Co-working spaces in Paris

One of the big changes in Paris in the last few years has been the proliferation of co-working spaces throughout the city and the nearby suburbs. I have never used any of these co-working spaces, so I can’t speak from personal experience — I’m just trying to figure out what they are, who they are for and what they are all about.

My first photo shows a motto from one of the front windows of a site called “Spaces Les Halles” at 40 rue de Louvre in the 1st arrondissement, near the Bourse de Commerce and the shopping center Les Halles. The motto reads: “Welcome home. Opps, we meant to say, ‘Welcome to the office.’”

“Spaces Les Halles” on rue de Louvre

This particular site is one of eight Paris locations of a company called Spaces. As their website explains, “Spaces is part of the IWG network, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace. With other brands including Regus, Signature, HQ, and many more, our members receive complimentary access to thousands of coworking spaces and business lounges around the world — during business hours of course.”

(Their business hours in Paris are currently Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 18:30, but it is also possible — for a much higher price — to book a “dedicated desk” or a private office which can be accessed “24/7/365.”)

(IWG stands for International Workplace Group, which now has its headquarters in Zug, Switzerland.)

Motto in another window of “Spaces Les Halles”

This motto reads: “Welcome to the largest community of co-workers.” 

Features vary from one location to the next, but they say this location offers six meeting rooms, “super fast Wi-Fi”, wheelchair accessibility, showers, parking (I assume in the nearby underground parking garage underneath the Jardin Nelson Mandela), “breakout areas” for taking a break from working, a gym and an outdoor area with tables and sun umbrellas.

As to who their clients are, the Spaces website says: “Whether you’re an established brand, a big corporate, a startup or just getting started as a creative entrepreneur, we welcome any kind of business.”

Of course the clients all bring their own laptop computers. This goes without saying, and is clear from the photos on the Spaces website. In this regard, today’s co-working spaces appear to be the opposite of the early-21st-century internet cafés, which existed to provide internet access for those of us who did not (yet) carry our own WLAN / Wi-Fi devices.

myCowork Beaubourg

This is a smaller coworking site called “myCowork Beaubourg” at 5, rue du Cloitre Saint Merri in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near the Stravinsky Fountain and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

Sign at myCowork Beaubourg

This sign at myCowork Beaubourg says it is one of two sites where you can come to “travailler, créer, turbiner, brainstormer, coder, inventer en toute tranquillité!” — meaning to “work, create, work hard, brainstorm, code, invent in complete tranquility!”

(I never knew the French verb turbiner, which has several meanings such as to spin around like a turbine, to work hard, to slave away, to work your fingers to the bone, but also to work as a prostitute. And I never knew there was a verb brainstormer in French — but of course there is. They simply took an English word and added a French ending, as in scotcher, meaning to attach something to a wall using Scotch tape, or in badger, meaning to open a door by swiping your badge on a card reader.)

The myCowork website specifies: “Welcome to our two coworking spaces designed to make you feel at home: myCowork Beaubourg and myCowork Montorgueil Les Halles. Centrally located in Paris’s second and fourth districts, we have light-filled, airy rooms, with office facilities that will help you get the most out of your working day. Come for an hour, a day, or become a long-term ‘resident’”.

Table reserved for clients of myCowork Beaubourg

In addition to their indoor tables, they also have a few outdoor tables reserved for their clients. Just judging from their website, myCowork sounds less elaborate than Spaces, but is also less expensive. Rates at myCowork (as of 2022) are € 4 per hour or € 20 per day, including taxes, and the site is open seven days a week, not only five.

Another coworking space I walked past a couple times was the WeWork site at 4 Rue Jules Lefebvre in the 9th arrondissement, but I didn’t take any photos because I only walked past late at night after the theatre.

I did look them up afterwards, however, and found that WeWork is a large American company with 756 coworking locations worldwide. Ten of these are in Paris.

A few weeks later, I was surprised to see WeWork described in the Washington Post as a former “unicorn”. This was in an article headed “The billion-dollar tech unicorn is becoming rare again” by Nitasha Tiku and Gerrit De Vynck, dated October 26, 2022.

Unicorn in a tapestry at the Cluny Museum

I used to think I was fairly well informed about unicorns, having admired the ones in the tapestries at the Cluny Museum on various occasions. But I learned from the Washington Post article that the word unicorn has an entirely different meaning in tech-talk. “More than a decade ago, the $1 billion unicorn start-up became an aspirational marker of success in Silicon Valley. It reflected the exuberance and optimism of a near-mythical bastion of the economy where the boom times never seemed to end.”

