The way that we work and where we work is constantly changing - driven by the need to be more flexible and mobile. Coworking is a new way of working that is becoming more popular in Australia and globally - evident by the proliferation of coworking spaces. In the last few weeks of July 2012, I have been visiting Melbourne’s coworking spaces, talking to the founders and users. These spaces are either available to any user wanting to work there or group/industry specific users for a cost.
What is co-working?
The coworking movement has roughly doubled in size each year since 2006. The latest Deskmag survey shows there are now more than 1100 spaces worldwide (http://www.deskmag.com/en/coworking-spaces)
Coworking spaces are fundamentally workspaces where individuals or groups come together to work in a common space, but not necessarily for a common purpose or a common employer. The concept is about bringing people together physically in one space and fostering as a sense of community by promoting collaboration. Such collaboration is perceived to improve functional work, psychological and social well-being and effectiveness.
Some users of coworking spaces include:
_Small start-up companies wanting to physically connect their employees and be exposed to other start-up companies or established professional networks;
_Freelance, mobile and project-based individuals or groups wanting to be physically connected with other people and professionals – reducing their feelings of isolation and gaining exposure; and
_Employees or groups from established companies wanting to be exposed to different people in a different environment.
The coworking spaces that exist in Melbourne are currently located in densely populated areas including the CBD. Importantly, there is an opportunity for co-working spaces to support rural communities. Localised coworking spaces with adequate public infrastructures can energise smaller rural economies and communities by creating opportunities for local businesses and people to share expertise, ideas and talent. Such localised co-working spaces can also reduce the economic, time and environmental costs of the CBD commute for rural users.
Some benefits of coworking spaces:
There are many benefits of co-working spaces occupied by diverse individuals and groups. The concept promotes collaboration with some models actively making planned and meaningful connections between users via a ‘host’ and other models allowing the connections and subsequent collaboration to occur organically.
Being around other people going through similar work experiences – although not necessarily from the same company or working on the same task - can open one’s mind up to new ideas and approaches. Being exposed to different talent and knowledge everyday or several times a day is considered to be supportive of innovation. Also, these spaces provide people with exposure to different business models which opens up mindsets and allows for comparative/reflective moments.
Knowledge sharing is another benefit of coworking spaces, promoting business opportunities and the development of ideas. Knowledge sharing in these spaces can occur organically or via structured events or activities. These spaces are ideal for networking - getting ideas out and connecting with people.
Coworking spaces are described as being mutually supportive. Without established organisational structures (sometimes rigid and hierarchical), stagnant work behaviours are reduced in these spaces. Restrictions on what constitutes a success or failure are minimised and users are able to experience and share achievements differently.
Another obvious benefit is the cost saving, with lower overheads and shared costs; this is a socially and environmentally responsible way of working.
Why are coworking spaces important and what is the relationship to the office?
The reason why coworking spaces are successful is the reason why the office will never disappear – people want to connect with other people and this connection is imperative to collaboration and the development of their work identity. Coworking spaces provide choice and an opportunity for flexible individuals and groups to reduce the isolated feelings associated with working out of the office.
Strategic individuals and groups understand that collaboration is imperative to the success of their ideas and businesses. As social creatures, we understand the importance of remaining connected to others socially and professionally.
Global Coworking Survey: http://www.deskmag.com/en/first-results-of-global-coworking-survey-171
Some facts about coworking spaces:
Keti Malkoski, Schiavello Workplace Research Psychologist
Follow Keti on twitter @kmalkoski
(images by www.deskmag.com)