It is a shared space and community dedicated to providing independents and remote workers a place to work amongst like-minded others. These people share many qualities, not least the belief that work is better when it is done together.
Working independently, but not alone
The belief that serendipitous happenings and creative insights are more likely to be triggered in the company of others who listen, laugh, question, challenge and inspire you to do your best work.
Coworking is a state of mind.
In our new working paradigm of instant, global reach, connectivity and social disconnectedness, building meaningful relationships that transcend simple commercial transactions is more important than ever.
Coworking offers access to a broad network of people connected not by a niche interest or industry, but by their desire to be there, to be present, to self-select membership to a community of contributors, not spectators.
Coworking communities build relationships that build better businesses.
It is difficult to understate just how important it is for your well-being and personal productivity to be surrounded by people that want to be there, to be their authentic selves and create an awesome place to work.
Read on to find out more (10 minutes…)
What happens in a coworking space? Who’s there?
In a word, work! Just like any other workplace, people go there to be productive and collaborative.
The difference in a coworking space is that everyone is working on their own ventures; everyone has their own brand, with its own goals, processes, operations and challenges.
Almost all market sectors have representatives working in coworking spaces on a regular basis. I believe that it will be the future of how we work. This variety is also a great leveller, meaning that no one person or interest group unfairly dominates conversation, decision making or community culture.
Coworking space members are there because they want to be, because they find the setting naturally lifts their productivity and creativity.
Anyone who has curated their career/ role/ job to be able to ‘work from anywhere’ can benefit. The one caveat to this is that, for most coworking spaces anyway, the type of work is limited to knowledge based/ screen based working. There are of course examples of niche spaces dedicated to artistry and craft, mechanical engineering, product manufacturing and others.
So unless your work primarily revolves around a welding machine, combine harvester, smithy’s forge or weaving loom, you can generally derive benefits from a coworking community and space; even if you need some form of plant and equipment to ply your trade, some of the work of making your living will be managing the business side of things.
As our modern workforce transitions out of industrial-age work customs, where the dominant form is working for someone else for a wage or salary, many people are choosing the freedom of choosing how and when they earn their money as independent workers. Technology has disrupted the way we have traditionally worked for the last century or more. Place, organisation and hierarchy are no longer the defining features of a career.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, contractors, independent consultants and small/micro business owners are all examples of this new cadre of workers. They are making their presence known in the Australian economy and this style of working is also becoming very, very popular throughout the world.
Telecommuting and Remote Workers
In the corporate world workplace flexibility is gaining a strong foothold. Larger organisations are now finding that money is not the only motivator for employees (duh…) and that providing them with flexible, work from home options and even results-oriented work schedules is beneficial to both the employer and the employee.
This means that some employees are now finding themselves working from home or an alternative reasonably regularly.
Telecommuting is awesome. Being paid by your employer to be at home doing the same things that you normally have to dress up and travel to the mothership for is refreshing and empowering.
Employees often work harder at home on telecommute days than they would at work. This increase in productivity is usually a combination of fewer distractions and the employee’s desire to ensure that the privilege of working at home remains an option. Some organisations even sponsor their staff to work in coworking spaces to encourage a healthy work/life balance and to promote the cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge.
Some corporate workers however, that would otherwise have the option of telecommuting, don’t use it due to distractions at home or a lack of other people around to motivate them and prevent workplace isolation and loneliness.
Workplace isolation – is that even a thing?
One possible downside of adopting an independent working lifestyle or full-time telecommuting is a lack of social interaction with colleagues.
That sense of togetherness, of shared experience and goals, of seeing the same faces regularly and seeing how they (and you) progress and grow is what ex-corporate workers miss most when they take the plunge and quit their jobs for the dream of starting their own show.
You start out well enough, independent, energised and ready to take on the world. It might take a few weeks, months or even years of working from your home, your car, the local café, maybe the library or a shared office. Eventually though, not having anyone but your family or the dog to share idle chatter and bounce ideas off begins to take it’s toll and you start to lose focus, creativity and drive (and some social skills!).
There’s a good reason why the worst punishment a prison can dish out is not physical, but mental isolation – we’re social animals and we still need a campfire to gather around. Modern day campfires have morphed into water-coolers in the office kitchen but you get the metaphor. Social contact and interaction is a basic human need and it damn well should be a human right.
It’s possible to stay the isolation somewhat by getting involved with hobbies, community work or industry activities; problem is that these things take valuable time away from what you ‘should’ be doing in your business for growth and profit.
It shouldn’t be an either/or decision to be made with work styles. So what’s needed to reduce the isolative effects of working independently is a way to keep yourself positively engaged and socially active whilst you’re working.
What are the alternatives?
You can prop at your local café which has a buzz of activity and can be stimulating; this may be though because you feel slightly conscientious for hogging a table and so you buy a coffee every hour to assuage that guilt! The more enlightened cafés sometimes welcome laptoppers with power sockets and comfy couches.
Local libraries are nice and quiet and can be good for focused work or surreptitious people watching. No talking though (!) and certainly no phone calls. Same goes for some council or city sponsored work areas.
There have always been office facilities designed to cut or share costs for small businesses and freelancers. There are executive virtual offices, shared offices and workspaces (some call them ‘touchdown spaces’) where you can go to get work done. These can be free to use for a limited period or cost per use or by subscription. A lot of large businesses pay for their mobile workers and road-warriors to use these facilities whilst in transit or you can get them free with the right airline ticket or hotel room.
In general, these all feel a little stale and clinical, dare I say – corporate? You still miss out on what really matters to the human psyche – which is community and a sense of belonging.
Enter coworking: born from the open source, collaborative consumption, sharing movement, it provides the antidote to workplace isolation, loneliness and creative suppression experienced by independents and many others pursuing workstyles outside of the traditional methods.
Check out this intro to coworking clip: