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Growth factors of the coworking industry: the case of Prague
Department of Entrepreneurship, University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic
Mayerhoffer, M. (2020), "Growth factors of the coworking industry: the case of Prague",
Journal of Property Investment & Finance, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 203-212.
Purpose – The global coworking industry is currently growing at a rapid pace. Similarly,
Prague is witnessing an influx of global coworking operators who entered the market since
2018 and are expanding significantly. The purpose of this paper is to investigate enabling
factors for this growth.
Design/methodology/approach – After a brief review of coworking and relevant typologies
of its various forms, the paper conducts a narrative review of the coworking industry in Prague
and its socio-economic situation. This is subsequently linked in a discussion on growth factors
that have facilitated the growth of the coworking industry of Prague.
Findings – With global coworking brands expanding in Prague’s coworking industry by
primarily targeting corporate teams, they benefit from favourable socio-economic conditions in
Prague as an attractive destination for businesses, which increasingly opt for coworking spaces
to reap its positive benefits.
Research limitations/implications – Due to the conceptual approach and specific case of
Prague, the discussions lack generalisability.
Practical implications – The paper provides valuable insight into the enabling growth factors
that can serve practitioners to better predict and react to potential future developments, as well
as provide an additional perspective in evaluating corporate real estate.
Originality/value – The paper contributes to the still under-researched field of coworking by
investigated enabling growth factors in a macro-economic context.
Keywords: Coworking, Prague, Growth Factors, Czech Republic, Flexible Workspace,
Article Type: Conceptual Paper
Driven by changes in the nature of work (e.g., Myerson et al., 2016), there has been a shift
towards open-plan offices in organizations to achieve cost reduction and encourage
collaboration among workers. Yet, open-plan offices have been found to negatively affect
employee well-being (Bodin Danielsson and Bodin, 2008; Kim and de Dear, 2013), amongst
other outcome measures. Together with the rise of remote work of freelancers in project work
(Lund et al., 2012), the past years have witnessed a surge in coworking (Clifton et al., 2019) in
the global economy. Coworking spaces rent shared office space to freelancers, independent
professionals and other workers for a membership fee to co-locate as a way of circumventing
feelings of social isolation (Ross and Ressia, 2015) in an environment that follows the credo of
“working alone, together” (Spinuzzi, 2012).
Projections for the global coworking growth estimate 25,968 coworking spaces globally by
2022 (Hobson, 2019) as a 42% increase from 2019. The 2019 Global Coworking Survey
(Foertsch, 2019) estimates 26,300 coworking spaces globally already by 2020, with a very or
rather good outlook for the majority coworking spaces in Europe (65% very or rather good
outlook, 30% stable, 6% rather or bad outlook). Coworking seems to be largely successful in
high density urban areas (Green, 2014), and has risen to popularity also among corporate clients
providing flexibility in the co-location of remote teams, cost reduction, and increased outcome
measures of employees as a result of the office design (Orel and Alonso Almeida, 2019).
Similarly, with an increase of 150% of leased coworking offices since 2017
(europaproperty.com, 2019), even more growth seems to manifest in Prague. Since the first
coworking space opened in 2009, the city has witnessed a rapid development of the coworking
community with now more than 33 coworking spaces (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018) and
new, global players entering the market. Why, however, does Prague have such high growth
rates of coworking spaces?
The aim of this paper is to explore answers to this emerging research question. With the industry
still growing at a tremendous pace, and an increasing influx of global players tapping into the
coworking market in Prague, insight into potentially enabling factors aid industry practitioners
in evaluating corporate real estate more carefully and adding further value through coworking
as a new office concept (Appel-Meulenbroek et al., 2015). Furthermore, it contributes to the
under-researched field of coworking in shedding light on macroeconomic factors related to this
The paper will first provide a narrative review of the concept of coworking and relevant
typologies capturing its development and allowing for the classification of new office space
providers. This is followed by an investigation of the recent developments of the coworking
industry in Prague, which is then linked to a discussion of the socio-economic situation of the
Czech Republic and Prague in particular, in order to investigate enabling factors for the growth
of Prague’s coworking industry. An outlook and conclusions are provided.
