovation? In 2005, a computer programmer named Brad Neuberg coined the term “co-working” and founded the world’s very first co-working space called the Hat Factory. It all started – where else – than in the innovation and inspiration hub that is the city of San Francisco.
As a young programmer, Neuberg was faced with a modern work life dilemma familiar to many: how to work as a freelancer but still have some workday structure and collaborative social interaction? As usual, the genius was in the simplest of ideas. Neuberg decided to rent a space and bring some isolated freelancers under the same roof to work together, i.e. to “co-work”. This provided them with an alternative to cafés and home offices that had a negative effect on their productivity.
Neuberg’s simple epiphany turned out to touch a common problem. In the blink of an eye, co-working spaces were opening doors all around the world. The Hat Factory closed down after a year, but Neuberg went on to find another San Francisco co-space called Citizen Space. It is still in operation today.
As Neuberg’s idea spread, it was quickly cultivated and developed further. Whereas the Hat Factory was a rather small and informal community, new co-spaces around the world evolved into more structured and profitable organizations. According to Deskmag, in August 2012, there were 1779 co-working spaces across the globe, with more than sixty co-spaces in New York City alone. Europe and the U.S. have the highest density of spaces, with increases happening recently around Asia. The industry’s annual growth rate has been near 100% for the past 5 years.
Today, co-working spaces serve to a growing need for freelancers and start-ups to find a productive environment to thrive in. By bringing together people who used to be isolated in cafés on their laptops, co-working has sparked a lasting change in our workplace culture, improving the way we work and innovate.