After co-working, the next trend from California’s Silicon Valley is spilling into Europe: Co-Living. What is behind the modern way of living, for whom is the concept suitable and what are the dangers of blurring boundaries between living and working?
What is Co-Living?
Anyone who has lived in a shared flat during his studies can probably remember it all pretty well – the discussions about dishes that have not been washed up, drowned-out party nights, where something always went wrong; remember that you rarely have the apartment to yourself and prefer to go to the nearest café instead of working in a full house – literally. But, despite cramped and often chaotic living conditions we think with a touch of melancholy back to the time when we could apparently go through life much easier. The light-heartedness that a life in a community often brings with it and that a new generation of digital nomads is trying to revive. Unlike the classic student flat share, a co-living space has little to do with cleaning plans, ragged kitchen utensils, and a parent’s long-worn sofa. Instead, co-living takes place in modern apartments and feels more like an office and shared flat under one roof. The idea behind it is that people who spend a lot of time together and pursue similar goals can support and promote each other in a better way. Co-working at a higher level, then. The best part: Anyone who leases in a co-living space, usually receives a complete package of rent, utilities, cleaning, co-working and – most importantly – high-speed Internet.
❞ Unlike the classic student flat share, a co-living space has little to do with cleaning plans, ragged kitchen utensils, and a parent’s long-worn sofa. ❝
Where is the co-living trend coming from?
Like many other innovative ideas of the 21st century, co-living also comes from California’s Silicon Valley. One of the first residential projects was launched in America in 2006 under the name “Rainbow Mansion” by five NASA engineers. The community villa brings digital geniuses and nerds together to be creative and learn from each other. Similar to the co-working trend – the shared use of public office space – the co-living concept spread throughout Europe. In Germany’s major cities such as Berlin or Hamburg, there are now many imitators. In addition, the co-living concept fits into another trend in the real estate industry: more and more buildings are being used simultaneously in different ways. Rooms have to be built in a modular way, so that they can be adapt to the needs of the residents. Just in case the office space is quickly being converted into a venue for an event, a workshops, a party – or even into living space.
24/7 instead of 9-to-5: For whom is co-living really suitable?
Co-Living is the modern living concept for all digital natives and creatives, founders and visionaries who do not need more than a Wi-Fi access and a socket to work. The special type of shared housing promotes creative work in the group, fills the yearning for the we-feeling and eliminates the danger of socially isolating yourself as a freelancer. Despite the many benefits, the new way of life hides one or the other risk. The biggest danger: work-life-blending, as the complete mixing of private and professional. The complete dissolution of a spatial border can become an enormous stress factor. Can there be any closing time, when we are not only working for the weekend anymore, but also on the weekend? If the first after-work beer is open before lunch break, but then the work is taken to bed? This makes co-living a long way from a classic 9 to 5 job. And while flexible scheduling can be a big gain in quality of life, the concept is not for everyone. Because like self-employment, it requires ambition, structure, discipline – and an awareness of when a break is necessary.
A trend that stays?
The most likely answer to the question of whether the co-living trend has a future is short and sweet: yes. The working world is evidently developing towards independence, which means that fewer and fewer people want to be bound to a permanent job in the future. In Germany, around 1.4 million people worked freelance in 2018. According to the development of the past years the tendency continues to rise: Within the last ten years, the number of freelancers increased by more than 400,000 people. Among them are many who do not want to work alone at home, but prefer the company of like-minded people. The increasing scarcity of living space also plays a part in the co-living trend: in the event of a general lack of housing, it is almost logical to combine work and living space.
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