The modern concept of coworking has emerged in 2005 when Brad Neuberg (2005) opened
Spiral Muse in San Francisco, where developers could work together in a shared space. From
that point onwards, the concept of coworking has increasingly been popularised and developed
based on the values of “collaboration, openness, community, accessibility and sustainability”
(coworking.com, n.d.), as published on the first publicly available online platform for
coworking. Apart from simply providing a space for work, coworking spaces have gained
traction largely for the way that coworking space members build a community of work (Rus
and Orel, 2015) where location independent knowledge-workers (e.g., Spinuzzi et al., 2019)
engage and collaborate with one another in the pursuit of a shared vision (Garrett et al., 2017)
for their coworking space, benefitting from the value created as a result of the physical
proximity (Parrino, 2015) and social interaction.
The rise of coworking can be attributed to various factors. After the internet had grown into a
major driver of the global economy from the 2000s onwards, as well as the fragmentation of
the value chain of global organisations (Valenduc, 2019) as a result in making use of the
possibility to offshore business functions to seize advantages, the economy has changed into a
global and connected world. This has also presented new opportunities to both entrepreneurs
and businesses regarding the then newly emerging online networks and platforms. Such online-
based work using “computers, smartphones, cloud services, the Internet and mail in the course
of their professional activity” (Valenduc, 2019, p. 68) has enabled the growth of digital
nomadism (Orel, 2019), where location independent professionals (Spinuzzi, 2012) can flexibly
schedule their working time and freely choose their work location such as their home, cafés,
hotels, or coworking spaces.
The development of new opportunities for flexible work still continues, with the number of
independent workers (King, 2017a) steadily increasing as well, and younger generations such
as Generation Y pushing for new approaches to work and the office (Gillen and Cheshire, 2015)
as a crucial contributing factor to health, happiness and productivity. Meanwhile, as the
corporate world has started to embrace the concept of coworking (Clifton et al., 2019),
coworking spaces have become parts of major business hubs (Hobson, 2019; Moriset, 2013),
and have become increasingly more international with a diverse mix of members. Nevertheless,
due to the increasing diversification and resulting complexity of the coworking model, it is
necessary to differentiate among various types of coworking. Various studies brought forward
typologies in trying to resolve issues from conceptual vagueness.
As one of such, Bouncken et al. (2018) find four distinct types of coworking spaces from
conducting qualitative research in a sample of twelve German coworking spaces. They indicate
that coworking spaces largely differ in their degree of openness and discuss the various
challenges they face regarding creation and appropriation tensions. On the lower end of the
openness scale, the Corporate Coworking is part of only one organisation and aims at increased
levels of collaboration among employees. These “corpo-working” (Schopfel et al., 2015, p. 70)
spaces can also be opened to customers and serve as a showroom for their brands. The second
type identified by Bouncken et al. (2018) is the Open-Corporate Coworking which is more
open in the hopes of enhancing value creation from the engagement with externals and can also
serve as an office for employees who are usually working from home. The Consultancy
Coworking is a specific corm of coworking largely focusing on project-based work for flexible
collaboration of consultancies with other firms and clients. Lastly, the Independent Coworking
is a coworking space in the more traditional sense of the notion of coworking, hosting
individuals, freelancers, start-ups and other smaller firms or teams to benefit from collaboration
mediated by active community managers.
Due to the changing nature of coworking and its application in organisational settings, Orel and
Bennis (2019) developed a more comprehensive typology of coworking spaces, where they first
differentiate between types of coworking and types of non-coworking shared offices. The
former includes Community-Washing Shared Workspaces, as office space providers which
utilize the label of coworking, but where there is no support or only limited support to certain
individuals, groups or projects under the same umbrella of an institution. This applies also to
Community-Facilitating Single-Entity Workspaces where members are part of the same entity
only. The last type of non-coworking shared offices includes Authentic Shared Workspaces
without the promotion of social interaction such as hotel lobbies or cafés.
