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What is Coworking? Definition, history & development in Switzerland

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Meeting rooms at Westhive in Zug, 2023

Coworking is a flexible, collaborative form of work that emerged three decades ago and has spread rapidly around the world, including Switzerland. This article explains in more detail what the term “coworking” is all about, where the form of work originally came from, how it has developed, and which companies use coworking.

Definition: What does coworking mean?

The term “coworking” or “co-working” means “working together”. More precisely, coworking is a collaborative form of work in which companies share a common office infrastructure. Customers can flexibly rent an individual workstation, a private team office, or an exclusive office area. Coworking spaces are fully furnished and offer a complete work infrastructure with telephone boxes, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi, printers, and free coffee. This offers many advantages over traditional office solutions, such as greater cost efficiency, more flexibility, and greater employer attractiveness. In addition, the exchange within the community boosts creativity and innovation.

The history of coworking and the path to Switzerland

The history of coworking began in the hacker scene in 1995 when computer engineers founded a hackerspace called C-Base in Berlin. This offered hackers a place to work together and a community to exchange ideas.

The term coworking was first coined in 1999 by the American game designer Bernard DeKoven, who saw it as a collaborative form of work with flat hierarchies. The first official coworking space called “Spiral Muse” was founded in 2005 by Brad Neuberg in San Francisco. The new trend found its way to Switzerland in 2007 with the first Zurich space. In 2016, the number of coworking spaces in Switzerland totaled 64 locations and has risen to 500 spaces by 2023 (source: Wüest Partner).

Coworking past and present: from old factory buildings to modern team office infrastructure

Over time, the appearance of coworking spaces has changed considerably. In the past, discarded factory buildings or empty open-plan offices were often repurposed as shared offices without any major structural measures. These primarily provided customers with flexibility and access to a community, but often only offered a limited quality of work due to the limited infrastructure.

Nowadays, in addition to shared open spaces, modern coworking spaces have private team offices or even completely exclusive office areas that offer companies a great deal of privacy as well as flexibility. Meeting and workshop rooms as well as event locations are also part of the offering. To offer companies even more convenience, some coworking spaces now even have fitness rooms, gaming lounges with game consoles and in-house restaurants. In addition, a high-quality infrastructure is provided for all space offers. This means that, depending on the provider, high-speed Internet, telephone booths, printers, shredders, height-adjustable work tables and coffee and tea are included in the price. Over time, coworking spaces have evolved from purely “working together” to “serviced offices” – a term that is often used to describe coworking spaces today, particularly in the USA.

Who uses coworking? Startups alongside large companies

While in the early days, it was primarily hackers, freelancers, and start-ups that could be found in coworking spaces, today you can meet many SMEs and large companies. This office solution is suitable for all types of companies, regardless of their size and industry. For large companies, coworking offers a practical way to expand into a new region with a team without having to set up an office with a complete infrastructure. Thanks to coworking spaces, SMEs can move to an urban center and benefit from a location advantage for potential customers and employees. Start-ups benefit from a financially attractive workspace that can be scaled as the company grows. Individuals can conveniently rent a flexible workplace in an open space and save valuable commuting time.

Westhive terrace at Genf Pont-Rouge
Westhive terrace at Geneva Pont-Rouge

Westhive offers high-quality coworking offices

With 7 different coworking spaces in Basel, Geneva, Zug and Zurich Hardturm, Stettbach, Seestrasse as well as Bleicherweg, Westhive AG is one of the leading coworking companies in Switzerland. The coworking spaces not only boast a high-quality office infrastructure, event facilities, meeting rooms, fitness rooms, gaming lounges and restaurants, but also offer a comprehensive range of services. If you want to become part of the Westhive community with over 300 start-ups, SMEs and large companies, then come and visit us for a free trial day or a no-obligation office tour.