The coworking industry is now emerging into the mainstream, though it's still tough to explain to newcomers just what it is and why they should get on board.
So we'll try to roll it up here into 'The 2-Minute Pitch':
Coworking is a state of mind
It is a growth mindset that recognises that working alongside others is vastly better than working alone. It is a recognition that your personal performance is enhanced just by being around other like-minded people.
In more concrete terms, coworking is a shared space and community dedicated to providing independents, freelancers, small teams, business owners and remote workers a place to work amongst like-minded others.
Coworking is still an emerging industry, though it is growing in double digit numbers globally, as people from all walks of life see that it has benefits to offer whatever it is they do.
These people share many qualities, not least is the belief that work is better when it's done together.
"Work is better when it's done together"
"Building resilience, improving mental health and strengthening relationships are just some of the benefits of working within a supportive community of coworkers."
More about Coworking
Coworking is also the belief that serendipitous happenings and creative insights are more likely to be triggered in the company of others who listen, laugh, question, challenge and inspire you to do your best work.
In our new working paradigm of instant, global reach, connectivity and social disconnectedness, building meaningful relationships that transcend simple commercial transactions (or talking to the dog) is more important than ever.
Many corporate escapees say that their adopted coworking communities are a drop-in replacement for their old work-mates, though without all the politicking and sniping that goes along with corporate life.
Coworking offers access to a broad network of people connected not by a niche interest or industry, but by their desire to be there, to be present, to self-select membership into a community of contributors, not spectators.
What should I expect?
It is difficult to understate just how important it is for your well-being and personal productivity to be surrounded by people that want to be there, to be their authentic selves and create an awesome place to work.
Most people in a coworking space are there to be better.
Members are typically very willing to help with easy problems and some will even be willing to collaborate with you on projects or business ventures.
They enjoy collaboration, conversation, creativity and pushing themselves to be more productive and more successful.
A coworking space is not a deliberate networking event where everyone hands out biz cards and rolls off their elevator pitch to everyone within earshot. Coworking is much more casual, organic and much less contrived
You may even get a curt remark if you attempt to 'sell' to your new coworkers without their permission. No one likes a cold-caller...
"The difference between formal business networking and coworking is like the difference between your mum setting you up on a blind date and meeting your soul-mate randomly in the street."
Join Our Crew
The best way to get involved is to show up!
Join us at a coworking meetup or book a trial day at one of our spaces to see if it fits your needs.
Tell me more about this Coworking Goodness!
So if you've read this far, you're a little intrigued about coworking, right? Well there's more to tell - read on for a more in-depth explainer on the who, why, what and how's of coworking:
Approx 10 minutes
Is Coworking for Me?
Anyone who has curated their working life to be able to ‘work from anywhere’ can benefit. The one caveat to this statement is that, for most coworking spaces anyway, the type of work is limited to knowledge workers.
However, there are examples of niche spaces dedicated to providing facilities for artistry and craft, mechanical engineering, small-scale manufacturing and others.
So unless your work primarily revolves around a welding machine, combine harvester, smithy’s forge or weaving loom, you can generally derive some benefits from joining a coworking community and space. Even if you need some form of equipment to ply your trade, some of the work of making your living will be managing the business side of things.
As our modern workforce transitions out of industrial-age work customs, where the dominant form is working for someone else for a wage or salary, many people are choosing the freedom of choosing how and when they earn their money as independent workers. Technology has disrupted the way we have traditionally worked for the last century or more. Place, organisation and hierarchy are no longer the defining features of a career.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, contractors, independent consultants and small/micro business owners are all examples of this new cadre of workers. They are making their presence known in the Australian economy and this style of working is becoming very, very popular throughout the world.
Telecommuting and Remote Workers
In the corporate world, workplace flexibility is gaining a strong foothold. Larger organisations are now finding that money is not the only motivator for employees (duh…) and that providing them with flexible work options and results-oriented work schedules is beneficial to both the employer and the employee.
This means that some employees are now finding themselves working from home or an alternative reasonably regularly. Being paid by your employer to be at home doing the same things that you normally have to dress up and travel into the mothership for is refreshing and empowering.
