Coworking spaces – The return to the office we’ve escaped from

Coworking spaces – The return to the office we’ve escaped from

The concept of a shared office space for location independent professionals

Tijana Momirov


Does it make any sense whatsoever?

For some of us, it was a self-initiated radical change in the way we work & live. However, if we talk about social trends, the change has been gradual. It all started with occasional work-from-home day when justified, and it was a long way until job posts started clearly stating that a position was fully remote. For many, it still is a dream to liberate themselves from the obligation to show up at the employer’s premisses daily, and instead stay cosy at home, work in their pijama, cuddle the cat, snack all they want, or alternatively hit the road and keep travelling around the world.

How come we’ve decided to go back to the office? And on top of that, pay for it this time around.

So, does it?


Coworking spaces – What did we come back for?

My first encounter with the coworking space concept was some years ago in Ubud, Bali. At that time, I was already nomading around for many years and I’ve worked from pretty much every workable non-office space. On my way from the Philippines to Sri Lanka, I’ve spent a few days in Singapore and was lucky to stay at a wonderful couchsurfer’s place. When the host heard what I do for (nomadic) living, he told me that he was recently in Bali and saw many more of my kind over there 🙂 As a traveler would, I changed my travel plans. I flew to Bali to spend a month, stayed for three, and never made it to Sri Lanka.

The desk and the internet I did have at my airbnb, so what made me pay extra to work in a specific location – while being location independent? Here are a few things to mention::

– Separating work from leisure
– Getting out of the house and running errands on the way
– Incorporating routines (I was going to a swimming pool for a morning swim on my way)
– Socializing (coffee / lunch breaks and after-works)
– Validating business ideas
– Accountability (people would ask you how it’s going, whether you’ve managed to finish what you’ve mentioned etc.)
– Learning from coworkers and staying up-to-date with business and technology trends
– Learning opportunities facilitated by the coworking space as talks, workshops, skill sharings, mastermind groups and networking events for specific business fields
– Making friends to spend weekends with or continue to the next destination

Do different coworking spaces scratch different itches?

After a great coworking experience in SE Asia, I came back to Europe for the summer and decided to hit a few coworking spaces in various cities. It came a bit as a surprise to me to find out that these shared offices in fact look like offices (what happened to the bamboo hut across from the monkey forest?!), most of the members have been around for long time, in fact live in the city, and are not so fast on inviting you to a pool party after work. Plain shocking, I know!!! 🙂

While in the excotic expats bubbles the coworking spaces are a way to introduce some dynamics and hang out with the other nomads, in the cities people value a peaceful place to focus on work, that probably many of them don’t have at the family home. That’s when I came to realize that the city coworking spaces successfully cater to some different needs. They aim at:

– Providing peaceful and productive environment (after the first shock, I had to admit that not spending half an hour chatting each time I get up to take a glass of water actually does increase the productivity)
– Building long-term communities
– Attracting startup teams to use the space (I run startup consultancy and that’s more of my target audience)
– Connections with companies, institutions, organizations (like accelerators etc.)

What’s next in coworking?

After the wave of office escapees running to the coworking spaces, what happens next?

As the remote work concept keeps gaining popularity and we are not getting a surprise look when we spend hours with our laptops in public places, like we used to some 9-10 years ago, people started feeling more comfortable working in coffee-shops, restaurants and such. For the price of a day in a coworking space, you get a nice meal, and often the networking aspect as well, as it’s not rare to run into other laptop peeps in this environment.

What’s more, the managers of these places have started recognizing the trend and equipping their establishments with prime WiFi, plugs for each table and similar.

Not to miss on the opportunity, the shopping malls, libraries, hotels, airports etc. are starting to provide the laptop friendly spaces, and for a good reason. Whoever is making money while sitting at their space for free, will happily spend some in their bar, shop or whatever. A win-win maybe?

What should the co-working spaces focus on to justify the fees and stay in the business?

  • Video call friendly booths (I for one have tons of those and rarely can work from a coffee shop – unless I dedicate my day to writing a blog post like now :)). Needed:
    – Silent surroundings (if you do it really nicely, you might attract podcast hosts and online courses creators as well)
    – No complaints about using voice (can’t do in a library)
    – Decent background and light for the video (nobody wants to appear as a dark silhouette and look like a scene from a crime documentary)
  • Events, like:
    – pitch competitions
    – demo nights
    – startup weekends
    – talks
    – mentoring sessions
    – masterminds
    – networkings
    – community lunches

So, we did return to the office after all. But this time as customers with the list of requests 🙂

This October in Serbia, Coworking & Coliving Conference SEE will provide great insights on these global trends, as well as where the south-east Europe is heading related to coworking initiatives.


Tijana Momirov is a software engineer, product manager and founder of StartupSetup where she helps founders start their startups, all in a remote, agile and super lean way leveraging the gig economy. She’s been a full time nomad since 2010 and loves blogging and giving talks about nomadic lifestyle, managing remote teams, future of work, the gig economy, productized services and more.

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