This is a guest post from Piotr Boulangé from ClockWork in Warsaw, Poland:
Polish freelancers and entrepreneurs have started to think in business-like terms of cutting costs while optimizing their income. These workers began to register their small businesses at home. The home thus became the office for majority of micro-companies, small medium enterprises, and specialists working with many different companies: consultants and freelancers.
The vast majority of these workers or small businesses still work at home, or sometimes work in coffee shops or public parks; coworking spaces have not yet become a widely known alternative. Although Polish work culture is transforming to resemble western work culture, there is still a marked difference, which explains why coworking has been slower to catch on. Regarding coworking, Poland is in a collective state oblivion: people don’t know that they don’t know.
Knowledge of coworking is passed on mainly by word of mouth (in Polish there is no direct translation and no word which describes this kind of work environment. The closest terms would be ‘cooperating’ or ‘collaborating’).
Warsaw, as the largest and most advanced Polish city, has 14 coworking spaces, and many more offices that operate as virtual office (or business centers) but advertise themselves as coworking spaces.
Coworking spaces in Warsaw that have been open for more than two years will most likely remain open. New spaces will hang in the balance and struggle for at least a year before their fate is known. Wojtek Majewski runs Biurco, opened in June 2009, confirms this trend: ‘only few of them are on the market for over two years. Among them is the BIURCO (Polish word for “desk” is ‘biurko’, and for ‘office’ is ‘biuro’)’.
Biurco was the second coworking space to open in Warsaw. It is the oldest and currently the largest, with more than 40 members. To achieve these membership figures is at present only feasible in Warsaw, which is the only Polish city large enough to have developed freelance market.
This is what distinguishes Poland from other countries where coworking thrives: the lack of need of coworking spaces, catering for independent professionals, in smaller urban areas.
‘Warsaw is just like any other European coworking area when it comes to social initiatives, peer ventures or even larger partnerships. What differs in the Polish capital city [compared to] other major towns is the smaller scale of ventures (a lot smaller than in Berlin for example). Even barcamps or other coworking initiatives characteristic of the worldwide spaces are rarely organized in Warsaw (or Poland on the whole),’ Wojtek concludes.
According to Polskicoworking and the most recent report concerning coworking in Poland, (published in October 2011 by the Infakt and 4P research mix1 agency), the most coworking spaces are in Kraków, with eight, and Warsaw, with ten. According to my personal foursquare list, however, there are now fourteen spaces in Warsaw. The remainder of the ‘larger’ cities have one or two of this kind of facility. In Warsaw, after ClockWork opened in May 2012, only two more have appeared.
This report tells us that 73% of Polish coworkers learn about their coworking space via the internet, and 36% of them from their friends.