Coworking: Not a Cafe, Not an Office


Sitting in a café but not ordering anything, hanging out in a social space without being really present… Meet the digital nomad, with his best friend named Laptop always by his side!

For people who need nothing more than a laptop and an Internet connection to get a job done, the advantages of working in a café are clear: you are not locked up in your own home, can enjoy a nice and social environment where you have no obligations and enjoy a good cup of coffee while earning your money.

Unfortunately, digital nomads are not always met with lots of enthusiasm by caféowners. The mobile workers claim space, are not very social and order too little. In other words; they are more of a burden than a blessing. This makes working in a café a little less comfortable. The feeling that the waitress is constantly throwing dirty looks at you because you haven’t ordered a coffee in the last 45 minutes, is not to be called an ideal working environment (unless you have a stomach that can handle huge amounts of caffeine, of course).

Luckily, there seems to be a solution to these discomforts of working in semi-public spaces: The coworking space. The coworking space is a collective workplace, where independent workers sit side by side with mobile employees in a work atmosphere. Since the increase of flexwork possibilities that occurred in the last couple of years, coworkingspaces appear to pop up in urban environments everywhere around the world.

What kind of needs does the coworking space satisfy for its users? In the first place, the need for working outdoors can be explained by a ‘need to get out of the house’. When working at home, people will do all sorts of stuff, except working. The coworking space makes it easier to effectively spend time on working. Coworkers compare the coworking place with working from home and emphasize the advantages of working at the coworking space. Social elements are mentioned as a main reason to work outside the domicile. For instance, loneliness is something that coworkers want to prevent by going to the coworking space. Working at home can be quite lonely; it is rather nice if you have somebody to talk to every now and then. Or, as a coworkerin Amsterdam puts it: “…at some point, I was so fed up with it. I was working at home and I thought: who have I seen in this whole week? Damn it, I want to get out of the house!“

The need to have colleagues, or coworkers, is not only sentimental: it can also have numerous other advantages. For instance, it can provide the coworkers with a useful network, by which they can be inspired and that makes them discover new combinations. Coworkers can be colleagues, potential clients and links in personal and professional networks at the same time. And I hear most coworking spaces offer good coffee, which you can enjoy without annoying any waitresses.

 Want to know more about coworking? Check the coworking wiki for information on coworking spaces in your city.

 *The conclusions presented in this blog are based on a small scale qualitative research on coworking in Amsterdam by the author.

Jolien Groot

About Jolien Groot

Jolien studied Urban Sociology and Urban Studies in Amsterdam, Berlin and New York. She is interested in events and innovations in urban space and did research on new geographies of work.

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Posted on by Jolien Groot in Labour & Urban Economics
Jolien Groot

About Jolien Groot

Jolien Groot is a lecturer in Social Geography and Urban Planning at the University of Amsterdam. Particularly interested in the social and creative entrepreneurship and the development of startup-ecosystems in cities around the world, she has done research on coworking spaces and the importance of social capital in Amsterdam and New York City.

One Response to Coworking: Not a Cafe, Not an Office

  1. Adam Nowek
    Adam Nowek

    There’s a really interesting article on co-working over at PSFK:

    It basically highlights a few of the practical developments in co-working. One is an example of a company (Skype_ adopting co-working ideals within its own corporate culture to foster collaboration. The other interesting bit is on office furniture that facilitates collaborative environments. Interesting!