A co-living space is much more than a place to stay

colivers enjoying a sunset in the park overlooking the skyline

In recent years the co-living concept has taken off in leaps and bounds however it’s not a new idea at all. In today’s world co-living is making more and more sense as the cost of urban living skyrockets and loneliness is on the rise. Read on to learn a little about the origins of co-living and what it means to co-live with others

What is co-living?

Co-living is a shared living environment which usually offers residents a private room or shared room along with common areas such as a kitchen and living room. Some co-living spaces offer private terraces, rooftops or their own restaurants, bars and event spaces. A co-living space is perhaps the most similar to living in a shared apartment or house as is very common for students or city workers who either cannot afford their own place or prefer to live with others. Purpose-built co-living facilities are designed and engineered to foster a sense of community and belonging whereas a room in a shared house or apartment could be seen more as a way of achieving affordable living. 


What are the origins of co-living?

People have lived together in one way or another since the beginning of time, however, we could perhaps trace the roots of the current co-living phenomenon back to 1970s Denmark co-housing where communities were built around the concept of private houses set around common spaces. They encouraged residents to share and participate, cook together and even take care of each other’s kids. Co-housing is still thriving in Denmark and has perhaps played a part in spurring the current global co-living phenomenon.


Who typically lives in a co-living community?

Most typically you will find remote workers and lots of them, they tend to make up the majority of residents, we are usually talking digital nomads here. This is however not 100% the case. You will also find older people who don’t fit the typical digital nomad profile and also people who are not into tech at all like an author for example or an academic on a sabbatical. I believe this will change as society changes and we will hopefully see a much wider spectrum of people of all ages, occupations and backgrounds. For now, at least you’ll most likely meet a lot of people in marketing and software development.


Plug into an existing community in a brand new city

When a person arrives alone in a new city they are not familiar with they will most often not know people and so will be looking for ways to connect with like-minded people, make friends and begin to make the city their home for as long as they are staying. A co-living space is perfectly designed for this. It welcomes new people frequently and those arriving will have the opportunity to connect with like-minded people immediately should they wish to. Within a very short space of time, the person will most likely find people with whom they share interests and new friendships are born.


Co-living can be much easier and less stressful than looking for and leasing an apartment

When moving to a new city, finding an apartment to rent can easily become an energy-sapping experience. Very often the person is unfamiliar with the city, they perhaps don’t know which areas they want to stay in. There may be a language barrier, landlords may require big security deposits or evidence of a certain level of income. For many, this may not be a problem, but for others, this could be complicated. A co-living space very often will not require a security deposit at all or a long-term commitment. There is no need to contract utilities like electricity, gas or internet. Co-living provides it all within the monthly cost.


In expensive cities, co-living spaces offer affordable city centre housing

In many ultra-expensive cities such as London, Paris or New York just to name three, it’s often not financially viable for some people to afford a place to stay or if money isn’t too much of an issue it can still be difficult. Millennials are turning to co-living as it provides affordable living spaces in prime locations plus the added benefits of community living.


Beware! Loneliness can be worse than smoking and alcohol for your health!

It is said that loneliness can be worse for your health than smoking or alcohol. I found this quite a difficult concept to grasp however, it seems to be the case. Evidence shows that loneliness can easily lead to poor mental health which can also lead to poor physical health. In the elderly, it is shown that those that are alone will be far more likely to suffer from mental health illnesses such as Alzheimers and also a potentially shorter lifespan.

Co-living spaces significantly reduce the risks associated with loneliness and even those that are perhaps not typical social butterflies can very quickly be accepted into a co-living community and become more comfortable around others even if they are complete strangers.


You can experience a different social dynamic when sharing a living space with others

When we meet others outside of the home, be that in a professional environment like an office or a social environment we take on a slightly different persona. We are typically dressed up and perhaps a little more guarded unless of course, we are with close friends or family. In a co-living space, especially amongst those that you share common spaces with like a kitchen or a living room, people are used to seeing you in your sweats, not dressed up all the time as it’s just not practical, especially following a heavy night out! This more relaxed, more “real” environment can build stronger bonds and trust.

After a short time, many will feel comfortable to open up and discuss whatever they feel like and it’s very common for interesting discussions to spontaneously take place. 


There’s usually much more on offer than a place to sleep or cook

Many co-living spaces offer much more than a place to lay your head or cook up a quick pasta. You can find yoga and meditation, rooftop parties, game nights, movie nights and more. As the competition amongst co-living operators hots up you can expect to find even more on offer in order to attract and retain paying guests.


Networking opportunities can abound in co-living spaces

Some people are natural networkers. They like to network. In my experience, the majority of us do not fall into this category. Networking like it or not is kind of essential to success in most cases. Networking can lead to finding a new job, a new customer or an introduction to somebody that could help us advance in some way.

In a co-living community, it is often the case that the guards are much lower. People will feel safer and more comfortable discussing what they do and others may want to help if they can, after all, it’s a community.

The same two people in a professional environment may be guarded, but put those same two people under the same roof for a couple of weeks and the relationship can be quite different.

It’s not to say people should go to a co-living community with the sole purpose of networking, but whilst there it is definitely possible to make very good connections that could make a significant difference when it comes to your career or business as you never know who you’ll be sharing the space with.

In the more upmarket co-living spaces don’t be surprised if you are sharing a kitchen with a VC, startup founder, or HR professional in your field working remotely!


Co-living takeaway

There are so many advantages to co-living that I would say it’s almost a crime not to at least try it once. If you are a person who is a bit lost and needs some inspiration or a change of scenery, co-living could be a great place to start. Even if these things are not relevant, just the practical benefits themselves make a strong case. So, choose a city that sounds appealing, find yourself a nice co-living space, book a flight and take the leap. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain!


Related article: Exclusive interview with Samesame co-living co-founder Goncalo Caldeira

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