What is Coworking?


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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Georgiana Cohen is a freelance writer and blogger who has contributed to publications including the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald and works full-time on web content for Tufts University. Her blog at georgycohen.com covers a variety of topics relating to web communications and content, while her blog Safe Digression covers life, music and adventures around Boston. You can also follow her mobile photolog.

Discussion

  1. Heather Villa on the 19th July

    Sounds very interesting. I’ll have to look to see if there are any coworking places in my area. I think it would be a great to meet like minded people and build local relationships.

    • Josh Arguello on the 19th July

      @Heather – I find these types of places are widely advertised on Craigslist; it seems to be the “new thing” that professionals are very into doing.

      I’ve considered this a couple times, but have been reluctant to move out of my home-office to an actual office.

  2. Oficio on the 17th August

    Oficio is a boutique shared office space coming to Newbury Street later this month and will provide exceptionally flexible and affordable options for business owners and freelancers. Follow us at http://www.myoficio.com to be the first to know when we’re open and for a chance to receive up to 6 months of free membership!

  3. Hector Taylor on the 21st December

    Could a new model of flexible remote working develop whereby people only commute to the office half the time and the rest of the time they work remotely – either from home or from desk space very near their home?

    The technology is now there to support corporate standard remote working (VMware ThinApp & Citrix etc) without performance issues. The environmental issues of petrol costs and carbon footprint will encourage this and it is generally becoming accepted that it is a win/win for employers and employees.

    The market does not exist yet in the UK but the congestion caused in London by the Olympics may trigger its development. The government is also launching a Work Anywhere Hub in the New Year and I presume Boris Johnson and co are trying to work out a solution to the fact that no one will be able to commute to Canary Wharf during the Olympics.

    Long-term we think we will see a proliferation of small shared offices opening up near residential areas, in villages, above cafes and in old library buildings etc. So many people find it difficult to be productive working from home due to family/kids being around or unsuitable workspaces, but they will still want the benefits of remote working. People will rent desks by the day often at short notice as that is the nature of flexible remote working and their employers will be invoiced directly from the site. Employers will be happy to pay for the desk space as it will be cheaper than normal office costs and they will heave a more productive workforce.

    The Flexydesk site is in development and will be aimed at corporates and SME’s and will have a corporate standard transaction engine in it to enable booking and seamless payment.

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