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The Ultimate Tips for Flex Spaces Post-COVID-19: Q&A With Experts

We strongly believe that the power of the global coworking community is key for creating more success stories of coworking spaces! And we’re always happy to put a spotlight on valuable and meaningful causes and projects.

Recently, we had a chat with Coworkies Co-founders – Pauline Roussel and Dimitar Inchev. They’ve just finished their book called “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” and we think it’s definitely worth spreading the word about it.

It’s a book of curated success stories of coworking spaces, highlighting people, workspaces and products that are actively transforming the workspaces of today. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the diversity and uniqueness that exists in modern workspaces.

It can also be described as a guide of how people start and build new work environments through collaboration, interior design and community activities.

We sat down with Pauline and Dimitar to talk about the book, COVID-19 and the power of community.

Below, you will find our chat.

And if you want to learn more about successful coworking spaces, don’t miss to check the 4 Pillars of Successful Coworking Spaces blog post.

Hi Pauline and Dimitar, can you guys start by introducing yourselves?

Greetings to all of the readers. We are Pauline and Dimitar, Co-Founders of Coworkies. We are a French and Bulgarian who met in a coworking space in Berlin in 2015. Since then we work together on multiple projects, mostly related to coworking.

These projects gravitate around jobs in coworking spaces, how to have better communities and sustainability for workplace communities. While doing this, we travel extensively around the globe to meet the people who are building the world of coworking.

To date we’ve visited more than 420 coworking spaces in 47 cities. Spinning from New York to Tokyo, and the many places in between.

And just for the record, there is no such thing as “best coworking space”. Each space is different and suits the needs of a specific customer. As we like to say – coworking is the same dish, each space cooks differently:)

What’s the “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” book about and who is it for?

The book shares the success stories of 250 coworking spaces from around the world. It’s a mix of answers of When, How, Why and for Who. The stories range from entrepreneurial journeys to the community needs to regional or city specifics.

We hope the book will give readers the opportunity to make their own journey (even through a book), find knowledge and inspiration and get a better understanding of what coworking really is.

We believe that there is no such thing as “the best coworking space”, without at least specifying for who and why. And we hope this book will help more people embrace this understanding.

Furthermore, the book can be a really good read for coworking space founders or people thinking of starting such business. Also, it’s for all who are interested in flexible work environments. Professionals involved in the future of work, community building, architecture, and real estate.

They will all gain unprecedented amounts of knowledge from the personal stories shared in the book.

success stories coworking spaces

How did the idea of making a book come to life?

The idea for the book came from the coworking space founders and members we were meeting through the years.

We remember Tomas, architect and Founder of a coworking space called Based In, to be the first who suggested the idea. We were having a chat about his spaces and other spaces we’ve visited. He then said it would be a great idea to create a book that tells the stories of all these coworking spaces.

With time, we started to hear this from more and more people. Also, we started hosting private events called “Around the World of Coworking” in some of the spaces we were visiting.

Later on, in Mumbai, where we were visiting some coworking spaces, we finally decided to make it. We crystallized the idea and came up with the full name. It clicked so well that it marked the start of our active work on the book which took us 2 years.

Why did you decide to make a coffee table book and not a blog or an e-book?

This is a really good question and we had to answer it for ourselves before deciding to make the book. Our counter arguments were that we already have a blog and a magazine where we share openly about the people we meet, their spaces, and cities we visit.

So why make a physical book? The answer to this question came from the fact that we are a very small team and we cannot compete with the big outlets online. So how do we make a difference? Coworking space teams are small, they have hundreds of tasks every day, and there’s a lot of online noise.

To reach them we had to do what no one else can, create a product that can be used offline in peace and in a calm state of the mind. And that’s why we decided to make this coffee table book.

What useful insights can coworking operators find in the book?

In times like these, it can definitely give coworking space operators the sense of belonging; that they are not alone. Furthermore, they can learn from other operators all across the globe about how they deal with challenges and how they work through the day of a coworking space operator.

We’ve taken the #hashtag approach to help readers navigate through the book. So let’s say you are interested in “food” or “education”. You will be able to find the spaces falling into these categories, read their story and learn from their experience in making their space and community successful.

The business value is to create a global understanding that can be applied locally. To double down on that we’ve partnered with two global companies – the office furniture provider Kinnarps and digital access systems provider Salto KS. They both helped us gain valuable business insights from their case studies on how interior and technology can improve the member experience.

What are coworking operators doing to adapt to the new post-COVID-19 reality?

We are living in interesting times for the industry globally. While the pandemic is not over yet, it’s also not “new” anymore. Spaces are now understanding its challenges and are aware of what’s needed to operate in a safe way.

