Coworking

First coworking space to open in Nigeria, LitCaf, themed after books and coffee, was opened in March, 2013. Photo: LitCaf
First coworking space to open in Nigeria, LitCaf, themed after books and coffee, was opened in March, 2013. Photo: LitCaf

Coworking is a style of work characterized by the sharing of a usually optimized environment by independent professionals. The phenomenon of coworking, fast rising in Europe since 2006, eases  the cost, logistics, and the general requirements for doing business. It allows coworkers, especially persons who would otherwise transact businesses exclusively on internet to not lose human interaction, hence enable them to maintain social and mental balance. These principles, which research had shown to have yielded increased productivity, and emotional well being of coworkers is most often adhered to in coworking spaces.

There are a number of variants to coworking, which are not identical, or should not be confused with it. Since the appearance of Coffee shops in Europe, customers had scribbled to do items, or made some sketches in resemblance of work which they would have done at home or in rented office. In the first decade of the 18th Century, a coffee house by Edward Lloyd, had become a place where underwriters of ship insurance met to do business, and a class of working people who wanted to abstain from alcohol had frequented coffeehouses in Victorian England. In Dublin, coffee houses served as reading centers from which subscription libraries emerged. Although coffee houses had appeared in America since the late 17th Century, there was strong competition with equally favored beverages and liquors. The first coffeehouses in Boston however, were designed and recognized as ideal for gentlemen of quality. In 1808, the most ambitious coffee house project, The Exchange Coffee House in Boston, was opened to public. Like Edward Lloyd’s coffee house, The Exchange was the center of marine intelligence, and the rooms were busied with activities of naval officers and insurance brokers. When Howard Schultzth, CEO of the world’s biggest coffee company, Starbucks got his epiphany on a trip to Milan, Italy in 1982, he decided American cafes, asides selling excellent espresso, should also be meeting places. In 2003, the man who may have invented the modern coworking idea, met at coffee shops with a group who called themselves “nine to five,” and casually worked together.

In March 2013, Nigeria’s first coworking space, LitCaf, was opened as a hub for writers, distinguishing it from the Co-creation Hub, which debuted about a year and a half earlier as a pre-incubation space for technology-oriented people. In April, 2013, CC-Hub’s dream of having a cluster of innovation hub in Yaba area of Lagos had begun to take shape with the inauguration of a government-owned pro-creation hub, the iDEA Hub. The CC-Hub which served by necessity as a coworking space for not so techy persons tightened up its operations subsequently to reflect its original mission. Principles of coworking were hence found in the operations of more and more cafes, which often added book sales, restaurants, or even bars to their features. At the close of 2013 came Capital Square, one among the few that focused on the standard cultures of coworking. International brand, Regus has set up its shop in Lagos, as did other brands such as Cranium One, and CreateSpace.

The need for coworking is accentuated by the difficulty in getting office spaces in the costly Lagos real estate market, especially for startups, and small businesses. Although this has been the attraction for many coworkers, the character of a space, all over the world had often been its community; the chance to network, collaborate, and to get help in the course of a project. A number of workspaces appear in Lagos with a focus on the provision of functional offices and no visible effort towards the synthesis of cultures or creation of communities.