As work norms continue to shift, the concept of work and life is becoming less of a balancing act and more of a melding. You’ve likely already heard of coworking spaces - an office created specifically for freelancers, contractors and other independent professionals who pay a membership fee in exchange for all the accoutrements of a modern office facility. Recently, a coworking provider has expanded its offerings to include on-site living accommodations.
WeWork, a coworking startup company, began testing the idea of whether working and living in one place could improve quality of life. The first seven floors of WeWork’s coliving space, unofficially named WeLive (located on Wall Street in New York City), is comprised of coworking spaces. Above that, over 200 units (studios as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments) are exclusively available to coworking members. The company believes that by 2018, this residential offering will account for 21 percent of its total revenue.
Already, the organization has about 80 members and employees living in the building’s 45 apartment units. And this social experiment is raising big questions for those of us standing by. Namely, is it possible to successfully live where you work?
But before we dive in, let’s set the record straight.
Coliving is Not ...
- Coliving spaces are not communes. In the 1960s, when people felt society was hopelessly failing, many groups decided to form small Utopian communities to isolate themselves from what they believed were the issues plaguing the rest of society.
- Coliving is not cohousing. Cohousing takes place in more suburban or rural settings and involves private homes that share a common building or multiple common buildings. These communities are both owned and managed by the residents, who make decisions based on a consensus.
- Coliving spaces are not co-ops. Co-ops are usually found close to universities and colleges, and are generally formed around socialist principles and political activism.
So what is it? Coliving is a modern living arrangement inspired by the professional Millennial generation that values community and collaboration. In some coliving environments, like WeLive, residents work and live in the same building. In others, community is built on shared interests and values.
The Advantages of Coliving
There are numerous advantages of a coliving and coworking arrangement. The most obvious benefit: zero commute to the office (unless you count a short walk down a hall and a quick ride in an elevator). But coliving spaces offer a number of other benefits, including:
- Social Life
Entrepreneurs are notorious for working long hours, and this can make maintaining a social life challenging. But in a coliving environment, your coworkers are your neighbors, and hopefully, your friends, too. Organized community events like karaoke nights and Sunday potlucks help fortify relationships.
- Furnishings and Features
Some coliving spaces come fully furnished, and offer exclusive community features like an on-site gym, yoga studio, theater, laundry facility and designated social areas for intermingling. Sharing the cost of these resources is far more economical, and provides access to features people might otherwise be unable to afford, especially if they’re paying the rent of a city apartment.
- Easy Networking
Coliving spaces are like having prime-time networking built right into your everyday life. You live alongside other entrepreneurs who each likely have their own connections (just like you), and conversation flows naturally because you live in the same place and share the same resources. This means you have casual access to limitless connections that could uncover new opportunities.
- Emotional Support & Perspective
The unspoken benefits of coliving include gaining perspective and greater peer understanding by living side by side with people similar in age, work arrangement, interests and values. Being part of a community filled with like-minded individuals also provides a level of emotional support that Millennials value.
The Disadvantages of Coliving
Of course, there’s always a flip side to any coin. For example, coliving spaces can be more expensive than other living arrangements, and residents may not have as much control over how they customize workspace and living space.
Plus, some people prefer to keep their work community and personal community separate. In most cases, these communities become close-knit, there’s little separation between work and life, and members may become wrapped up in one another’s personal experiences. (If you can’t imagine living in the same building as the people you work with—coliving may not for you.)
The innovators behind this type of living environment hope it enhances quality of life for busy professionals. Understandably, it won’t be right for everyone. But for many, this social experiment could prove to be a perfect solution to the work-life dilemma. We’ll stay tuned—only time will tell.