Coworking spaces: A Metamorphosis of the Workplace

Entreperneurship

The advancement of technology and the market entry of new generations with disruptive worldviews has brought about great changes to work environments.  Suddenly, meetings are held online, documents are stored in the cloud and the consumers’ first contact with organizations happens through social media. This is the environment that Millennials or Generation Y-ers were born into: they are digital natives, nomophobes, app-addicts and above all, they are nomads, who in 2025, will represent 75% of the world’s workforce.

This generation is seeing a metamorphosis of the workplace take place – home offices, time flexibility, role diversification and ubiquity: today they work from one place, tomorrow from any corner of the planet. Nevertheless, this growing number of remote workers has created an epidemic of loneliness: isolated humans beings who do not leave their houses and have no interaction with the outside world.

In response, new generations are increasingly eager to be part of a community that provides them with the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves. To do so, they demand physical spaces where they are able to connect with others and thus, build social and professional relationships. This is where the popular coworking places take center stage – spaces that are far more than simply shared office space, but a social phenomenon that is replacing traditional offices.

New professionals, in their eagerness to make their places of work one with pleasant experiences, prefer to work in offices with collaborative environments, recreation areas, spaces that encourage conversation and where they may establish horizontal relationships with other professionals.  That is to say, friendly, flexible and intuitive offices where collaboration is key; studies[1] show that when people collaborate, they work faster and feel more innovative and satisfied. Coworking offices is where these collaboration scenarios occur -scenarios of innovation, productivity and well-being.

Being part of a coworking space means belonging to a micro community that promises to enhance the sharing  of knowledge, as well as creative inspiration. There, computer scientists, architects, designers, photographers, digital marketers, communicators and artists converge in one stage to create collectively. Successful companies like Uber, Instagram and Spotify were born somewhere in the coworking universe, indicating that these spaces give a professional push to those who rent in it.

Recent results of the Global Coworking Survey confirm that the number of coworking spaces continues to increase globally. 15,500 spaces were identified in 2017, compared to 3,400 in 2013; and 1.27 million new coworkers, compared to 151,000 in 2013[2]. These are fledging figures compared to other markets; Panama is just entering this new trend, increasing its offer of shared spaces.

In the study ‘Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces,’ Harvard Business Review Magazine explains that, ultimately, a coworking space contributes to professional and business development due to the flexibility to share with other sectors and the possibility of having professionals nearby that complement one’s expertise; besides, the community-created social cohesion is one of the added values ​​of this new trend.

The City of Knowledge’s Innovation Center welcomes in its coworking spaces 186 entrepreneurs and 70 companies, 45% of which belong to the technology sector, 30% to cultural and creative industries; 15% provide administrative services and 10% are foundations and NGOs.

Hiram Cañizales, Founder of the ‘Latin Entrepreneurship American Pro Gamer League,’ highlights how the coworking has contributed with value added to the growth of his business idea: “I came to the City of Knowledge with my idea captured in a PowerPoint presentation. Here, I was able to get it out to the market. Being part of this coworking space means being part of a collaborative community that helps you. I currently have in my team several people whom I met here; they jumped into the idea and are now part of the company. ”

Osma Díaz, co-founder of ‘Enter Startup School’ and member of Innova 109, recounts her experience as part of the community: “When I got to the City of Knowledge’s coworking space, I only had one startup. Soon after, we started our second startup idea; its three founders met here. The idea formalized in the conversations we had. ”

Like them, many members of the coworking space agree: users of this space have created a community that is, arguably, the most innovative in the country. Its members claim that the ‘magic’ of this place is owed to the people who work in it, since they have a collaborative spirit, working together in a setting that encourages conversation and creation: “the community is unique in the country; I dare to say; I have witnessed it.  The coworking ecosystem allows you to find in others what you can’t or don’t know how to do” says Daniel Billingslea, Founder of Oaoa.

This year, Innova 109 was awarded the Coworker Members Choice Award 2019 (CMCA 2019) for ‘Best Coworking Wpace in Panama.’ This is one of the few global awards for this industry and is awarded to a single space in each city; it validates, through surveys, the experience of those who have had the opportunity to use the coworking space.

Surrounded by greenery and the City of Knowledge’s tranquil environment, “its infrastructure is unique and the space fulfills all the entrepreneur’s needs: a budding entrepreneur, for example, needs an open space to share with others; when the entrepreneur makes progress, he or she usually requires a private office; and when the business is more advanced, it may need office to work with the entire team. You can find all of these here.” says Daniel.

The City of Knowledge’s support to entrepreneurs is an added value that the coworkers point out: they receive free advice from different experts to accelerate the achievement of business goals. According to Daniel, “these workshops and free mentoring help to avoid spending unnecessary capital. I think it’s a tremendous value to have someone who guides you and point towards where you need to go, especially in an environment with as much uncertainty as entrepreneurship… No other coworking has as this much interest – and works nonprofit  – in you advancing your project as the City of Knowledge. Their one and only mission is to provide you with the tools so that you reach your goal. As an entrepreneur, to work in the City of Knowledge’s ecosystem is the best thing that could have happened to me. The amount of time and knowledge they’ve given me, and the money I’ve saved is incalculable. I’ve made friends, a family.”

Innova 109 and Innova 104 at the City of Knowledge are a mixture of history, nature, innovation and technology. The 109 building operates in Fort Clayton’s  former ecumenical temple. Building 109, operates from the building that was once the headquarters of the Southern Command of the United States’ army.  Both have been rethought and redesigned for entrepreneurs and organizations who want to be part of an ecosystem characterized by having a variety of experts in different areas. “There is a lot of cultural wealth. The City of Knowledge has a wealth of its own because of the nature that surrounds it, as well as the historic foundations upon which it was created. Also, the diversity of creeds, ideas, cultures and nationalities that converge here is all very enriching,” comments Osma.

These offices rescue the value added that comes with thinking collectively. Talents come together in this space that opens the scene of Panama’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and helps the country step further ahead towards the future.

The members of this space have created the country’s most innovative community. More than an office, it is a laboratory of ideas that responds to the needs of 21st century employees.


[1] Using the city as an innovation playground: getting corporations into the game, keynote by Anita Fuzi, Lidia Gryszkiewicz and Dariusz Sikora at the RSA Annual Conference, 2018 in Lugano, Switzerland.

[2] The Global Coworking Survey 2015-16, Deskmag and socialworkplaces.com