We see COVID-19 has pushed operators to rethink their overall member experience within their facility. A lot of them invested in technologies of various kinds (from access control systems to air quality filters and more), adding more data to their spaces to operate with.

Now, and for many spaces, it is possible to know how many people are in the space, at any given time, while also monitoring where they move around. Harnessing the power of data in coworking, coliving, and more generally flexible workspaces will bring new opportunities to do things differently, with concrete numbers and metrics.

Aside from that, we also see a shift in the way spaces manage their communities. Before the pandemic, most community activities (if not all) were carried out offline. Now, things have changed and spaces have grasped the digital realm as well to provide even more value to their members, whether they are present in the space or not.

Hence, it made coworking reachable from anywhere. Whether you are in Berlin right now and can access your space, or not – you can belong to that community and contribute to it. That also means the level of memberships has changed to include virtual options of different sorts (virtual office plans, virtual memberships, and more, Ed.)

Lastly, the rise of remote work for larger companies is incredible opportunity coworking spaces are ready to seize all over the world. Attracting a new kind of member (an employee from a larger company) will surely bring novelty to the community as a whole.

It can create more work and learning opportunities for everyone, the new member and the existing ones. There are new community dynamics that spaces need to start thinking about.

Can you give us some COVID-19 highlights from the book?

When we started working on the book, COVID-19 was not at all on the world’s agenda. Hence, when the pandemic hit, we had to pause the project to see how each and every single space we were featuring was adapting, shifting, rethinking its model.

While we don’t want the book to be all about COVID-19, the pandemic it caused definitely had an impact on all the spaces featured in the book. Each and every space adapted differently because of a few factors:

  • It’s locality: whether they are based in Asia, Africa, Europe, North or South America, COVID-19 impacted everyone differently because of the time the virus hit them, but also because of how their local government reacted (you can check the latest coworking industry report by CoworkIntel, Ed.). Which brings me to the second point.
  • Support from the local government: it’s interesting to see that in certain parts of the world, flexible workspaces (including coworking, makerspaces, etc.) were recognized and supported by their governments and were asked to follow certain guidelines; whereas in other countries, they were left in the middle – not exactly an office, not a hotel or a restaurant – and had to figure out what to do by themselves.

Hence, those two factors impacted their response and transition/transformation as well.

  • Some of the spaces featured in the book told us COVID-19 helped them refocus. It’s actually a term that came up a lot in our conversations with them. Refocus of their space, their community, their business model, their marketing, etc.
  • With certain spaces, particularly makerspaces, it’s interesting to see that COVID-19 brought a lot of opportunities to them. From printing face shields to launching online stores, full production lines, and what not, makerspaces have actually played a key role locally, in many regions.
  • A lot of the spaces we featured also received great support from their members in various ways, which has been a great validation and drive for them that their work was meaningful to many.
  • For a few, there is still a lot of uncertainty, mainly because their region is still heavily impacted or still in lockdown.

What is the role of the community, the power of coworking, nowadays, especially in times of COVID-19?

Community is key. The word has been overused and frankly abused in the last years. COVID-19 helped it to heal. Many people understood the power of their community, how it helps them and why they need it.

As we were starting to say earlier in this interview, coworking spaces have learned, through the pandemic, that managing a community does not just happen offline anymore for them.

2020 has taught everyone how to engage with members digitally, accepting that things are different and that members might not show up the same way they would if they were all in the same space.

But they do show up. At their own rhythm. It’s interesting to notice that members have embraced the digital space provided by coworking space to:

  • Motivate themselves to wake up and dress in the morning.
  • Find a new working rhythm, and know when to stop by attending an event at the end of the day to wrap things up with others, because when you work from home, it’s easier to work endlessly.
  • Take care of themselves through well-being events spaces have organized. A lot of spaces have told us members have finally welcomed yoga or meditation during the pandemic because they needed something to help them stay calm and focused.

And yes, there might be zoom fatigue or members might all really want to go back to human contacts and to their workplace. A space from the book told us members cried of happiness when they could go back there!

But – somehow, everyone understands that navigating through COVID-19 is also a community effort. The more we follow the guidelines locally altogether, the faster we go out of this together.

Members are embracing their communities in new ways, and spaces are learning with them how to do that.

Where can people find the book?

We are doing a 30-days crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter right now, offering the extended coworking, coliving community the possibility to bring the project to life together with us.

Once the campaign will be over, around mid-February, the book will be available on the official website of the book.


If you’re curious about more success stories of coworking spaces, check out how OfficeRnD helps operators take their business on a whole new level.

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