You’ve Heard of ‘Co-Working.’ But What Is ‘Co-Living?’

Co-working spaces certainly aren’t a new invention, but through the meteoric rise that we’ve witnessed in startup culture in recent years, property developers have tapped into business communities across the globe, and they’ve opened thousands of brand new co-working hubs across the globe.

Co-working spaces provide freelancers and small business owners (either solo, or with few employees) the opportunity to get out of the house, work in a comfortable coffee-filled environment, attend in-house business events, network, and surround themselves with like-minded people, in beautifully designed, carefully crafted, and often architecturally stunning buildings, for a fixed monthly fee.

‘Rent-a-desk’ is a term we hear often in this day and age. You know what they say: ‘The five people you spend the most time with, are the people you become.’ There’s a common belief that surrounding yourself with business owners will keep you motivated and that with time, you’ll pick up your co-buddy’s traits. Whether or not that’s true, is a different debate altogether.

The great thing about this new trend, is that nowadays, there’s a perfect hub for everyone. Largely powered by accelerator programmes, and the financial institutions behind them, nowadays, you can find a ‘fit’ for a wide range of industries and sectors, ranging from tech, to fashion, to music, to retail, and engineering.

Google pioneered this movement up with the global launch of their ‘Campus’ brand; a not-for-profit venture that saw the introduction of beautifully designed, fully-serviced ‘rent-a-desk’ offices in major startup hotspots, globally – such as in London, Manchester, New York and more.

And to follow on from that, they launched the ‘Google Digital Garage,’ a FREE, co-working space that moved into dormant buildings in smaller cities on a short-term basis, to support the smaller and untapped startup towns and cities, Leeds being one of many.

The Google Digital Garage was one of the first co-working spaces to arrive in Leeds. Now, just three years later, there are quite a few established co-working spaces in Yorkshire, ranging from Futurelabs, to Entrepreneurial Spark, and Wizu Workspace. As exciting as that may sound for our friends in Leeds, this number is TINY compared to the 157 co-working spaces in London.

This comparison really puts into perspective how big the co-working scene is in major cities…

Also, in this day and age, we’re seeing a new trend, where startups who want to expand their team in a different country are hiring remote workers, and providing a co-working desk as part of their employment package.

But perhaps the most revolutionary property and architectural concept we’ve seen in recent years is the arrival ‘co-living;’ a brand new ideology that combines co-working with fully serviced student residence-style (or Penthouse for the rich) properties, all in one building complex with everything you could ever want and need in a lifetime.

Imagine this: Sleep above your office, and live on the same floor as like-minded entrepreneurs with all of the luxuries you could ever want on site: a swimming pool, a gym, a restaurant, a Starbucks, and a bar/club. Perfect. But is it?

I’ve often wondered whether this type of lifestyle could add to the already-serious workaholism epidemic that we’ve seen spiral out of control in recent years, with people checking their work emails in the evening, and working unpaid overtime.

‘Co-living’ makes it so much easier, and tempting to walk downstairs to your desk, and even easier to get tempted into networking events every night of the week, not to mention that it would be all too common to fall into business conversations with your flatmates 7 nights a week if that’s what you all have in common. ‘Healthy,’ you ask? Maybe not.

So my question is: where is the separation? Lots of successful entrepreneurs blame the support of their families, and their separation from work (i.e. their wind-down and disconnect time) as a key contributing factor to their millions. So does irony destroy the genius?

On the flip-side, I can see this type of platform being a great short-term enabler for the first two-three years of your business, but I’m not sure I’d want to settle down and bring children up in this type of environment, or maintain a relationship unless my partner was a workaholic business owner, too. But is that healthy? You can’t have your cake, and eat it. Well, most of the time, any way.

What’s interesting and captivating about co-working and co-living, however, is the stunning architecture and interior designs that come with these buildings. Gone are the old 1980’s white and grey, Government-style offices. And in some ways, open-plan is dead, too. Nowadays you can rock up to your desk in a beautiful sound-proofed fibre glass pod, next to the coolest cafe you’ve ever seen in your whole life.

Lots of companies (ASOS being just one of many) have taken inspiration from these co-working spaces, and they’ve revamped their offices to create a co-working style experience for their employees. They’ve seen the scientific benefits that co-working designs bring on an architectural, happiness, health and productivity level, and they don’t want to get left behind or seem outdated to their clients.

So if you’re a freelancer, or you run a business, take a look at some of London’s or New York’s co-working spaces, or consider renting a desk for the first couple of years of your business, because it can work out much cheaper than renting traditional offices, and you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people, and, you’ll get your coffee included, too. Bonus.

Google ‘WeWork’ for inspiration.