"Telecommuting is awesome."
Employees often work harder at home on telecommute days than they would at work. This increase in productivity is usually a combination of fewer distractions, and the employee’s desire to ensure that the privilege of working at home remains an option.
Some organisations even sponsor their staff to work in coworking spaces to encourage a healthy work/life balance, to increase market-awareness of their products and to promote the cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge.
Some corporate workers that are provided the option of telecommuting don’t use it due to distractions at home, or a lack of other people around to motivate them and prevent workplace isolation and loneliness.
Workplace isolation – is that even a thing?
One possible downside of adopting an independent working lifestyle or full-time telecommuting is a lack of social interaction with colleagues. That sense of togetherness, of shared experience and goals, of seeing the same faces regularly and seeing how they (and you) progress and grow is what ex-corporate workers miss most when they take the plunge and quit their jobs for the dream of starting their own show.
You start out well enough, independent, energised and ready to take on the world. It might take a few weeks, months or even years of working from your home, the local café or the library. Eventually though, not having anyone but your family or the dog to share idle chatter or bounce around ideas around with begins to take its toll. You can start to lose focus, creativity and drive (and some social skills!).
There’s a good reason why the worst punishment a prison can dish out is physical and mental isolation. Humans are social animals and we still need a campfire to gather around to share and create our own sense of tribe identity and belonging.
"Social interaction is a basic human need and it damn well should be a human right."It’s possible to stave off the isolation somewhat by getting involved with hobbies, community work or other activities - though these things take valuable time away from what you ‘should’ be doing in your business for growth and profit - especially when you're just starting out.
It shouldn’t need to be an either/or decision to be made when choosing between work or community. Working independently alongside awesome people is what Coworking is all about - stay positively engaged in work and socially active whilst you’re working.
What are the alternatives to Coworking?
You can prop at your local café which has a buzz of activity and can be stimulating; this may be though because you feel slightly conscientious for hogging a table and so you buy a coffee every hour to assuage that guilt! The more enlightened cafés sometimes welcome laptoppers with power sockets and comfy couches.
Local libraries are nice and quiet and can be good for focused, quiet work. No talking though and certainly no phone calls. Same goes for most council or city sponsored work areas - though this is now slowly changing as government catches on.
There have always been office facilities designed to cut or share costs for small businesses and freelancers. There are executive virtual offices, shared offices and workspaces (some call them ‘touchdown spaces’) where you can go to get work done. These can be free to use for a limited period or cost per use or by subscription. A lot of large businesses pay for their mobile workers and road-warriors to use these facilities whilst in transit or you can get them free with the right airline ticket or hotel room.
In general, these all feel a little stale and clinical, dare I say – corporate? You still miss out on what really matters to the human psyche – which is community and a sense of belonging.
Enter coworking: born from the open source, collaborative consumption, sharing economy. Coworking provides the antidote to workplace isolation, loneliness and creative suppression experienced by independents and many others pursuing workstyles outside of the traditional work paradigm.
OK I'm sold on Coworking? Where do I sign?
And here is where we come to the only downside to coworking - it's not free...
At least, most professionally run coworking spaces charge a membership fee to curate the space, the activities and the facilities that enable the magic of coworking to happen.
They used to say that they also curate the community of people that are present in the space that underpin the strength of the coworking space - though we have learned that the community largely curates itself - with some gentle nudging in the right direction.
Coworking can seem to be 'free' if you're able to collaborate with other people and use a space that is provided by someone else - in fact, we run coworking meetups for just this purpose - though someone is always paying something to host you and ensure a good working environment. It's always a good idea to compensate your host in some way.
Leveraging the full benefits of coworking to improve your professional life, your business and your relationships generally require you to commit to paying something for the privilege of coming to work in someone else's space. This can be a turn-off for some people who are typically quite happy working in their home-office and dread the idea of yet another overhead cost that could be a drag on the wallet. For others who crave their own professional space, or need to get out of home, coworking is a dirt cheap alternative to the chore and expense of leasing your own office space!
For more information on making the leap, see the Spaces page and do come along to a coworking meetup or try your local coworking space on for size.