The Tools That Are Changing Coworking

Shared work environments have come a long way in the past few years, thanks in part to really smart tools.

CoCo co-working and collaborative space in Minneapolis

What started out a few years ago as a loose community of tech entrepreneurs and freelance writers working out of wi-fi-enabled warehouses and coffee shops has turned into the face of the future of work. As more workers are able to work remotely, the need for structure and resources–even just camaraderie in the morning coffee routine–will grow.

These days, coworking has its own wiki page, its own international conferences, its own mission statement.

“Beyond just creating better places to work, coworking spaces are built around the idea of community-building and sustainability. Coworking spaces agree to uphold the values set forth by those who developed the concept in the first place: collaboration, community, sustainability, openness, and accessibility.” Coworking wiki

All that’s good and well, but there are still challenges the coworking model must address. Like how to connect the nomadic worker to the space owner with a spare desk. Or how to bill hours when some workers use a space for a day only and others want months-long contracts. How about connectivity and communications among a network of coworkers? Or something simple like coordinating a group happy hour? Turns out, there are apps for that. Of course.


Like CouchSurfing, but DeskSurfing 

What AirBnB has done for homeowners looking to rent out their pads, Vancouver-based startup SharedDesks  is doing for the owners of corporate spaces. The site offers a directory of space profiles to connect coworkers with spaces around the world. With over 500 listed spaces, SharedDesks provides one of the largest communities for coworking professionals. It’s great for business and space owners who want to match up with workers based on specific needs. The site is pretty easy-to-use and growing rapidly.


Managing the nitty gritty 

Like SharedDesks, Desktime started as a listings site for workers looking to rent a desk for a day, a week, or a year. Twenty-six year-old founder Sam Rosen created Desktime to make management of the Coop, his large coworking space in Chicago, more efficient. The unpredictability of scheduling and payments created challenges that the software itself could potentially solve. Now Desktime will offer features like booking and billing features, with more enhancements down the pike. It will be tested on a 50,000 square foot space opening as a coworking hub for tech entrepreneurs.


Virtual open office hours 

Many independent professionals who cowork need things only other people can provide: advice, ideas, networking and relationship-building. Ohours is about those relationships and nothing else. You can set up an appointment to meet a professional in a video chat. The site can also be used to set up meetings face-to-face. It bypasses all the awkwardness of roaming networking events, and it creates the missing link for those working alone: virtual colleagues.

The future of coworking? It looks bright. Plus, the spaces just keep getting cooler and cooler. Loft-like floor plans, multi-use spaces, espresso bars, yoga rooms, converted historic buildings. The cubicle pales by comparison.

*Photo courtesy of CoCo Mpls.

Written by Amanda Buhman


Leave a Reply
  1. Amanda, thanks for using our space as the cover pic! Great topic and it seems there’s no end to the new resources that are enabling the sharing economy. Ohours was a new and great find for me!

    I might suggest some additional resources in the coworking niche. All of these resources help you find available spaces, much as Desktime does, and their coverage is global.
    Loosecubes –
    Desk Wanted –
    Liquidspace –
    LEXC (League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces) –

  2. In addition to point-apps for single task functionality (finding a space, booking a room) two companies have set out to provide an integrated back-end environment to support all coworking business processes, from managing member contracts through automated invoicing, billing, payments & bank reconciliation, to room reservations and social functionality for member portals. Cobot launched its service several months ago and provides an attractive but lightweight system; Openbravo (for which I work) is now implementing its system in several coworking organizations around the world. The Openbravo system is built on top of a class-leading open source ERP so it has full accounting & reporting, the ability to deal with corporations as well as individual members, is fully GAAP compliant, and can do automated reconciliation as well as handling situations where a member’s credit card might reject a charge.

    So between these two systems, most coworking companies will be able to find what they need and cut down on the manual effort required to run the business – thus freeing themselves to spend much more time interacting with members and ensuring the community coheres – which is really what coworking is all about.

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