Many of us yearn to have the flexibility to work from wherever we choose, but what options do we have? After all, not all of us want to spend the day loitering around the coffee shop. And if we work from home, we face distractions (like laundry) and a lack of office amenities.
To address this issue, coworking facilities are popping up in many cities. These are spaces where freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals can come to work in a shared office space and take advantage of resources such as internet access, conference rooms, fax machines and, of course, coffee makers. One coworking center may cater to professionals in a specific field, such as designers. Another may double as startup incubator. Most are set up to accommodate a general range of professionals.
I corresponded with Evona Niewiadomska, marketing manager for WorkBar Boston, to get a better sense of what coworking is all about.
Is coworking more about providing a remote worker with professional resources or breeding a sense of community among professionals?
Coworking, at it’s very core, provides an environment to work in, however, it is the unique environment that differentiates the coworking experience. The presence of a community is a crucial part of the experience. The main reason people join coworking spaces is to get out of the house and be around other professionals because they lack a community atmosphere and interaction. Being around other professionals allows for cross pollination of ideas, a shared knowledge resource and the ability to learn from people working in various fields. Community is the “co” in coworking – without which it would just be “working.”
What do you hear from patrons about what they get most out of coworking?
Our members are most appreciative of the fact that we have such a wide range of companies working in our space. We have people in marketing, legal, graphic design, software development and even bio tech. This broad range of industries gives our members the opportunity to interact with all sorts of people working on a variety of projects, which often leads to business relationships. We encourage our members to communicate by offering an open workspace environment which enables communication and the exchange of ideas in order to foster relationship building. We also hold member events such as group lunches and happy hours to introduce new members and get everyone talking.
What would you concede is one thing coworking environments cannot provide?
Coworking is not for the introvert worker who wants to keep to himself/herself. Interaction and being around other people is the key to a successful coworking environment. People that are looking for isolation will have a hard time filling their needs at a coworking space.
Does coworking breed collaboration or partnerships?
Both! We’ve seen our members collaborate, form relationships as well as barter for their services. Collaboration and partnership are both a natural response when a group of people with different skills, strengths, and industry focuses work around each other. In a friendly and social environment these are the benefits that result from the coworking environment where you see and get to know the people working around you.
Every employee and every job are different. How does a coworking facility aim to meet the needs of many?
There is no set formula that a coworking space must adhere to, which is what differentiates one space from another. However, there are a few key elements that are consistent and which include; workspace, meeting space and phone areas. How these elements are arranged will vary.
One thing WorkBar has found to be successful is to provide various styles of workspace and meeting space. Our space has individual desks, multi tables, smaller cafe tables as well as a work bar. We’re learned over time by observing that each of these workstations has a draw to them. Various members have shown a preference to one style over another, which results in an overall equal use of the workspace. This is just one example of how varying a key element in a coworking space can fill the needs of many.
Pricing structures and what they are based on is also an important factor. We base our memberships on access – daytime, night time, weekends and 24/7 – all of which outline when a person might need workspace the most, based on their work schedule.
One thing to remember is that a coworking space will never meet the needs of everyone but it can meet the needs of others, very well.
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