A unicorn company is a start-up that is valued (by its investors) at over one billion US-dollars, often before it has even begun to turn a profit. “Many of those companies never lived up to the spectacular expectations thrust upon them. At one point, the office-sharing company WeWork was valued by its investors at $49 billion, but it now trades publicly on the stock market at less than $2 billion.”

Later in the same article, WeWork is mentioned again: “WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who became emblematic of unfounded Silicon Valley hype, recently netted a $350 million investment and $1 billion valuation for his new real estate start-up, which plans to offer a branded product with community features in the housing rental market.”

If any of you have actually used a co-working space, whether in Paris or elsewhere, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below.

My photos and text in this post are from 2022.

See also: An old-timey internet café and Internet points in Verona.

18 thoughts on “Co-working spaces in Paris”

  1. Very interesting, especially the new French verbs related to work, and the other use of the word “unicorn”

  2. I used one for the first time a couple months back! While I am able to use my company’s Los Angeles offices, they’re 30 miles away; coworking space a couple miles away gives me a chance to enjoy people-presence without the long commute.

    I bring my laptop and set up where there’s space. Typically, this is right next to a huge window with light streaming in, so I’m able to enjoy both the company and the bright, open space. This is soooo much better than working out of my laundry room as I have the last few years!

    1. Avoiding a long commute certainly sounds like a great reason. Depending on the price of gas, I suppose it might even save you some money. In Paris, people have their choice of coworking spaces in all parts of the city and suburbs, so there’s no need for a long subway or bus ride.

  3. Out of the 756 locations worldwide, 1 of those is Mumbai. I remember using it once for a client meeting before pandemic. My friend had booked a slot for couple hours with WeWork for a video conferencing. I think it’s a good option for freelancers, start ups, micro businesses, entrepreneurs and people who travel.

  4. My son had a Co-Workplace for a few years just after he got his law degree. He’d charged for the space and supplied some basic office supplies and equipment. He let it go once his Law Practice grew.

  5. Hi Don,
    Here in the USA the Co-Working Spaces are sites where “Start-Up” companies or other businesses can share the overhead for running their business, in a more affordable way. It[‘s a creative way to cut the cost of high rents and energy bills.

    1. Hi Linda, great to hear from you again.
      I think the situation is similar in Paris, where office rents are high (but going down slightly at the moment) and lots of small companies can’t afford to rent office space exclusively for their own use.

  6. We had a WeWork space near us when we lived in southern California. People used it as an office when they needed one or if they needed to get away from their house to get work done. I thought it was a great idea but they went out of business at that spot. If you worked from home and needed to have professional meetings, they would be very useful.

    1. Somewhere recently I read that over half of the co-working spaces worldwide are currently not making a profit, but I neglected to note down where I read that. Apparently WeWork and some of the other big companies can afford to operate some of their sites at a loss, because they have ample money from investors for the time being.

    1. Thanks for your visit and comment. After writing the word ‘proliferation’ I remember thinking: ‘Now there’s a word I haven’t used for a long time.’

  7. It wasn’t officially a co-working space, but I worked for a government agency (OSHA) in which we did quite a bit of field work. When I started we had an office in a city building for the field workers. There was the boss’s office a secretary and a room with five or six desks. We didn’t have personal computers in those days (they were available but we government types didn’t have them) so we wrote reports in longhand on specified forms. We were allowed to do the report writing at home. We had to come in to the office at least one day a week to answer phones, and we had to bring our reports in to submit them. We had about 10 inspectors so there weren’t desks for all of us – when we came in to answer the phones we just picked an empty desk. If there was a group meeting that we all had to attend, some people sat on the desks because there weren’t enough chairs to go around.

    Then there was a change of management (after an election) and the PTB decreed that we all had to come in to the office every day – no more writing reports at home. They split us up into regions so that we would all have a desk. Production dropped significantly.

    1. When you were working for the OSHA you might theoretically have met one of my relatives. My uncle Clyde Smith worked for the Labor Department for most of his adult life. But I suppose you worked there too late to meet my grandfather, W. H. Cameron, who was managing director of the National Safety Council from 2013 until he retired in 1942.

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