Rural Coworking Toolkit

Coworking has been growing in recent years, particularly in urban areas, where mobile professionals work flexibly in shared workspaces that offer different creative and social environments.  Rapid changes in working practices now make this a more appealing and realistic proposition for rural areas too.

Take a look at this animation to see what rural coworking is all about…     

To learn more, follow through the key ideas in the toolkit

Firstly, identify which type of coworking venue best describes you; are you a profit-driven private enterprise, public sector or a community-led venture?

Our research has shown that the design, activities and marketing for different types of spaces in different rural areas may be quite different.  For example, community-run spaces might cater for more non-business users. Where profit is essential, the business model will be driven by the demands of users and opportunities to provide more than just a workspace.

The typology below suggests different characteristics and priorities in each case.




Public sector (or university-led)

Community-led (informal, bottom-up/co-ops)


Profit from meeting evolving demands of mobile and remote workers

Meet policy goals of delivering training, start-ups, networking etc.

Community cohesion, mutual support, overcome isolation

Audience and Reach

Travellers; “digital nomads”;  tech professional and creative occupations; remote workers.

Potentially global

Small businesses, start-ups and remote workers.

Town and hinterland

Remote workers and self-employed.

Local community


Annual/monthly/day passes, (single or rolling), corporate & individual memberships

Annual and monthly passes, short-term tenancies

Informal and low cost


Larger cities, transport interchanges – maybe rural hub locations?

Towns (especially those requiring development interventions)

Villages/urban neighbourhoods


Combination of dedicated desks and hot-desks; mutli-purpose spaces; meeting rooms and rentable offices (very short term). Specialist tech suite, “Zoom room”, café.

Incubators and accelerator programmes, innovation hub with coworking attached, café

Shared spaces, maybe quite informal. Likely to include a café and other hireable social spaces.


Professional, contemporary, high-quality. Designed to suit target audience: plush, hipster, corporate…etc


Perhaps more “cosy” and informal, but this will vary to reflect each community


Occasional and irregular as well as frequent users



Technology provision

Professional & comprehensive

Access to technology that you may not have at home/office

“Sufficient” (but ad hoc) – Corporate IT for larger firms may question the security

Other services

Café, meeting rooms etc; reception, digital office, events

Training, serviced offices, reception networking events

Quite limited – dependent on venue


For maintaining the social space

Some common imperatives

  • It’s a social space, not just a business networking space, so prioritise the social needs of people who and live and work in your area. Our research shows that Salesmanship is a real turnoff.
  • Technology and the way of work is changing fast… be adaptable. Try to accommodate different type of spaces for different activities inc. quiet spaces, video-call spaces and informal “chatty” spaces. Without this, Space storage cupboards, loos and odd corners were being turned into “zoom-rooms”!
  • Build a sense of ownership, give users a stake in the way that the space functions so that they become your ambassadors. They also respect the space more, help to introduce new members and start to form more of a collective identity this way.
  • Keep simple but effective routines for smooth operation and responsibilities to avoid conflicts and make it an easy, comfortable place to work.
  • Keep the kitchen well stocked with coffee and functioning equipment (maybe the most important advice of all!)

Reaching out to the wider rural economy

  • Promote other local businesses and encourage coworkers to use local services
  • Reach out to local businesses who wouldn’t otherwise see coworking as being relevant to them – the paybacks in terms of acceptance and understanding in the local community can be very important. New innovation ideas may arise from these new connections too.
  • Consider sponsorship of local business events that aren’t explicitly about coworking – show that you are not competing with the local rural economy but you are integrating into it.
  • Work with Local Authority and business networks to support their initiatives and seek potential funding for growth etc., if the coworking is delivering on other policy goals – e.g. access to technology and upskilling the local workforce. These can offer new sources of income.
  • Partner up with other coworking spaces in the form of joint memberships or to undertake professional visits to each other’s space from time to time. This could help local coworkers develop their businesses on a whole new level by connecting easier to other professionals in other places while being part of the local ecosystem.

The Business Model

  • It needs to make money to be sustainable – it can’t just be a “nice place”! Whether private, public or social sector, identify multiple revenue sources, not just membership and desk-rent. For example, do you want to run or lease out a public café space? Do your clients need retail spaces? Can you host workshops, training or other externally run events?
  • Consider how the space might be run as part of another business. Could one of your regular tenants take responsibilities for managing the space in return for reduced rents?
  • Where consultants are working from the spaces they run, this makes a good selling point about their effectiveness. In some cases they can open up new opportunities for coworkers, by getting them access to bigger projects, supporting bid-writing, widening collaboration, B2B contracting etc. We also found that founders or dominant occupiers can shape the identity of coworking spaces. Examples included creative spaces and sustainable spaces which attracted similar users to reinforce their identities.
  • What is the short- and medium-term future for (rural) coworking? How will you stay informed and keep ahead of the competition? As people find a new balance of hybrid or remote working, what is your value proposition to employees and employers, or to “digital nomads”, freelancers or sole-traders?