In regard to coworking spaces, Orel and Bennis (2019) distinguish between four types, of which
each support social connectivity among individuals and/or involved groups, as well as connect
otherwise unassociated entities. First, the Individual-Purposed Coworking Spaces are in line
with the traditional notion of coworking, focusing mostly on individuals and community-
building among them, therefore mostly focusing on open-space offices with individual work
desks The Creation-Purposed Coworking Spaces are similar but differ in the nature of the work
that is being carried out. Instead of office work, these coworking spaces focus on their members’
specific, often only part-time, professions such as creative artists or hobbyists who can also
share otherwise expensive tools and machinery. The third kind of coworking spaces are Group-
Purposed Coworking Spaces which primarily target companies and teams by mostly providing
closed private offices, but in contrast to the Community-Washing Shared Workspaces, social
interaction is encouraged in addition to the provided flexibility with access to shared open-
space areas. This is in line with the aforementioned concept of “corpo-working”
(Schopfel et al., 2015, p. 70), which, despite its focus on corporate clients and groups, is still
based on coworking in its traditional sense. The fourth type of coworking spaces is described
as Startup-Purposed Coworking Spaces, specifically focusing on launching new businesses,
such as accelerators or incubators.
In order to investigate the reasons for the rapid development of the coworking industry for the
case of Prague, the paper conducts a narrative review based on publicly available secondary
data to identify development patterns in the industry and their linkage to socio-economic
factors. As a first source, particularly focused on the economic situation of the Czech Republic,
data was taken from the Czech Statistical Office (2019a) databases. Furthermore, findings from
the 2019 Global Coworking Survey (Foertsch, 2019) as well as the Coworking in the Czech
Republic research report by BNP Paribas Real Estate (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018) were
used to enrich the data. This was complemented by press releases, news articles and other
relevant studies, in order to build arguments on the enabling factors for the growth of the
coworking industry and provide an outlook for its development.
Development of Coworking Spaces in Prague
The report on “Coworking in the Czech Republic” (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018) from
September 2018 by BNP Paribas Real Estate provides more detailed information on the Czech
coworking market. They find that from 80 coworking spaces in the Czech Republic, 33 are
located in Prague as the capital of the Czech Republic with approximately 1.3m inhabitants
(Czech Statistical Office, 2019b). The second-largest hub for coworking is Brno with nine
spaces, which is at the same time the second-largest city in the country with a population of
about 380,000 inhabitants (Czech Statistical Office, 2019b).
The coworking scene of Prague currently witnesses an influx especially of larger, international
coworking brands (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018). To assess this further, the following
section provides an overview of some of the most important recent developments on the market
of the coworking industry in Prague. Major coworking space providers are listed in table 1.
This will then be viewed through the various typological frameworks to identify trends and
patterns, which can then be further contextualised through a discussion of enabling socio-
economic factors that have contributed to the observable growth within the industry.
[Table 1 about here]
Most recently, Spaces (2019) as part of the International Workspace Group (IWG) has entered
the market with a new coworking space (Holzman, 2019a) offering 400 desks in their
coworking space of 3,500 m² in the centre of Prague. As a large international office space
operator, Spaces already runs or is soon to open about 400 spaces globally (Spaces, 2019), and
is planning on launching three additional coworking locations by April 2020 in Prague, totalling
15,000 m². In doing so, they communicate their intentions to further diversify their range of
office space solutions in particular for corporate users.
In addition to Spaces, WeWork (2019), the largest coworking space operator globally with
currently about 850 locations running or soon to be opened, has entered the Czech market
(Ptáček, 2019) in 2019 offering both private offices and shared office spaces on about 6,000 m².
