Today, WNYC’s New Tech City published a piece that declared New York City the world’s biggest coworking city, tracking over 80 spaces on a map they’ve posted here.
Five years ago, I was working to bring one– just one– space dedicated to the coworking movement to fruition in Manhattan. Seeing what has happened between now and then, I couldn’t be more excited for the prospects.
I was so drawn to coworking not just because it gave me a way to get out of my home office to be around some incredible people, but because it represented a fundamentally new way of approaching our relationship with work.
While NYC is unique in many ways, it is also often a harbinger of what’s to come for the rest of the world. The speed and fervor with which it has taken to the coworking movement is no fluke: coworking is growing at an exponential rate everywhere. We just happen to have a lot of it in a relatively small space.
Why did NYC take so well to coworking? There are lots of reasons, but the most important one can be summed up in two words: self-sufficiency. In the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, people quickly learn how to take care of themselves.
Coworking spaces give those kinds of people a place to gather and help one another, so it’s natural to see New Yorkers are jumping on them so readily.
But this is bigger than just those enterprising early adopters who are already able to hack it on their own. As the job landscape continues to shift from full-time employment to contingent workers and small businesses, more and more people are finding themselves with this kind of responsibility. It’s not something most people are used to, but it’s where things are headed.
As technology continues to change everything in the workplace, previously taken-for-granted notions like full-time employment, the 9 to 5, commutes, and dedicated offices are all in question. As those structures continue to erode, so too does the consistency associated with them. Without a sole provider (employer) to dictate and manage these things, the responsibility increasingly shifts to the individual.
The result is a more independent, flexible lifestyle. There are downsides to this increase in responsibility, but ultimately the benefits outweigh the costs. We are, after all, big fans of our freedom, right?
Regardless, being self-sufficient is something that more people are going to have to get good at.
What better way to tackle that than by taking a trek down to your local coworking space? There are, after all, over 2,000 of them worldwide, depending on what you include in the count.
Coworking spaces are becoming a decentralized, highly local network of centers that support the needs of the new workforce. People looking to join the ranks of the independents need look no further than around their corner, where a coworking space– which, if it doesn’t exist yet, will likely be appearing soon– will be full of friendly folks to befriend, work with, and learn from.
They’re helping people make the transition, simply by existing. I wonder what they could accomplish if they were helping people make that transition on purpose.
We are only beginning to appreciate the implications of this. Here in NYC, we have an opportunity to get a head start in exploring that, using the many coworking communities within the reach of a subway ride as a starting point. The potential for job creation and economic development is enormous.
And last time I checked, we still need a lot more of that to be happening, and soon.
If coworking can help fix the economy and make the world a better place, NYC is the place for us to start finding out. I look forward to exploring the possibilities in earnest.
I’m cofounder and Mayor of a coworking space called New Work City here in NYC. I’m also teaching people how to build better communities. Learn about the Community Builders Masterclass here!