Day 1 and it’s all (co)working out – Oliver Deed review day 1 at the Milan coworking conference. 

What is it about the first day of a conference? Are people unusually optimistic or what? Every time I go to a conference, it seems there is unbridled enthusiasm from attendees. That perhaps owes to the lack of partying the night before, because day two always tends to be a bit more sombre, as the hangovers kick in.

Day one of the coworking conference here in Milano was no different. Events kicked off with a welcome from the municipality of Milano, with Cristina Tajani the Deputy Mayor, outlining how the city was growing its coworking sector. 49 centres in total with more to come. Perhaps Milan will develop beyond its current reputation as an annual pilgrimage for fashionistas, which it has unfairly gained in the past few decades.

With that finished, a retinue of terrific speakers graced the stage to tell us how their coworking space worked, or how they think coworking spaces might develop in the future. Sara Turnbull, a star of the coworking scene in London, dazzled with a presentation on how incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces were shaping the greatest city on earth (note, other attendees may disagree).

She was followed by speakers who touched on how coworking spaces might go about securing partnerships and sponsorship within their space, another who talked of the different profiles of the members of coworking spaces (are you a hermite [sic] or a digital nomad?) and another, by video link, who talked of the impact coworking spaces are having in Africa.

But what, you might ask, is backing that up. Fortunately the Global Coworking Survey 2015 (still ongoing) has some statistics that help to paint a rosy picture for the sector:

  • There has been a 36% increase in the level of coworking space globally in the past 12 months
  • There has been a 30% uplift in the number of members of coworking spaces in the past two years
  • The average age of a coworking space is around 32.8 months
  • The average rating given by participants for their coworking space was 8.38 out of 10.
  • 73% of individuals who have started coworking spaces state that “being connected to others” is a key motivation for opening them.

The real revelation for me was the panel discussion session on “coworkation”. The concept is really quite simple. A coworkation space is a coworking space that is situated in an area that you might normally see fit for a vacation. These spaces are popping up all around the world, including in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, as well as Bali and parts of Brazil. You might inhabit such a space – and yes that means live in it to – for a few days, months or even years.

Stuart Jones of coworkation.com, posited that coworkation spaces enhance one’s quality of life and improve productivity. And he should know. He is launching his business from a coworkation space in Bali, along with colleagues. Who am I to argue?

So day 1 was superb, and day 2 promises plenty of interaction within the group as we move to the “unconference” stage of proceedings. In the meantime, I am off to dream about coworkation spaces to work out of. The only problem is, I might need to persuade the boss to let me work from somewhere like Bali for the next six months. Anyone got any suggestions as to where I might start?