Flexible Workspaces: Coworking Spaces, Business Center and Hybrid Models
First mentioned in 1999 by American game designer, Bernard De Koven, the term coworking did not become more established until 2005, when the first classic space was established by the programmer Brad Neuberg in San Francisco. This space followed five core values:
Fast-forward almost twenty years and while WeWork and its counterparts continue to offer desks in an open workspace area, the basic premise of coworking remains: offering companies or individuals space in which to operate. Going back to basics, this is not dissimilar to the idea of business centres. Having existed since the early 1980s, business centres are by no means a new trend. But what makes new players in the flexible working field so successful? Put simply the success lies in the innovative linking of two existing systems: combining coworking aspects with popular features of business centres, professional services and highly modern office furniture, thus creating a hybrid model.
By combining these aspects, two increasingly relevant target groups can be addressed simultaneously. Coworking companies can approach typical coworking space occupiers such as startups and freelancers, while also attracting traditional office occupiers including bigger, corporate companies. As a result, more and more coworking spaces and even more classic business centres are forced to adopt the same hybrid model. This leads to a difficult differentiation, since individual cases cannot always be assigned to one of the categories listed in Fig. 1.
Coworking Space, Business Center and Hybrid Models in numbers
In the same way that there are various definitions of the term “coworking”, the number of different models also varies widely. Of the more than 500 flexible workspaces across Germany, more than half (around 350) are assigned to the coworking category, around 130 to the business centres definition and only 70 to the hybrid models category, the latter of which is rapidly increasing. Similar to the number of spaces is also the number of providers. While just a few providers dominate in the business centre sector, including Agendis and Regus, the younger hybrid model boasts around ten providers which operate actively in more than one location.
In contrast, there are several coworking spaces, which predominantly operate in only one location and are represented by over 300 different providers. However, not a single coworking space provider is one of the ten largest flexible workspaces providers. Many providers of coworking spaces who have highlighted the core values mentioned above, have no monetary added value and therefore are not willing to expand. This is also reflected in the significantly different area sizes of the different categories. On average, hybrid models have an area of more than 3,000 sq m, which is five times larger than average coworking spaces (600 sq m). Perhaps most importantly, price per desk varies hugely. While occupiers in business centers and hybrid models on average pay €300 a month, a desk in a coworking space costs less than half (€100 to €150) – of course depending on the location.