Are you a satisfied being self-employed? Even if you are, perhaps it isn’t your first choice or even one you decided to make in the first place. After all, not everyone has the space in their home to accommodate a comfortable working environment and some of us would genuinely miss being a part of an office culture. Even if these reasons do not apply, working alone isn’t for everyone and going forward, it may be less of a choice than an impending reality. Fortunately, some networked responses to people refusing to work alone are in process that may redefine office environments in years to come.
There are 10.6 million self-employed workers in American, a number that has risen 14% since 2001. The economic crisis undoubtably has a role to play in the dramatic increase of people working for themselves, with many workers being forced into the transition rather than making self-employment a voluntary decision. That said, the rise of mobile technology and the ubiquity of the Internet has made it much easier for people to make the leap into self-employment than in the past, whether it be freelancing or entrepreneurship. One of the exciting effects of this increase of self-employed workers has been the emergence and popularity of a new kind of work environment: cooperative working spaces.
Coworking spaces involve multiple companies, individual workers or project teams working independently in a shared work environment. Typically, workers rent their desks and are given access to most everything they need to accomplish their work including WiFi, meeting rooms, video conferencing, bathrooms, kitchen facilities, etc.
Workers may choose to occupy coworking spaces for myriad of reasons such as the promise of a laid back atmosphere, networking opportunities or the reduced costs that come from sharing the overhead with many people. But there are hidden benefits as well, including educational knowledge sharing opportunities that can arise in an environment where likeminded people with various skills and passions share the same space. New York-based venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, shares his insight on the advantages of working in a shared workplace:
“The main benefits of this kind of setup are comraderie (small startups can be lonely), knowledge sharing, high energy, culture, and cost sharing. I have heard so many stories of software developers walking to the other side of the office to talk to software developers working for another company to talk about a thorny tech issue. That same thing can happen in finance, legal, bus dev, marketing, product management, really all parts of the business. You can get some of the benefits of scale without being at scale.”
On a personal note, the work environment I come into every morning is very much a coworking space and encompasses all of the benefits mentioned above. PSFK’s headquarters houses several small companies in a single, wide open space. We all share the same conference rooms, printer, kitchen, bathrooms, Spotify-enabled sound system and sometimes desk space. The jumbling of different company cultures, values and personalities may sound a bit chaotic, but it’s a great learning experience observing the business operations of several small ‘startups’ firsthand. If I have a question about a design program that my team can’t answer, then I’ll head over to the design company and ask them, and the knowledge sharing works both ways.
Check out some of our favorite coworking examples and tools below as well as an interview with Campbell McKellar, founder of the workplace-sharing service Loosecubes.
Are you a freelancer who likes to be surrounded by people when you work? Maybe you’re a new startup CEO using a coworking space to grow your company. If you’re working anyplace other than a typical office or in your home, share with us and tell us what you think the benefits are, or send us a link to a related innovation that we might have missed.
Tweet it to us at @psfk with the hashtags #FoW #MyCoworking, for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to the social product development company Quirky.
Over the next 4-8 weeks we want to start a conversation around what you see as possible in the Future of Work. Be sure to follow the conversation on PSFK and participate in the daily competitions. Tweet us your ideas to @psfk using #FoW.