Coworking spaces attempt to capture the best of different workspaces where freelancers and independent workers get things done— the flexibility of a home office and vibe of a café— and bring them together with an emphasis on collaboration and building community.
Greater motivation. Productivity spikes when you’re working alongside other entrepreneurs. Coworkers join their coworking spaces because they find that the environment, in one form or another, satiates their own psychological craving for a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
For many, it’s about the energy boost of being around other people. Alan Pinstein, who runs his real estate software service Neybor out of Ignition Alley, tells us, “We can all learn from each other and meet new people. It’s great, especially for people coming from a work-at-home situation where they need the social interaction and need to see people around to feel some energy in the room.” Alan compares the experience to the energy of being in a large metropolis. “I used to live in New York City and [coworking] brings that energy you find in the streets of New York to your office environment. To me, being here you get to feel everybody’s energy everyday.”
Graphic designer Judi Oyama’s experience at NextSpace told us that one of the core attractions of coworking for small businesses is that it enables you to get things done by filling in any gaps in skills and needs. When you aren’t stymied and stonewalled by things you can’t do, you feel motivated to launch new projects and try new business ventures.
Quality social encounters. Coworking gives you more social interaction. Join a space and get out of your pajamas and out of the house. Industrial and graphic design expert Anthony Grieder exchanged his home office where he had run Alloy Design, Inc. for over a decade for coworking space Boulder Digital Arts after coming to a realization that he wanted more people around him. “I had been in a home office for the past 12 years, and needed to get back into a more social situation.”
For others, being around people is a necessity for their business, especially for those in the creative field. Graphic designer Johnny Bilotta says that he turned to coworking at Indy Hall to test ideas and get immediate feedback. “One of the things I lost by working at home was the social aspect of going to an office. I couldn’t bounce an idea off of somebody, and being a designer, I need people’s opinions on things. I like to get people’s opinions on colors, for example. Even if it’s just waxing philosophical over a cup of coffee about a different design philosophy or something— I missed that from working at home.”
A professional venue— and outlook. Going to a coworking space disciplines your approach to your independent work or business. Franchise business consultant Kyle de Haas, a member of Cospace, likes how coworking puts him in a professional, ready-to-work frame of mind. “There are too many distractions at home that deter me from being as efficient as I’d like when I work,” he tells us. “I’ve learned over time that I respond well to getting dressed and going someplace to get work done. It promotes a healthy work-life balance.”
Instructional designer Lisa Van Damme marvels at how coworking at Boulder Digital Arts provides the right incentives to do her work in a more professional and balanced way. “There’s something to be said about getting dressed in the morning and leaving the house versus working in pajamas ten steps away from the bed.”
‘Accelerated serendipity’ galore. With coworking, communities can be very diverse, and you never know whom you’ll bump into in an encounter that could change your business forever. Freelance writer Kevin Purdy tells us, “I gained at least ten successful Lifehacker post ideas from working at Coworking Rochester, if not more. Personally, I’ve picked up post ideas and topics galore from Coworking Rochester for my freelance writing projects.” He also says that “problems I’ve had with my personal website, or even my out-loud ‘I wish I could…’ queries, have been tackled with enthusiasm whenever I’ve coworked.”
Action Alliance for Children’s Lisa Shulman Malul, a member of The Hub Bay Area, explains how crucial this exchange of ideas is in keeping their organization relevant, their ideas fresh, and their energy levels charged. “I think in any field you can get used to talking about your issues or the things that you cover within a narrow spectrum. The idea of interacting with [different audiences] on an ongoing basis gave us opportunities to hear more about how other people understand our work.”
Shared resources (from equipment to expertise). If you need to get things done on the cheap, coworking spaces are the place to do it. Instead of shouldering the cost of office space, Wi-Fi, the coffee machine, copier and printer, you split the cost with the other members of your space. You can also leverage better prices for other equipment or subscriptions with group deals.
And then there are the human resources— the people that can be sourced for team projects and group ideas. Members benefit from classes and lectures given by fellow members at many coworking spaces. Alongside being able to seek out your neighbor by dropping by for a chat at his or her desk, you can also seek out formal channels of skills exchange at hosted events where members take turns giving classes.
Companies hiring from the available pool of freelancers is commonplace at Gangplank. “In Silicon Valley, the joke is that you can change your job without changing your parking space. We say at Gangplank that you can change your job without changing your desk,” says co-founder Jade Meskill. “We've had people who wanted to get out of the consulting business and work for a product company, and be hired directly by one of the other companies inside of Gangplank.”
The price is right. Jason Richelson, a former member of Hive at 55 says that coworking makes it easy to save money, especially for the entrepreneur just starting out his or her business and trying to reach a sustainable operational level. “You just don’t want to commit to a lease in the initial stages of a new company, so going month-to-month is the only way for startups. And with coworking you don’t need to think about furniture, Internet, printer, etc. because it is all there.”
Expansion opportunities and an impressive ROI. The expenses incurred (monthly dues and commuting expenses) are generally outweighed by the gains. In the first Global Coworking Survey held by Deskmag, 42 percent of coworkers said that their incomes increased since joining a coworking space— probably from having access to wider social and professional networks and securing better job opportunities.
Little privacy and too many distractions. Sometimes the nature of your work is not compatible with the openness needed to make coworking work. Lawyers or accountants with secretive clients, for example, may need their own private offices that can be secured at all times. Even coworking advocates are not immune to the distraction that comes with the free flow of people in a coworking space. Software developer and cloud computing expert Adam Lindsay, a member of Coworking Rochester, tells us that prospective members should be warned about potential distractions when considering a space, which can affect productivity or be stressful when you have too much on your plate on a certain day. “If a person is easily distracted, coworking might not always be good. Make sure the coworking environment has quiet spaces you can escape to.”
Not the right crowd. Sometimes the chemistry really doesn’t work out, between you and the rest of the coworkers in the space. You may have different expectations, and the coworking space just didn’t meet them.
::::: Genevieve DeGuzman is the co-author of ‘Working in the UnOffice: A Guide to Coworking for Indie Workers, Small Businesses, and Nonprofits’ (Night Owls Press, August 2011).
Reprinted with permission from an article by Genevieve DeGuzman The entire article originally appeared in Deskmag http://bit.ly/r34StT on 2011-10-21.
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