More and more people are parting ways with their traditional working environment in favour of coworking. Individuals who have workplace flexibility and those who are independent professionals are working together, rather than by themselves. This involves working as an individual, but not alone, rather in a shared environment. It is not just about the location and surroundings but also about the social interaction and the support network it can provide.
Coworking space focuses on community building as well as sustainability, sharing office space, whilst retaining individual activity.
Coworking is not to be confused with hot-desking, the popular nineties term which witnessed workers not having their own desk, but allocated work space, power sockets, local area network connections to connect laptops and mobiles. Today's professionals are more than equipped with their own communication gadgets and whilst proficient ICT systems are still very much valued, they are by no means first on coworking venues essentials list.
Coworking seeks to change the existing rules of work, enabling business owners and employees to work in a more unconventional way. No longer are we bound by the 9-5 conventions and whilst the advent of technology has stretched the working day, it does also mean that times have changed and working can be more streamlined and harmonious.
Lifestyle and work are much more compatible now and as a result coworking is a great way to achieve this. This will free up time limits and laws of convention to improve the world of work.
Redefining how we work
According to deskmag.com coworking spaces have doubled within the last year with over 2000 spaces now worldwide. Why? Because business owners no longer have aspirations of moving into their perfect office, however nor are they content with their home space or coffee shop. Instead they are leaving all these models behind in search of alternative work strategies. They are looking for something which offers the flexibility of premises without the contractual restrictions.
There's no place like home?
Many people choose to work from home to integrate their vocation and their home life and doing so can offer a lot of perks. No meetings, no commute, no boss, not to mention working as and when you please. Likewise employers also feel the benefit enabling them to cut down on overheads when employing people who work from home. However for the home worker it can have its downsides.
This can be the chasing tail effect, stress and guilt; stress that you are not working and guilt that you are not giving family/home life your full undivided attention. Essentially it is easier to create a work life balance when "leaving it at the office" doesn't refer to the spare bedroom. Working from home may mean that you can never truly switch off as there is always the temptation to check emails last thing at night or draft a response over breakfast. Tackling the overflowing inbox in bed is the same reason people climb a mountain - because it is there. Interruptions while you are working from home can include almost anything. Personal phone calls, interruptions from children, pressing errands, deliveries and even tending to the house itself.
All of these potential factors can easily prevent you from completing important work. Thus time management skills and a diligent worth ethic become very important for those who work from home. Apart from interruptions which turn productive days into fruitless hours and the never-ending cycle of being "available" there are other social aspects that could be considered prevalent cons of working from home. The question to ask when working from home is what are you being disconnected from? Ask this question and most will respond, "social interaction". Humans are social animals that have an instinctive desire for communication with others. When that contact is missing it can result in negative ways; decreased memory and poor decision making.
A lack of social interaction and loneliness can lead to slower business growth. Therefore the necessity for communication encourages some to work in public spaces for relief.
For example coffee shops are a popular destination offering free Wi-Fi and good coffee, but they are not designed for work. Coffee shops are usually loud; people talking, music, coffee being ground and orders being shouted. Yes, you can work in a coffee shop, but not for free, you will be expected to order something. Conducting meetings could result in being stressful as you can run the risk of the shop being crowded and therefore finding no place to sit. It soon becomes obvious that working for yourself can become a double-edged sword.
The coworking solution?
- Building relationships - instead of isolation, a coworking group instantly connects you to other professionals. Simply just being around others can stop you feeling isolated. It is having that community of support which gives you a social boost. It can be very powerful. Creative energy is contagious. Being around other people working on projects makes you more excited about your own tasks.
- Privacy without the isolation - it is a work day after all. You will want privacy and the ability to do focused work requiring your full attention which you can get without running the risk of home distractions.
- Beyond the coffee shop - providing access to not only hot drinks, but conference rooms, printers and reliable internet connections makes the working day flow more smoothly.
- Dressed for success - coworking compels you to have a more structured routine to be more productive. The process of dressing in business attire as opposed to what you would wear at home can make you feel more dynamic, positive and creative.
- Lower overheads - allowing your employees to work from a coworking space will result in lower overhead costs. Whilst not a significant saving, it can help retain skilled workers while offering minor savings.
- Access to IT support and specialists - most organisations which offer coworking have their own infrastructure in place which workers will be more than likely to tap into. Even simple things like a laptop clinic are often offered which can help keep costs down.
Work will never be the same again
The coworking space needs many factors in ensuring that things run smoothly, productively and efficiently. Good transport links, appropriate facilities and event organisation. The North East BIC UK feels that adopting the coworking approach adds real value to its centre. The BIC is like any other business in that respect; it must move with the needs of the market place and engage with clients on their terms and requirements. The BIC holds many networking events on site and adding coworking groups to this can only increase and improve collaboration opportunities.
Homeworking is not just about the lone business owner. Many people working from home are employers themselves, however this does not mean that all employees are working in the same home. This is a growing area and funds like the Home Working Fund are helping these business to grow. The Home Working Fund is aimed at enabling companies to create new jobs for home workers in the North East of England. The innovative £1.1 million Fund will help organisations overcome the initial cost barrier of implanting a home working operation.
Coworking spaces have many similar attributes as incubators, but with more infinite possibilities. Instead of a place where they "make you" what you want to be, it becomes a place for you to make yourself. Possible additional costs may occur, but when compared to renting a dedicated office or the numerous coffees bought just to keep your seat it appears to be worth it. Don't wish to commute far? The distance of travel required is really up to the individual, coworking spaces are becoming more and more popular and it is highly likely to find one close by.
Working alone can be incredibly lonely but in these changing and exciting times it need not be and coworking may well be how all of us end up working in the not-too-distant future.
David Howell is the Director of Operations at the North East BIC UK. David specialises in property management, incubator strategies, marketing, business planning and new idea development. David works with organisations throughout Europe championing the EBN BIC model. Born and bred in the North East of England, David has a passion for the local area and is committed to developing an innovative and enterprising culture throughout the region.
Published on 26-02-2013 13:53 by David Tee. 1450 page views
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