Coworking is a business services provision model that involves individuals working independently or collaboratively in shared office space.
The typical user of a coworking facility is self-employed, a telecommuter, or a freelance worker. Some businesses use the spaces to provide employees with equipment, space and services that they could not otherwise afford. Larger enterprises sometimes use coworking facilities to provide office space when they have more than the normal number of employees working at any given time. In this case, the business may maintain a certain number of memberships to the coworking service.
The owner of the space provides a work environment and, usually, office equipment and amenities found in a typical office. Typical features of coworking facilities include:
- Shared work spaces.
- 24/7 access.
- Reservable/rentable conference and/or board rooms.
- Communal printer/copier/fax.
- Private branch exchange (PBX) systems.
- Shared kitchens, bathrooms and lounges.
Coworking facilities follow various business models. Some facilities, for example, are cooperatively managed spaces run as non-profit organizations. Such organizations may charge members just enough to support operations. Other models include flat-rate memberships and fee structures based on access for a single visit or a certain number of days per week, month or year. Often, a coworking facility will offer a number of options to suit individual needs. Some organizations have multiple locations that members can access. Others provide “coworking visas” that provide free access to partnered facilities in different locations.
Bernie DeKoven first used the term coworking in this sense (rather than to describe people working together in any environment) in 1995. The first designated coworking space opened San Francisco in 2005. According to the Coworking Wiki website, there are currently over 400 registered coworking spaces in operation on six continents.
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