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How co-living is shaping the future of work in Spain

Everyone's heard of coworking spaces, but one project in the Costa Blanca is taking the concept a step further. Introducing co-living spaces; the next big thing for digital nomads.

How co-living is shaping the future of work in Spain
One of the coliving pioneer projects in Spain is in Javea. Photo: Sun and Co

The Local gets the lowdown from Sienna Brown, a full-time resident at Sun & Co coliving space in Javea. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in online entrepreneurship and location independence has become a trend that everyone is talking about.

Research shows that 24 percent of people are currently earning money from digital platforms and it’s easy to see that the future of work is allowing almost anyone with a laptop to be able to live and work from anywhere in the world.

As these trends grow, it inevitably means that more people are calling different countries home, whether it’s for five months, five years or longer. So how does that impact and innovate the various societies that they’re moving into?

Here in Spain, we’re seeing the same increase of entrepreneurs and freelancers “working from home” or a place of their choosing but with that also comes a price.

It changes the way that people work, play, and integrate themselves socially in their local community while still having a positive impact on the world around them.

As the trends evolve, the movement of coliving has a direct influence on the way that these remote workers not only work, but also navigate the world.

What Is coliving exactly?

Despite what some may think, coliving isn’t sharing a flat with roommate like one might do in university. But coliving, when done well, is creating a space and community that brings together like-minded individuals with diverse backgrounds to both live and work under the same roof.

In the same way that one might enter into a coworking community to evade the sentiment of isolation on a daily basis, coliving takes it just a step further and for the better.

With over 30 percent of freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers claiming that isolation and loneliness is something they regularly struggle with, it can be hard to find meaningful relationships in an age where we’re always sitting behind a screen.

It’s been found that when people experience coliving; both living and working under the same roof, it doesn’t just have benefits on well-being, our environmental impact and meaningful connection but it also alters the way that we work.

One of the innovators of the coliving movement in Europe is Sun and Co. based in Javea, Spain. A 19th century house converted into a coliving space has welcomed over 500 location independent workers through their doors in less than three years, finding their new “home away from home” and returning time and time again.

Whether it’s to try out the concept of coliving, find their Spanish home on their “digital nomad” journey or just simply disconnect from their daily life for a “workation”, the benefits of an experience like this prove to be true for many reasons.

How It Works

The structure of the coliving experience in Sun and Co. is quite simple; you decide how long you’d like to stay for and everything included from accommodation to workspace and community. Depending on what you’re looking for, you have the option to choose from a single, shared or quad room and the prices from €28 a night to €55 depending on the length of your stay. Keep in mind, this is what you’re paying for accommodation, a coworking space and access to an international community of professionals.

Of course, the longer you stay, the more affordable it becomes.

To provide value and a sense of connection the minimum stay is one week but most people stay for 2-5 weeks, while others choose to stay for 2-3 months at a time. The people who stay are more than just coders like most imagine but instead, there are coaches, editors, designers, project managers, entrepreneurs, freelancers and more professions but underneath it all everyone who comes has a desire to live life outside of the typical “9 to 5”.

During the week, there are both professional activities from 'skillshares' (which is when someone shares their knowledge in a certain field; varying from topics like Facebook ads, email marketing, tai-chi, remote team organization, etc.) to masterminds, which is when someone has a personal or professional challenge that they’re facing and the rest of the community gives insights and helps them through the issue.

And of course, the social activities ranging from hiking, kayaking, cooking challenges, movie nights and even many local events in town.

Strong Community

Community might be one of the biggest benefits from staying in a coliving space and it’s been seen that many of the relationships created, often extend past the walls of the house. In our day-to-day lives, it’s quite difficult to craft new relationships that extend past our professions but in an environment when you’re not just working next to someone but also sharing a glass of wine with them over dinner, real connection happens in a short amount of time.

In most coliving spaces, there is a brief application process that secures that like-minded individuals will be a part of the community so no matter what your background might be, you’ll be able to truly connect with the others in the house. Coliving communities have lead to job opportunities, new friendships, travel partners and even blooming relationships.

Professional Growth

Collective and collaborative learning is what fosters professional growth in a coliving environment. When you have an array of individuals with a variety of different skills, they’re able to share with one another ideas, concepts and knowledge… being able to both teach and learn from one another.

Not only are you able to learn new skills but your network also grows tenfold, entering into an international community of people who are willing and open to provide value for the others.

Places like Sun and Co. have also taken the concept of professional growth one step further by launching Sun and Co. Academy, seven-day immersive courses that cover specific topics like brand building to scaling a business and even creating online courses that allow for the attendees to immerse themselves in a learning environment and leave with new skills and knowledge to advance professionally in a different field.  

Work/Life Balance

When you have spaces like these in remote towns like Javea, it fosters a different sense of work/life balance than what you might find in cities like Madrid or Barcelona. With a central focus on working smarter and living better, coliving spaces like Sun and Co. spark inspiration to re-imagine what life looks like when you’re able to balance not just the professional but also the social.

