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Coworking: The Way of Sharing

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

What is coworking? It may be something new in Bangladesh, but this is very well practiced around the world. Even in Bangladesh, the coworking trend started a decade ago. According to the dictionary, the definition of coworking is, "the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge." In this 21st century, it became a formal form of sharing, specifically the workspace; but we have been practicing the culture of sharing, even as Bangladeshi, for centuries.

The Age-old Sharing Culture

Remember that back in the old days, when we were suddenly short of tealeaf or sugar, we would always ask our next-door neighbor if they can spare some. During the black & white television era, our living rooms were open to our neighbors who did not have television, so we all could watch the weekly Bengali movies together in the afternoon on Fridays. Every teen in the neighborhood did not have to bring their own cricket bat & ball to play when they could play with others, or they probably would raise money to buy a couple of bats and balls. Traditionally, Bangladeshis are open-hearted people, and they are willing to share many things.

The Modern Way of Sharing

In modern days, we often share our Netflix passwords with friends & families. When lifestyles are getting materialistic and expensive, it actually makes sense to share the resources and optimize usage. Let's take an example of a 'camping tent'. If someone goes camping once a year for a couple of days, it is probably not worth spending so much money to buy a tent on his or her own. And it is a kind of a waste of resources when the tent lies above the almirah in dust for the rest of the year. What can be the smart alternative? A group of trekking enthusiasts could collectively buy one or two tents, and take turns going camping at different times of the year. It is cost-effective, optimizes the use of resources, and is environmentally friendly. Even the 'Autobiography of a Camping Tent' will have full of stories all year round.

Sharing the Office Space

When people plan to provide professional services or operate their businesses, they usually require to have a workspace where they can meet their clients and operate their businesses. It is a huge task and it requires a good amount of investment of money, time, and energy to set up a physical workspace or private office. Often, the private office owner needs to pay for the office rents amenities for a long period while their businesses are yet to see any profit, or during a business downtime like Covid-19. A modern alternative to this 'Private Office' can be defined as a 'Public Office' or 'Shared Office', where it is open to other people too. We have seen where few businesses share one office space, sometimes they sublet to other businesses to minimize the cost of operating the office space. For many businesses, this is a smart move to start and continue to operate. Let's imagine, a business owner is paying for the 100 sft meeting room which they use only a couple of hours a week. Rest of the week, the room stays empty. The same business owner is paying a few thousand Taka for high-speed internet & Wi-Fi, which can be easily shared with 10 more people. Splitting these various office costs between 2-3 businesses, an office overhead can be reduced a lot. For new businesses, lesser operating expenses can help a lot to grow the business.

The Idea of Coworking

The idea of coworking is a shared environment where people are willing to share the physical spaces, amenities, and resources. There are some differences between the above-mentioned shared office and the coworking space. In a shared office, only the tenants who share the costs and management have the access to the space. Instead of one business entity, now those few tenants have to bear the rent and amenities when there is a business downfall. But in coworking spaces, the physical space is leased or owned by a coworking space operator, who bears the rents for the long term, furnishes the space, provides many services required to run a business in a professional condition, and manages the space and the coworking community. They make the space open to the public who can usually use the space in a pay-per-use model. Let's say, someone needs a desk but not a meeting room, they can just pay for the desk. Someone only meets a client couple of times a month, they can just book the meeting room, and only pay for that duration. There is no such long-term commitment, there is no stress in managing an office. One does not need to wait to save a lot of money to start a business when one can just simply book a desk or a meeting room today, and start using that space tomorrow for a few hundred Taka.

For many Bangladeshis, the coworking culture is still new. Who thought a couple of years ago that we will be so used to ride-sharing or food delivery services in our day-to-day urban life? The wind of change comes to Bangladesh a little late, but it comes eventually. Collectively, we have to work together to accept the positive changes and adapt ourselves to the new environments. We have to cultivate modern ways of using workspaces, localize the ways of sharing, and create a coworking community & culture for us in Bangladesh.

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