Similar in size, HubHub (2019), a coworking space operator under the HB Reavis Group, has
opened their second coworking space (Holzman, 2019b) in 2019 after their market entrance in
2018, offering office space of about 6,200 m². The Polish brand Business Link is part of the
Czech market since late 2018 (Ptáček, 2018) and provides a location of about 4,500 m². In a
merger of the coworking locations of Impact Hub and K10 in 2018 (Holzman, 2018),
Hub Ventures offers coworking opportunities to the industry on 7,700 m². New Work (2019)
has also expanded since their market entry in 2018 with the launch of their third location in the
third quarter of 2019 offering additional space of 3,000 m² providing mostly smaller offices for
In line with the coworking taxonomy proposed by Orel and Bennis (2019), all of the above-
mentioned office space providers can be classified as coworking spaces, as they are all (i)
offering work-purposed environments, (ii) support social connectivity at both the individual
and the group level, and also (iii) allow for otherwise unassociated entities to engage in their
In the typology of Bouncken et al. (2018) the described larger players would not fully fall under
the concept Corporate Coworking, due to their offering to various corporate customers at the
same time instead of being operated by one firm for its employees. In that regard, the outlined
office providers would fall more under Independent Coworking Spaces, for they are open to the
general public, too. Despite their primary focus on corporate clients and small businesses, they
still provide shared open space for individual use for unaffiliated professionals.
Given the classification under both Orel and Bennis’ (2019), as well as Bouncken et al.’s (2018)
typology as (independent) coworking spaces, the former taxonomy allows for further
differentiation regarding the orientation of the firms. The recent developments in the industry
display a clear development pattern towards a focus on corporate clientele to primarily rent
closed offices for groups and teams. Accordingly, this aligns with the classification as Group-
Purposed Coworking Spaces (Orel and Bennis, 2019), which entails a target audience from the
corporate world, whilst incorporating the original values of coworking in supporting and
facilitating social interaction of members, as well as in between the entities which are part of
the coworking spaces. For businesses, renting out office space from such providers is
advantageous for both their gained flexibility, as well as the achieved cost reduction. Despite
the primarily group-focused approach towards corporate clients, Group-Purposed Coworking
Spaces still offer shared open space areas for individuals. Facilitating elements of this can be
observed for instance through the organisation of events at the locations (e.g., HubHub, 2019),
shared kitchens (e.g., New Work, 2019), networking areas (e.g., WeWork, 2019), shared digital
platforms for member interaction (e.g., Spaces, 2019) and active community management and
The offer from the new players in the coworking industry in Prague is, apart from their focus
on corporates, also similar regarding their multiple location strategy. The premises are primarily
located in the city centre of Prague (district Prague 1) (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018) and
other more popular areas (Prague 5 and Prague 2) close to the centre. In addition, the newly
evolving coworking spaces offer separate meeting and conference rooms, as well as event space
to further cater to the needs of customers (Šindelářová and Kubíková, 2018).
Despite such overlap, the industry also witnessed increasing levels of diversity in the way the
coworking space providers differ in their intended target audience. This applies to both the
larger players, as well as to smaller coworking spaces and their focus on niche markets
(Coworkies Magazine, 2018) as Individual-Purposed Coworking Spaces (Orel and Bennis,
2019) such as Animika Hub as an event and coworking space for corporate clients, Opero for
seasoned entrepreneurs, and Node5 focusing on IT-based professionals.
What, however, are the reasons for these developments especially of larger players in Prague’s
The Economic Situation and the Labour Market of Prague and the Czech
Answers to this might be found in the socio-economic situation that Prague finds itself in.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and is with just over 1.3m people
(Czech Statistical Office, 2019a) the largest city of the country. The Czech Republic is a strong
market in the CEE region (JLL, 2019) with consistent growth rates above EU averages
(European Commission, 2019). The population of Prague includes 206,000 foreigners (Czech
Statistical Office, 2019c), and hence over one-third of the foreigners located in the Czech
Republic. The foreigners with citizenship in Prague were mostly from Ukraine (51,000),
Slovakia (31,500), Russia (24,000) Vietnam (13,000) and the USA (6,500). Prague is also
growing as a city, with consistent net migration of more than 11,000 people in 2018 (Czech
Statistical Office, 2019a). A total of 226,000 foreigners were employed in Prague in 2018
(Czech Statistical Office, 2019a), with 34,500 holding a valid trade license.
