Coworking is the act of engaging a community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers and small businesses in a shared space with the purpose of working and helping each other out professionally and personally through the creation and activation of relationships.
Coworking requires that the operators of coworking spaces actively create opportunities for and engage the coworkers to get to know and help each other.
The people doing it are the facilitators of coworking spaces (although they can be known under multiple names). They facilitate the introductions, point to who can help, etc.
Without the development of links among the coworkers there’s no community and there’s no coworking.
Coworking also refers to the act of working in a coworking space. In some regions it is used as shorthand for coworking space. When companies say they do coworking they are referring to the fact that they have a coworking space.
Without an engaged community you do not have a coworking space. You may have a collection of people in a shared working space but not a coworking space.
These are the mandatory elements to identify a real coworking space:
* Calls itself or the service it offers coworking.The original elements I included as President of the European Coworking Assembly (abandoned after I left) that were included in the Coworking is Dead article. I advanced this elements in the coworking community group (where the last one was added) before using them as founding principles of the European Coworking Assembly and the nascent Belgian association of coworking spaces (with the approval of the members of both).
* Has a fully dedicated space for coworking (not just a few hours or a cafeteria shared with patrons).
* Has an active community of members, not just clients.
* Has at least one facilitator dedicated to connect the members and build trust among them, engaging in activities to build the coworking community.
* Treats coworkers as 1st class clients.
* Promotes and encourage collaboration, interaction and serendipity.
* Offers one or many kinds of membership (full or part time).
* Does not discriminate who can become a member or how they can participate with hidden or implicit rules.
Think of them as the eight commandments of coworking.
Coworking is not written with a hyphen. Co-working is wrong when used in this context and should be preserved to refer to people working for the same company (co-workers) as I requested to the AP and they included in the AP Style Book.
Note that AP’s definition does not include a word about community.
There are plenty of other collaborative and shared work spaces and there’s nothing wrong with them, but if they are not doing coworking with its community aspect, they should not refer to themselves as coworking spaces.
You may also want to take a look at the advantages of coworking and its disadvantages.
If you want to open a coworking space or you are struggling with one, you will benefit from reading The Coworking Handbook.