Happy Coworking Day!
9th August marks a special milestone in the evolution of flexible workspace. It’s International Coworking Day, which means it’s a day of coworking, collaborating, creating, and celebrating… well, what, exactly?
Like most national or international ‘Days’, its origins are a little obscure. Much as we love a great excuse to celebrate coworking, this got us thinking. What is Coworking Day? Where did it start? Who takes part? Why does it exist? What does it even mean?
To find out, we dug a little deeper into the coworking history books. Here’s what we found out…
It all started with a coding blog.
Software engineer Brad Neuberg is credited as the person who kicked off not just Coworking Day, but the whole coworking movement itself, when he blogged about the idea on 9th August 2005:
“This week is the first week of coworking, something I am setting up.”
In his blog post, he invited “free spirits” and creators to “come together in community” at the Spiral Muse Coworking Group, “sitting at tables or relaxing on couches as we do our work.”
Even today, the essence of coworking remains remarkably true to Brad’s 2005 vision:
“Even though each of us is doing separate work, perhaps programming or writing a novel, we can feel each other’s presence, run ideas by the community, or take breaks together at the watercooler.”
Unbeknown at the time, 9th August was to go down in history.
Thanks to Brad Neuberg’s post, 9th August has become recognised as the day that “coworking” was born, both as a term and a movement.
And in case you’re wondering, Brad’s not bashful when it comes to putting history straight.
In a separate blog post titled “The Start of Coworking (From the Guy that Started It)”, he gets straight to the point:
“Yes I invented coworking.”
His post details the beginnings of his coworking movement at the Spiral Muse and seeks to put the record straight on what he claims are various inaccuracies — including Bernie De Koven’s involvement and a number of disputes posted on Wikipedia.
There were some other collaborative spaces around at the time.
DeskMag’s coworking timeline suggests that some other spaces “popped up” around the world prior to 9th August 2005, which provided shared workspaces to entrepreneurs and freelancers.
That said, it was Brad Neuberg’s community-centred definition and specific (non-hyphenated) use of the term “coworking” that effectively drew a line in the sand.
And Coworking Day was born.
It’s that vision of coworking that we are celebrating today. Although of course, coworking’s official birthday wasn’t established until some years after the now-famous blog post.
The question remains, who came up with the idea for a Coworking Day?
We reached out to various people to help us track down its origins. One of them is Tony Bacigalupo from New Work Cities, who pointed us towards the Coworking Google Group forum and described it as “the de facto center of the global movement”.
From there, we tracked down one very significant post made on 7th August 2010:
“Next Monday will be 5 years since Brad Neuberg talked about coworking for the first time. I think that date should be the official Coworking Day. What do you think about blogging something special to celebrate that and tweeting using the #CoworkingDay hashtag?”
This post came from Cadu de Castro Alves, a coworking space owner from BeesOffice in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As such, we can be fairly sure that Cadu had the idea of celebrating Coworking Day on 9th August. Based on replies posted within the forum, it was a unanimous decision.
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But as with most things coworking, its emergence is credited as a joint effort supported by other coworking spaces on an international scale.
“I think it’s fair to say that we came up with it [the idea] together,” Tony says. “That’s the beauty of the true coworking movement: it’s a decentralized, leaderful movement with no one person in charge, yet it has managed to achieve so much as a collective effort.”
Coworking Day celebrations are as diverse as the industry itself.
Some coworking spaces mark the occasion, some ignore it, and others are unaware of it altogether.
Some coworking spaces have joined forces to celebrate the occasion together. One of them is Co-mmunity, which has created an entire Coworking Week in San Diego from August 7th to August 11th.
They’ve joined with Hera Hub, DeskHub, Nest Coworking and Launch Center to offer free coworking at each space on designated days of the week.
According to Co-mmunity, the week-long event “celebrates 12 years of coworking, collaboration, and the shared economy.”
But not every coworking space chooses to recognise it.
In a promotional email for San Diego Coworking Week, Co-mmunity stated: “Approximately 5,000 coworking spaces around the world will celebrate Neuberg’s vision as part of International Coworking Day on August 9th.”
If 5,000 spaces do take part, that’s less than half the number of global coworking spaces around the world. Lack of participation is of course down to personal preference, but it’s also blamed on lack of awareness.
“Some spaces and regional alliances get into it, but it’s not widely known,” says Cat Johnson, a content marketer for the coworking sector.
“International Coworking Day has been around since the early days of coworking. There’s not, however, tons of awareness of it or activity around it.”
Melissa Saubers from the Kansas City Coworking Alliance agrees:
“I got into the coworking industry in 2012 and I heard about International Coworking Day in 2013. I know it’s been going on for a while but I don’t think everyone everywhere celebrates it.
“I hope that everyone will in the future, because it’s a great way to use our collective voice to raise awareness about coworking around the globe.”
Indeed, Melissa is one of many who is working to raise awareness of the Day itself, and she’s going about it in a pretty monumental way.
On 9th August 2017, Melissa’s KC Coworking Alliance is planning to set the global coworking record for the most number of people coworking in one place at one time.
“This epic event is our way of celebrating all the great things about coworking in Kansas City,” she says (you can track their efforts here).
Where will you be working on August 9th?
Whether or not you choose to mark Coworking Day on 9th August, take a moment to consider how far the coworking industry has come since its beginnings.
The latest Coworking Survey by DeskMag suggests that more than 1 million people worldwide will work in a coworking space this year — not bad for an industry that’s little more than a decade old.
“Over the years, the industry side of coworking has grabbed the headlines, but none of it would have happened if not for this movement,” adds Tony Bacigalupo. “Coworking Day is a great opportunity for us to be reminded of the roots that made all of this possible.”