The Coworking Symposium 2020 is an exciting admission-free event hitting the digital airwaves on May 27th.  Hosted by an impressive speaker line-up, this conference will focus on recent and emerging trends in the coworking industry. Coworking Symposium 2020 will bring some of the key minds to open a discussion on developmental trends, investment opportunities and future collaborative workplace movements.  

An interesting topic that will be explored at this half day conference is the subject of rural coworking and developments of this phenomenon. Taking the lead in this conversation is Viktoria Heinzel, a PhD student and research assistant at the University of Stuttgart since 2018. Viktoria took up the Media Research Master Programme opportunity in 2016, with a focus on teaching research best practices and competencies. Here she chose to specialise in the phenomenon of coworking, as it is a space she is well accustomed to. Before embarking on this, Viktoria herself was participating in coworking while working within the textile industry. Her coworking experience provided a great backdrop for providing context into this world. 

Viktoria works with five other professors studying the culture and creative industries and their impact on society in the economy. Together with Prof. Martin Engstler she has put a special focus on the research field of new forms of work. This has led to taking a closer look at new coworking models in the corporate world as well as the rural roots. 

Viktoria is part of the German Coworking Federation, a committee member of the Research Group on Collaborative Spaces, and she has participated in the European Coworking Conference. She has a true passion for the industry and a firm foot in the development of coworking.

We caught up with Viktoria to give us greater insight into this topic…

What is rural coworking and how does it benefit the end user?

Through studies conducted in Germany a closer look on how coworking can promote creatives in these rural areas was created. In these smaller societies coworking hugely encourages collaboration and a sense of community. It counteracts the self-isolation experienced at home offices and creates an opportunity between creative individuals that may not have existed before. A very interesting finding is that there is a greater uptake of these rural spaces by the older generation as well as individuals from other walks of life, such as teaching and tourism – creating synergy between interdisciplinaries that would never have existed before. There are also key regional mentalities that need to be observed and brought into the development of these ecosystems.

How do these spaces look?

There is a distinct difference between the spaces seen in rural areas vs urban settings.  They are smaller – roughly 220 square meters and are cheaper. In the region of 175 Euros per Flexdesk monthly, and the space caters more to single users or small teams, with less private rooms available. There is also a need for regular information sessions to be held, informing these individuals of opportunities available to them, like funding programmes. Among some of the conclusions came to is that there is a gap to be bridged between these rural coworkers and the economic development at their disposal.

Other than the traditional and rural coworking model, what other models are available?

The ‘workation’ is a new concept being observed in Europe, and is a spinoff of rural coworking. It combines work and in essence, vacation – including lifestyle activities such as yoga or hiking to strike that work-life-balance.

An example of a successful ‘workation’ space is Coconat, based in German that started up in 2015 and have created a great community. 

Another very interesting concept in Germany are ‘pop-up’ coworking spaces. These mobile setups are travelling to rural spaces, including the likes of beaches, village centres, and estates with the goal to explore the conditions under which new work in rural areas can function, while drawing attentions for coworking. People are invited to test the facility and share their insights before it’s packed up and moved to the next spot. The uptake has been met with mixed responses as the coworking environment is a lesser structured space, quite opposite to the traditional office setup. However, with the right approach i.e. communications, talks, the sharing of values and the most influential force – community, to positively influence the sentiments around these new-age workplaces, the perceptions are changing.

What advice is there for developing rural coworking spaces?

It is important to get in touch with other coworking appropriators in both rural and urban areas. They assist with many key insights and can further connect you to community managers who assists in building a good network of partners, funders and creatives.

Speak to those creatives and candidates that would be making use of the space – what infrastructure do they need and what considerations need to be thought of in terms of location. Within each area there is a specific regional mentality that needs to be embraced in both the physical look and communication method. Drive the communications constantly to remain present and top of mind, building a community of advocates to further propel the ideal forward.

Viktoria has recently been involved in a study for a local rural community, Freudenstadt in the vicinity of the Black Forest in Germany. There is a network of creatives driving the project that Viktoria and her team are studying. They are following careful considerations on how to develop a coworking space native to their regional mentality. The city has taken the initiative to help grow this project and spares no effort or expense developing the right model.

With just a glimpse into the kind of insights Viktoria will be delving into at the Coworking Symposium, this is a key topic that will continue to evolve as the nature or coworking adapts to the ‘new normal’.

Don’t miss your opportunity to RSVP for this free online event, where you will hear from Viktoria Heinzel and more industry experts who will be discussing coworking trends on May 27th.

View the line up here and interact with us using #CoworkingSymposium2020.

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