From co-working to co-living: How Londoners are fostering better communities
The global coworking revolution has well and truly taken hold, with similar initiatives capitalising on a new sharing economy that is bringing co-commuting and co-living in its wake. As these trends come to London, their effects are proving beneficial not just for our economies, but for our communities too.
Coworking space is transforming corporate culture
The rise of coworking has been phenomenal. As of the beginning of 2017, there were reported to be 13,800 coworking spaces globally, as startups, SMEs, even major business heavyweights look to this cheaper, more collaborative, and arguably more productive alternative. In fact, there are now thought to be over a million employees using coworking spaces worldwide.
Most coworking spaces sell themselves as places that foster communities, the perfect antidote to corporate mundanity. Sometimes appearing in the form of business lounges, coworking spaces are conceived to be places in which business professionals meet, communicate and collaborate.
Research shows that people who use coworking spaces are more effective due to the energy and mindset adjustment that is generated by the interaction and accountability a coworking environment creates. Especially for freelancers or businesses just starting out, coworking spaces offer an environment that helps them see their work as more meaningful than working independently or from a home office. That’s because working alongside people doing different kinds of work encourages individuals to describe what they do, which makes their work identity stronger and more distinctive.
Coworking environments have further been shown to foster creativity, with interactions between workers across departments, companies and industries thought to encourage more lateral thinking when it comes to finding solutions to a given task or problem.
This type of interaction has even shown increases in productivity for huge companies like the BBC, who have sought to integrate coworking practices with a commitment to hot-desking and flexible workstations in a dynamic office environment.
Co-commuting is seen as a bold social experiment
When UberPool was launched in London in early 2016, it already accounted for more than half of all the companies’ journeys in San Francisco, and had proved a success in 15 cities worldwide since its launch. At the time, the service was sold as providing a solution to congestion and pollution in London, but there has since been a development.
In an official Uber blog, a number of observations were made during the beta period of UberPool with regards to co-commuting: “This is also a bold social experiment. There’s the interaction between riders in an UberPool—should they talk to each other? When is that cool and when is it, well, annoying? We’re going to find out how this brave new world of UberPooling works.”
With a growing trend for online dating sites offering an idealised vision of the meet-cute, carpooling apps like UberPool and Lyft Line, a US competitor, have reported similar romantic interludes. One Uber driver estimated that at least once or twice a day he’ll pick up passengers who flirt or exchange numbers. It’s been dubbed by some the modern age of speed dating. By others, the new Tinder.
Whether romantic or platonic, this aspect of co-commuting has best been articulated by such entertainment as James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke and Peter Kay’s Car Share, the latter a sitcom set around two co-workers’ participation in a company car share scheme. Unsurprisingly, a tumultuous but heartening friendship blossoms.
Co-living opportunities encourage a sense of community
Co-living is the latest craze to seize the imagination, partly inspired by the rise of coworking, and home sharing platforms like Airbnb. WeWork, the world’s foremost coworking community, last year unveiled its first co-living apartments in New York, a residential block with shared living spaces as a sister company, WeLive. It has been described as a cross between student housing and a hotel.
While there are question marks over the inclusivity of coliving, some companies have an explicit selection process. Ryan Fix, the founder of Pure House, interviews each applicant and invites housemates to share opinions on the new member’s suitability. It’s less about demography and more about values, he says. Both projects aim to facilitate an increasingly social lifestyle, the convening of people and their passions.
Now, it’s coming to London. The Collective is a luxury commune with a burgeoning reputation as Britain’s most desirable residence for young professionals. Residents in the 550-room tower in Willesden occupy a 100 sq ft private room and bathroom, sharing a kitchen and living space with one another. They’re affectionately referred to as ‘Twodio’ flats.
According to reports, management will even donate £50 towards parties in communal areas as long as everyone is invited—that, its owners explain, makes the difference between co-living and flatshares. The aim of the project is to foster greater interaction among residents in shared living spaces. And it’s not just Millennials taking part: an over 50s cohousing scheme, with the aim to “create a sense of community”, followed in The Collective’s wake.
Sun and Co is now the first coworking and coliving community on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a place for freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers sharing living and working space with others in a collaborative and community-minded environment. It’s designed as a retreat, with pricing structures up to 30 days, but if we continue as we are, it could spark a next generation of coworking and coliving as one.