Coworking Spaces Throughout History

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Shared workplaces, also known as coworking spaces, have been increasing in popularity over the last few years.  Almost every major city in Australia and the U.S. have coworking spaces, and more and more are popping up every year. However, the co-working space concept has been around for centuries and has taken different forms throughout the years.

workers at hotdesks in coworking office

The first sign of coworking spaces can be traced back to artist workshops in 15th-century Florence, where seasoned artists taught less experienced artists in spaces that encouraged creativity and inspired new ideas.  This is perhaps where the first “networking” took place, as artists were encouraged to mingle and bounce ideas off of each other. Early 15th-century workshops bred some of the most famous artists of all time, including Leonardo da Vinci, who began his career studying under another famous artist, Andrea del Verrocchio.

Following 15th-century workspaces, libraries and reading rooms became common places for people to work among each other.  The 17th and 18th centuries brought on “The Golden Age” of libraries, and many historically important libraries were founded during this time.  However, many libraries were not open to the public at this time, and those interested in visiting a library often had to get a library pass.

By the mid-19th century, public libraries were becoming increasingly more common, and since then, all you need to rent books from a library is a library card, which can easily be attained.  Libraries are still seen as popular coworking spaces to this day, especially in areas where formal co-working spaces have not yet been established.

Today, there are approximately 4,000 coworking spaces in the U.S., and 1.18 million people working in co-working spaces worldwide.  Co-working spaces are particularly popular among freelance workers, as these spaces allow them to get out of the house and work in an environment that stimulates creativity and encourages networking among fellow coworkers.  Getting a change of scenery and working in a more public setting can be extremely beneficial to workers who typically don’t get to interact with other people.

Coworking spaces are usually designed to be as open and casual as possible.  For instance, a co-working space may have couches and lounge chairs as well as desks and tables, to give workers the option to work from their laptop in different areas of the room. Many co-working spaces also feature high ceilings and plenty of windows, which can lead to workers feeling more comfortable and relaxed while working.

Coworking spaces have come a long way since their early beginnings in 15th-century Florence, and more people than ever are utilising co-working spaces as a nice change of pace from traditional offices.  With more and more co-working spaces popping up across the country, the future of co-working seems bright.

Coworking, Community, Productivity, Innovation
1 April 2019

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