Hygge, Yoga and Chicken Coops May Be Hip but Are Coworking Spaces Turning Corporate?

Coworking is on the rise. The number of coworking spaces globally increased 100% between 2015 and 2018. By the end of 2019, they’re slated to reach over 21,000. Belgium is no exception and it won’t surprise any Brussels flâneur to hear that more than half the country’s coworking spaces are in the capital. From former industrial units to elegant arcades and converted Brussels houses, these new shared spaces are multiplying, and evolving.

Individual workers remain the primary target for spaces looking to attract members with the promise of reliable tech infrastructure, meeting rooms, access to networking events, shared expertise, and increased productivity. But that’s not all.

The high proportion of international diaspora in Brussels means many of the city’s workers want to build a contact book and join a community. Various workhubs clamour to meet these needs and propose distinct vibes, among which are Scandinavian design and hygge at The Library network, brunch time yoga at Les Galeries, and, at Factory Forty, even chicken coops in shared gardens.



But it is a myth that coworking spaces are full of lonely hipsters. Around 50% of members identify as employees or business owners. And why wouldn’t they too hanker after what’s on offer? Research shows that coworking respondents rate themselves as ‘six out of seven’ on a ‘thriving at work’ scale; at least one point higher than regular office workers. Factors at play include how meaningful work life is perceived to be, an alignment of identity and values, and job control.

Indeed, marketplace predictions suggest big firms are onto this. As they restructure to create crack ‘innovation teams’, we’ll see an increase in semi-corporate, semi-independent squads with more flexibility and freedom than their cooped-up counterparts, moving into coworking environments. This could mean an increase in fixed desks, pressure on meeting rooms, and just what the effect on the prevailing pranayama will be, remains to be seen.