The European Commission (2019) describes Prague to be “among the most economically
developed regions within the EU”. In 2018 (European Commission, 2019), Prague generated
just short of a quarter of the national GDP with 187% GDP per capita in comparison to the EU
average and therefore significantly high productivity. The economy is based strongly in the
service industry, with about 75% of Pragueners employed in it. GDP has continued to grow in
2018 at 2.9% (Deloitte, 2019) in comparison to 2017, with now expected GDP growth rates
estimated to slightly decline but remain above 2%, due to the impact of external risks such as
Brexit and the US trade with China.
Prague also obtains exceptionally low unemployment rates, which have since the third quarter
of 2017 been constantly below 2% (Czech Statistical Office, 2019d). The most recently
available data from the second quarter of 2019 indicates an unemployment rate of just 1.5% for
the city. This also caused job vacancies in 2018 to outnumber job seekers by 92,500 (Ministry
of Labour and Social Affairs, 2019) for the first time in more than 25 years.
Average monthly wages and salaries in Prague for Q1-Q3 2019 were just below 40,000 CZK
(1,570€) (Czech Statistical Office, 2019e). The average monthly nominal wage for the Czech
Republic as a whole amounted to just below 32,000 CZK (1,260€) and saw an annual increase
of 7,5% (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2019). Despite the significantly higher rates
without exceptions in comparison to the rest of the Czech Republic, Prague still ranks low in
comparison to other European countries. For the Czech Republic as a whole, the minimum
wage in 2019 was just above 500€ monthly (Eurostat, 2019). In comparison to other members
EU members such as Germany (1,560€) or the UK (1,525€) as major economies, the attractivity
for taking advantage of the affordability of labour becomes evident.
Of the 707,000 people employed in Prague in 2018 (Czech Statistical Office, 2019a), about
46% graduated from university, and another 36% completed high school. The remaining 18%
graduated without A-levels (86%) or completed none or only primary education (14%). The
most represented age group employed in 2018 was 30-44 years, making up 43% of the total
Household incomes have increased nominally in 2018 by 8,7% (Ministry of Labour and Social
Affairs, 2019) in comparison to the previous year. When comparing gross minimum wages in
purchasing power standards (Eurostat, 2019), however, the Czech Republic is in the lowest
ranking group, scoring at just below 750 Purchasing Power Standard (PPS), with the highest-
scoring group including Germany (1,500 PPS), the UK (1,320 PPS) and the highest scoring
country Luxembourg (1,630 PPS) consistently above 1000 PPS.
The economic situation of the Czech Republic is further characterised by a record high of
fundraising for Czech-based firms (Deloitte, 2019) of 191m €. The total investment in 2018
amounted to 767m €. The Private Equity Report (Deloitte, 2019) indicates that “there is ample
fresh capital to deploy for growing businesses” (p. 8). Yet, possibly linked to the looming
economic slowdown, divestments increased from 122.5m € in 2017 to 182m € in 2018.
Growth Factors of the Coworking Industry
Viewing the development of the coworking industry in Prague in its previously discussed socio-
economic context allows for the identification of some of the key enabling factors for the
growth of coworking as part of the rising CEE market (JLL, 2019) for flexible office space in
becoming “the coworking hub of Europe” (europaproperty.com, 2019).
With the low wage levels in comparison to larger and stronger EU member state economies,
the Czech market and that of Prague, in particular, pose an attractive environment for large
businesses to either set up remote teams or locate whole units of their business to Prague. This
is further strengthened by the high share of workers with tertiary education as an indication of
elevated skill levels. With the local economy’s primary activity in the service industry, Prague
further represents significant opportunities to offshore functions to exploit the comparative
advantage through the cost reduction of labour costs, as well as take advantage of the expertise
of local labour.
