Coworking: Sharing How We Work Part I

Coworking


In the past, when trying to find places to work, independent workers, small businesses, and organizations often had to choose between several scenarios, all with their attendant advantages and disadvantages: working from home; working from a coffee shop, library, or other public venue; or leasing an executive suite or other commercial space.

Is there a better way to work? Yes. Enter coworking.

Coworking takes freelancers, indie workers, and entrepreneurs who feel that they have been dormant or isolated working alone at home or who have been migrating from a coffee shop to a friend’s garage or languishing in a sterile business center — to a space where they can truly roost.

“We can come out of hiding,” a coworker tells us, “and be in a space that’s comfortable, friendly, and has an aesthetic appeal that’s a far cry from the typical cookie-cutter office environment.”

What Makes Coworking Better

For many, it might be puzzling to pay for a well-equipped space teeming with other people, even with the chance of free coffee and inspiration. You might ask yourself, “Well, why pay for a place to work when I’m perfectly comfortable at home and paying nothing?” Or, “Isn’t the whole point of telecommuting or starting my own business a chance to avoid ‘going to the office’?”

Coworking may sound like an unnecessary expense, but let’s consider what you get from being a part of the space.

At its most basic level, coworking is the phenomenon of workers coming together in a shared or collaborative workspace for one or more of these reasons: to reduce costs by having shared facilities and equipment, to access a community of fellow entrepreneurs, and to seek out collaboration within and across fields. Coworking spaces offer an exciting alternative for people longing to escape the confines of their cubicle walls, the isolation of working solo at home, or the inconveniences of public venues.

The benefits and cost-savings in productivity and overall happiness and well-being reaped from coworking are also potentially huge. Enthusiasm and creativity become contagious and multiply when you diversify your work environment with people from different fields or backgrounds. At coworking spaces, members pass each other during the day, conversations get going, and miraculously idea-fusion happens with everyone benefitting from the shared thinking and brainstorming.

Differences matter. Coworking hinges on the belief that innovation and inspiration come from the cross-pollination of different people in different fields or specializations. Random opportunities and discoveries that arise from interactions with others play a large role in coworking.

Coworking and Google

To see this in action on a large scale, think about Google. Google made the culture of sharing and collaboration in the workplace legend. It deployed “grouplets” for initiatives that cover broader changes through the organization.

One remarkable story of a successful Google grouplet involved getting engineers to write their own testing code to reduce the incidence of bugs in software code. Thinking creatively, the grouplet came up with a campaign based on posting episodes discussing new and interesting testing techniques on the bathroom stalls. “Testing on the Toilet” spread fast and garnered both rants and raves. Soon, people were hungry for more, and the campaign ultimately developed enough inertia to become a de facto part of the coding culture. They moved out of the restrooms and into the mainstream.

Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, has written widely on collaboration and innovation. In his study of jazz performances, Keith Sawyer made this observation, “The group has the ideas, not the individual musicians.” Some of the most famous products were born out of this mosh pit of interaction — in contrast to the romantic idea of a lone working genius driving change. According to Sawyer, more often than not, true innovation emerges from an improvised process and draws from trial-by-error and many inputs.

Unexpected insights emerge from the group dynamic. If increasing interaction among different peer groups within a single company could lead to promising results, imagine the possibilities for solopreneurs, small businesses, and indie workers — if only they could reach similar levels of peer access as those experienced by their bigger counterparts. It is this potential that coworking tries to capture for its members.

Do you agree? Let us know if you’ve experienced coworking and if so, how did it go? 

Read Part II of the series here.

Photo by Werkheim.


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Genevieve DeGuzman is the lead writer for Night Owls Press, an editorial services and digital publishing company for small businesses and organizations based in San Francisco, CA. With co-author Andrew Tang, she set out to unravel the hype, collecting stories from across the coworking universe in their new book, ‘Working in the UnOffice: A Guide to Coworking’. This info-packed guide helps freelancers find and select the perfect space and learn the ropes to adjusting to collaborative environments.
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Discussion

  1. Mary on the 19th October

    I started co-working when I moved to Denver. Back in Minneapolis, it was fine enough to meet up with some other freelancer friends at coffee shops, but I didn’t know a soul in Denver, and there were days when the only person I talked to was the guy who made my latte. I’d ambush my husband when he got home from work because working alone in a city where you know no one kind of sucks. It doesn’t suck as bad as a chilly old cube farm. But it sucks.

    I started co-working at Green Spaces in Denver in July. I come and go whenever. I can talk to people or not. There are happy hours and office dogs. There are summer interns and networking events. One of our co-workers is a hair stylist, so I can get my eyebrows waxed during lunch without leaving the building.

    At first, it was a little hard to break the ice with strangers, so I proposed starting a leadership committee with a dedicated person for onboarding, another for events, one for communications, and so on. We all have our own day jobs, but there’s still a place for collaboration. A happy medium between the two extreme choices of office work and working from home.

  2. joeflyde on the 19th October

    Concept seems very simular to a virtual office. It is great for relieving the monotony and boredom of being home alone. One of the most depressing aspects of working in a home office is the lack of personal interaction, no water cooler talk during the day.

  3. Himanshu Chanda on the 25th October

    Co Working definitely has more advantages. A handy tip would be try and cowork with people from same industry or same age group. This will help you interact and help each other more and develop better relationships. Who knows the coworker can be your future Customer or even partner…

  4. Genevieve DeGuzman on the 25th October

    I also want to add that many people believe that coworking is exclusively for the office set. It’s not. Many shared workshops, do-it-yourself spaces, and hacker enclaves cater to inventors, steampunk enthusiasts, tinkerers, mechanics, and scientists looking for heavy machinery, equipment, and tools for their projects. They come to these collaborative spaces to satisfy their Tesla coil fixations, run their lab experiments, use 3-D printers, launch a robotics assembly line, and test prototypes. Artists also come here, looking for floor space not desk space, to solder and fuse sculptures or giant installations. These types of coworking spaces– examples include BioCurious, TechShop, and NoiseBridge — are veritable creative hotspots.

    Coworking is also a great option for people who are employed but work independently (aka telecommuters). Spaces like Satellite Telework Centers in Northern California work with established companies looking to place their employees remotely in a professional business environment. In addition to the mix of startups, home-based business owners, and freelancers that most spaces boast, Satellite Telework Centers also house company consultants and telecommuters— the corporate crowd.

    Satellite Telework Centers are examples of “workspaces on demand”— ready-for-use spaces where anyone who needs to get work done can go. They dial down the collectivist buzz within the space for a more straightforward working experience.

    The great thing about coworking is that it has something to offer to any type of worker whether you’re a startup, a freelancer, a telecommuter, or hobby scientist or inventor launching a project.

  5. Julio Popocatl on the 2nd November

    Coworking is more common we think. There are many professional people who share work spaces: doctors, lawyers, accounters, engineers, etc. Also, coworking is an excellent way to offer goods and services. A commercial mall is also a co-working place.
    Are your suppliers your customers too? Why not? Try a Barter network to do it.

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