Dubai has become a bustling hub for entrepreneurs and remote workers in recent years, thanks largely to its world-class infrastructure, strategic geographic location, and favorable business climate. As Dubai continues to diversify its economy beyond oil and gas, the emirate has strongly emphasized developing its technology, financial services, tourism, and other knowledge-based sectors. This drive to become a leading global business hub has attracted scores of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and location-independent professionals worldwide.
However, many entrepreneurs struggle to find affordable yet professional workspaces conducive to growing their ventures. Traditionally, Dubai office space has been expensive and geared more towards supporting large corporations than bootstrapped startups or solopreneurs. This is where coworking spaces have stepped in to fill the gap.
The Rise of Coworking Spaces
A coworking space provides shared work environments for location-independent workers like entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote employees. In contrast to traditional offices, coworking spaces offer affordable and flexible plans with professional amenities better suited to small operations. Members typically pay a monthly fee to access a vibrant, communal working environment that fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing between like-minded professionals.
Coworking has taken off globally in response to shifting workplace norms and the overall growth of the gig economy and location-independent work. Industry revenue is projected to reach $13.3 billion by 2025, up from just $1.27 billion in 2010. Dubai, in particular, has embraced the coworking revolution as independent workers and entrepreneurs seek affordable, stimulating work environments tailored to their needs. Dubai is now home to over 30 coworking brands operating in nearly 50 locations across the emirate.
Benefits of Coworking Spaces
What exactly is driving the rise of coworking space in Dubai? There are several key benefits that make coworking an increasingly attractive option compared to traditional office spaces.
One of the primary advantages of coworking spaces is significant cost savings, making it more feasible for cash-strapped entrepreneurs and gig workers to establish a professional presence in Dubai. Shared amenities, infrastructure, and other resources mean substantially lower overhead costs compared to conventional offices. Most spaces offer flexible membership options – hourly rates, part-time and full-time monthly memberships – catering to different budgets and working styles.
Coworking spaces are designed expressly to enhance productivity. Open layouts, ergonomic furniture, plentiful natural lighting, and a general aesthetic emphasis on mindfulness and wellness help members focus. Many also offer meeting rooms for private calls, integrated virtual office features, printing, scanning, mail handling, and other administrative support.
Networking & Collaboration
Solo entrepreneurs often feel isolated, while remote gig workers lack opportunities for fulfilling professional connections. Coworking spaces are built around the community, hosting frequent networking meetups, industry talks, skill-sharing workshops, and other community events. The open layout enables productive cross-pollination across companies, functions, and industries. Coworking makes it easy to find mentors, bounce ideas off fellow entrepreneurs, and even forge valuable business partnerships.
In contrast to traditional long-term leases, most coworking spaces allow members to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel their membership plans with just 30 days’ notice. This allows small businesses to adapt to changing circumstances quickly. Coworking also provides flexibility in where members work. Many spaces offer reciprocal access to locations in other cities and countries, enabling business travelers or frequent flyers to transition work environments seamlessly.
Coworking Trends Shaping Dubai
Several notable developments and niche concepts are driving continued innovation within Dubai’s flourishing coworking scene:
Many coworking operators now offer dedicated spaces for large corporate clients who want to immerse select employees within a highly creative, collaborative environment conducive to accelerating innovation initiatives. These spaces enable companies to tap into the broader coworking community to gain key insights, leverage partnerships, and validate new ideas.
Specialized Industry Verticals
While earlier coworking spaces catered mainly to tech startups, new spaces are popping up focused on assisting entrepreneurs within specific industries – fashion, healthcare technology, blockchain and more – helping to grow targeted innovation ecosystems.
Some coworking spaces pair work environments with co-living accommodations, helping expatriate entrepreneurs relocating to Dubai minimize costs while becoming quickly immersed into supportive startup communities.
Why Dubai is Thriving as a Hub for Coworking
Dubai possesses several key strengths that explain its emergence as a prime destination for coworking spaces and why the segment will continue to boom:
Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia with extensive air links to key global business hubs, Dubai is the perfect base for entrepreneurs with global ambitions.
Supportive Government Policies
Dubai provides extremely favorable conditions for starting and operating businesses. The government continues to initiate policies and incentives – such as long-term residency visas for entrepreneurs and 100% foreign ownership of mainland companies – to attract international talent and investment.
Established Startup Infrastructure
Dubai already hosts an expansive support network for entrepreneurs, including incubators, accelerators, angel investor groups, and shared support services, helping minimize overhead costs.
Global Lifestyle Appeal
Dubai offers an unmatched quality of life shaped by diverse cultures, cuisines, and communities coupled with luxury amenities, helping attract top entrepreneurial talent worldwide.
For expatriate and native entrepreneurs alike, coworking spaces serve as connective hubs, tying these elements together while providing affordable, stimulating environments to grow business ideas.
Major Coworking Operators in Dubai
Many prominent global coworking brands have established flagship locations in Dubai, including WeWork, Impact Hub, and The Office. However, home-grown operators dominate the market. Some of the largest Dubai-based chains include:
One Business Centre
Founded in 2005, One Business Centre operates several spaces providing flexible offices and meeting rooms. However, their coworking brand, Edge Workspaces, has expanded to 8 locations across Dubai. Edge focuses on building close-knit startup communities through member networking events and business support services.
The Executive Centre
With roots going back to 1994, TEC operates over 135 locations in 32 cities and 18 countries. What began as premium executive office space has expanded into upscale coworking-style spaces under the brand Collective. TEC’s Dubai centers cater mainly to more established small business owners and independent consultants.
Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus
DU TEC’s modern tech-focused hubs in Dubai Silicon Oasis and Dubai Knowledge Park are pivotal in supporting early-stage startups. Their incubation centers and coworking spaces offer guidance and resources for entrepreneurs to get ideas market-ready.
Focusing on design-centric entrepreneurs, CZ’s spaces in Dubai Design District and Jumeirah Lakes Towers fuse coworking with fab lab environments complete with 3D printing and laser cutting technology. Members leverage the community’s collective design expertise to workshop products and ideas.
Future of Coworking in Dubai
Coworking took hold early in Dubai compared to other global cities but remains a relatively nascent industry. Operators continue to open specialized locations and refine amenities to cater to members’ needs better. Experts predict the number of coworking space in Dubai to nearly triple over the next five years as more independent professionals base themselves in the emirate.
Coworking enables startups and freelancers to plug into Dubai’s vibrant business ecosystem affordably. As industries and business networks become less tethered to geography, expect Dubai to thrive as a global nexus, with open, connected spaces like coworking serving to bring ideas and talent together. The future remains bright for coworking to power continued entrepreneur-led innovation and diversity across the Dubai economy.
Photo credits: Coworking London