As a result, the demand for office space by corporate users is steadily increasing. Coworking
as an alternative to traditional real estate acquisition or lease still allows for more flexibility
with organisations being able to variate team sizes and rented office space through short-term
and demand-oriented planning. Furthermore, by locating teams in Group-Purposes
Coworking Spaces (Orel and Bennis, 2019), essentially as a form of Corpoworking (Schopfel
et al., 2015), they provide employees with the opportunity to boost innovative potential as a
result of “positive tensions of collaboration and competition” (Bouncken et al., 2018, p. 405)
with other teams and/or individuals located in the coworking space, as well as knowledge
exchange (Parrino, 2015) through the co-location.
The productivity accumulated by the strong performance of the labour market of Prague also
plays a key role as a driving force for the economic development of the national economy as a
whole. With the steady GDP growth, low unemployment rates, and the industry generating
interest for investments, Prague manifests as an international business hub which further
bolsters its attractiveness for corporations.
With the recent influx of global coworking brands with strong expertise, the established
industry players can expect pressure regarding their professionalism (Šindelářová and
Kubíková, 2018) in keeping up with the standards of the large international corporates. The
latter has also displayed rapid expansion moves in opening new locations, in line with the
findings of the 2019 Global Coworking Survey (Foertsch, 2019).
In competing with global brands, further attention should be paid to effective community
management to enhance collaboration among coworking space members (Cabral and Winden,
2016). This also allows coworking space operators to direct their primary aim towards more
specific professional groups, which is already taking place on the Czech market (Šindelářová
and Kubíková, 2018) with coworking spaces targeting certain professions, or niche markets
such as mothers with children.
The key development emerging from the analysis, however, is the rise of corpoworking
(Schopfel et al., 2015) with increasingly corporate clients frequenting coworking spaces and
renting out private offices. This can be observed specifically in the increasing size of coworking
spaces, with newer players commonly offering about 3,000m² or more of office space, in
contrast to the average size of coworking spaces in the Czech Republic of 350 m² (Šindelářová
and Kubíková, 2018). In addition, the estimated growth rates of annually 24.2% (King, 2017b)
from 1.74m members in 2017 to 5.1m members in 2022, far outweigh annual growth rates of
coworking spaces with 16.1%, alluding to larger communities in the future.
Given the unanimously positive estimates for the future growth of coworking (Foertsch, 2019;
Hobson, 2019; King, 2017b) and the “coworking industry [being] at an all time high” (Hobson,
2019), the industry can expect further popularisation of the coworking model. Furthermore,
with coworking as a highly profitable business model with annual profit margins ranging from
15 to 19 % (Foertsch, 2019), and approximately 90% of coworking generating profits, strong
further development of the coworking industry can be expected.
The paper has linked the observed growth to favourable socio-economic factors by investigating
the specific case of Prague, which has witnessed a rapid expansion of its coworking industry.
Due to its flourishing economy, with skilled labour, low unemployment rates, strong
affordability of labour in comparison to other EU member states, as well as its status as a
business hub attracting venture capital, Prague displays ideal conditions for businesses, which,
in turn, increase the demand for office space. With businesses opting more frequently towards
coworking space solutions, this results in new growth opportunities for coworking spaces in
catering to the needs of these increasingly corporate clients.
It should be noted that this paper focuses primarily on the more recent developments in the
industry with global office space providers tapping into the Czech market. It would, hence, be
beneficial for both practitioners and the field of research to further look into the developments
of Individual-Purposed Coworking Spaces (Orel and Bennis, 2019) also, and to expand
analyses beyond the Czech market. Moreover, the collection of primary data on growth factors
for coworking industries is suggested to more closely capture interdependencies to be able to
predict future growth opportunities and trends.
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