When you’re with new people in a beautiful location, time and time again, people find themselves being more productive in a shorter amount of time so that they can fully enjoy the experience.

With less distractions than what we have in our everyday life and intention activities that foster exploration and slow living, levels of productivity fly rocket and general sense of happiness rises.

With the future of work changing both in Spain and globally, it only makes sense that we have more resources available to support and benefit the way that the world is moving.

Coliving is one of those resources that we now have readily available, allowing for anyone to create a life that fosters community, productivity, growth and balance.

If you’re interested in learning more about the coliving movement or the Sun and Co. community in Spain, don’t hesitate to find out more at Sun and Co. or email [email protected] with any questions you might have.

For members

WORKING IN SPAIN

‘Hard to stay afloat’: Is working for an English language academy in Spain worth it?

It's the go-to work option for countless anglophones in Spain, but is teaching at an English language academy still enough to pay the bills in a climate of rising prices, stagnant wages and a shift to online learning platforms?

'Hard to stay afloat': Is working for an English language academy in Spain worth it?

Traditionally seen as a type of gap-year experience for recent graduates and/or those seeking adventure before settling down to a more traditional career path, English language teaching in Spain has becoming increasingly popular as a long-term career.

A high quality of life, a more favourable climate and generally lower living costs have always made Spain a popular destination for English language teachers, with Spain posting the highest number of job advertisements for teachers among European countries.

As a result, many of those working in the industry see it as somewhere to further both their professional and personal lives.

However, poor job security, stagnant salaries and issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of language academies have plagued the sector for years.

The recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current rise in inflation has further compounded these issues, with many teachers considering their long-term careers in Spain.

Teachers working for private language academies in large cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla can expect to earn between €800 to €1,400 a month after tax for about 20 to 30 hours of class time per week.

One teacher told The Local Spain that despite working as a profesor de inglés for almost a decade, his academy salary had gone down dramatically in real wage terms, following a salary cut during the pandemic which made it “hard to keep my head above water”.

“I was working as a teacher for nine years but felt the need to leave the profession as the hours I needed to work were affecting my mental health. During my first three years in Spain, I was able to get by on my salary. Since then, I have increased the number of private classes gradually, I save the same a month as I did when I first moved here, but have to work an extra eight hours a week to be in that situation”.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

As of 2022, the minimum monthly salary stands at €1,166 gross for a 40-hour working week, meaning that someone working as an English teacher can expect to earn more or less the minimum wage based on their contact hours, with many opting to teach privately in order to supplement their income.

In addition to this, most teachers are hired on short-term indefinido contracts, meaning that they only earn a monthly salary for nine months of the year, resulting in many taking on summer work to maintain a year-round monthly income.

While short-term informal contracts and a relatively manageable monthly salary may have appealed to single, twenty-somethings seeking a few years of fun and adventure in Spain, for those looking to support a family or get on the property ladder the precarious economic reality of English language teaching has seen many reconsider their long-term career goals.

“I rented when I initially moved here but now I’m paying off a mortgage which has gone up due to interest rate rises,” another English teacher told The Local Spain. 

A traditionally in-person industry, the pandemic forced many academies online and, due to increased competition from online language learning platforms along with a paradigm shift in terms of hybrid and remote study and work, academies have struggled to replace students lost to this new language learning environment.

As a result of this, some teachers have seen their weekly teaching hours reduced as academies simply cannot guarantee a full schedule, putting further financial pressure on teachers.

teaching english spain

Poor job security, stagnant salaries and issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of language academies have been plaguing the industry for years in Spain. Photo: Thirdman/Pexels

One teacher with over seven years working experience for a large English academy in Madrid told The Local that “a few years ago our company began the long process of trying to cut our supplements and basic wage”.

“We were backed up by our comité, (representative group) but after about a year of negotiations, reductions (and redundancies) were made. At the time it cut about €250 from my meagre wages.”

As is the case across Europe, the level of inflation in Spain has risen sharply to about 10.5 percent as of September 2022. Combined with rising energy prices, more and more teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to live off a salary in some cases of just over €1,000 a month.

With the average cost of renting a room ranging from €400 to €500 in large cities, some teachers are choosing to cut costs in terms of their living standards to make their salaries stretch further.

Another teacher told The Local how “while I still go out at the weekend and buy the food I want at supermarkets, the increase in rental prices has meant that I’ve stayed in a less-than-ideal room, rather than finding a better room – due to not wanting to pay significantly more in rent”.

While the challenges facing English teachers in Spain are not unique to their line of work, this latest set of drawbacks should be factored in by anyone considering making a move here or teaching long-term.

Such economic realities are difficult to ignore, but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot English teaching can offer someone looking to gain some valuable work and life experience while also enjoying the hustle and bustle of life in Spain.

Article by Cormac Breen

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