With the growth of the private sector and freelance work, businesses are beginning to recognise the need for co-working spaces in Iraq. Traditional offices were already witnessing disruption before the pandemic, which has only accelerated in the past year. Around the world, people have found that working in shared spaces creates a sense of community and provides freelancers, entrepreneurs and employees with more job control. Communities in the UK have gone as far as honouring shared spaces with a dedicated National Coworking Day to experience the magic of co-working spaces.
Iraq is no exception to this growing interest in this phenomenon. The rise in demand for co-working spaces in Iraq illustrates that more workers realise that part of building a resilient businesses and workflows is being location independent. Although still not many in number, co-working spaces in Iraq represent an opportunity for investors to convert some real estate into spaces that increase innovation and help the growth of the business sector in Iraq.
Why a Co-Working Space?
Co-working spaces are places that provide basic working services such as a desk, internet, meeting rooms and sometimes, free coffee! It is useful for people or teams who want flexibility without paying high office fees, for those who are bored of working from home, and especially for individuals with poor internet access. Co-working spaces go beyond a space for entrepreneurs and freelancers, to students or employees doing part-time or flexible work. They provide a place for like-minded people to meet each other and depending on their business model, some spaces offer free and/or paid desks at affordable prices.
Few can now argue that workers are unproductive at home after a year of family distractions and zoom calls from the bedroom. Many are also questioning the need for office spaces in general – furnishing, heating and cooling, water and electricity…never-ending costs with uncertain futures are expensive. Co-working spaces make remote work less lonely and provide a distraction-free zone for working.
The spirit of co-working allows you to find co-workers who are worth working with.Cynthia Chiam in Entrepreneur
1) The Station
The Stations was the first co-working space in Iraq and is one of the leading institutions in the entrepreneurship field. It was set up with the goals of empowering startups and entrepreneurs, encouraging Iraqi youth to effectively engage in the private sector, influencing private sector reform by supporting Iraq’s ecosystem, and promoting Iraqi culture and heritage to a wider audience. The station has two branches in Baghdad and Mosul.
Baghdad is the main branch through which low-cost resources and an inspiring co-working space are provided. Since 2018, the station has acquired over $1million in funding, implemented 5 programs and has hosted a myriad of events on a national level.
The Mosul branch launched in 2020. Due to Mosul’s high agricultural potential, The Station will focus heavily on promoting businesses that offer innovative solutions to tackle some of the city’s biggest environmental problems, such as the distribution of quality water and food. Iraq has seen growth in green initiatives making the need for institutional support hugely necessary.
Erbil Innovation House is a co-working space with a makerspace supporting the local community and run by Field Ready. Open for entrepreneurs, makers, creatives, and technologists, the House offers desk space, phone booths, meeting and training rooms, hot drinks and snacks. Within the makerspace, you’ll find traditional workshop tools and the latest manufacturing and prototyping technologies.
The Erbil Innovation House offers multiple packages for members from permanent desks to more flexible arrangements. Events and workshops are also regularly organised for children and adults including puzzle making, digital art, recycling art, and industrial product design.
CoWork offers premium office spaces with wifi, private offices, shared desks, phone booths, virtual offices, and meeting pods. Memberships give workers the freedom to book their chosen workspace for a day, week or month.
CoWork also provides businesses with an annual virtual office pass with access to shared workspaces for seven days every month and the usage of the CoWork address as a business address. CoWork is run by KAPITA and offers access to a collaborative community ready to network and share ideas.
Co-working in the Covid-19 Era
Repetitive lockdowns and restrictions means that co-working spaces have faced their share of challenges in staying open and welcoming visitors. Co-working spaces around the world have been revamping their floor layouts and implementing hygiene measures to meet covid-19 requirements and reassure visitors. For instance, where cleaning often happened in the background, co-working spaces are now emphasising the use of smart solutions and hands-free check-ins to ensure that people working in these spaces are comfortable to continue doing so.
Although co-working spaces exist in Iraq, they are not accessible to everyone because only a few of them exist and only in larger cities such as Baghdad, Mosul and Erbil.
This constitutes a contradiction with the global co-working space market, which has achieved significant growth in the past decade on a global scale. According to the global co-working growth study 2020, the number of co-working spaces worldwide is projected to reach almost 20,000 this year and cross over 40,000 by 2024.
Have you been able to visit and try working or studying in a co-working space? Share your experience in the comments!