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Thoughts on Coworking: What is it and is it for you?

by Steve Fisher on January 22, 2009

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Co-working or Coworking?

A word with a hypen or not one, coworking is something that conjures up thoughts of working together in an idealistic environment where we can collaborate on projects and hire those talented individuals around us to grow each other’s respective businesses.

The reality is that it is an inventive business model to help startups either get out of the garage on their way to bigger office space OR create a place that freelancers and consultants can use and avoid the isolation that occurs with having a home office. Here is a definitive answer if you are looking for one.

A Strong Movement to Build Coworking Spaces

Over the last few years Wikis and Google Groups have been setup to gather like-minded individuals and those opening co-working spaces in their respective city. It is important to note that this is not just here in the states and is in fact a global movement with coworking spaces and initiatives popping up in cities all over the world.

Coworking Spaces are not to be confused with Office Suites

For the last two decades there have been many shared office spaces that were executive suites in very plain office towers. These suites gave you a central phone system with a live person to answer your phone. They are small one to two person offices you could close and lock up. Many startups or small branch offices used these as an alternative to working in the home or leasing long term space too early. This was before the era of coffee shops, wifi and collaborative work spaces. These spaces, while serving a certain clientel, are not really optimal for the freelancer or office nomad that looks for interaction and the potential for collaboration with fellow independent workers.

This is why coworking evolved to fill the gap between working at home or jumping into an expensive office suite with services you didn’t need but had to pay for regardless of your desire to use them.

Joining a Coworking Space: What you get and what you get out of it?

Alex Hillman of Independents Hall, a pioneer coworking space, has six great reasons to start coworking. In addition, I agree with CitizenSpace that this is the philosophy of coworking and what you get from these kinds of spaces

  • Collaboration: One of the great benefits of working in a coworking space is that you will meet all sorts of people with all sorts of knowledge.
  • Openness: We believe in transparency and openness. In a world where people are free, but ideas are not, only a few benefit. When ideas are free, everyone benefits. Therefore, we encourage open spaces and discussions. Sorry, no NDAs allowed.
  • Community: We thrive on connections and mutual support here. It is important that everyone give into as well as benefit from the strong (international) community coworking has become.
  • Accessibility: In order to be fully open, we must make the effort to be accessible to all. This means that we endeavor to create both a financially and a physically accessible space. We are committed to this principle and welcome feedback on how we can make it even more accessible.
  • Sustainability: Shared spaces are also better for the planet, so we like to take that a little further and make certain our space is very environmentally responsible.

Caveats to Coworking

Not everyone is a good citizen – Not everyone is an honest individual so leaving things out in the open overnight could expose you to theft. Now I don’t mean to say someone is going to come in and swipe your laptop when you get up to go to the bathroom. However, you need to be aware that sometimes not everyone is a good citizen.

Different business models – There are models where you are either a permanent resident – that provides you with a permanent space and gives you 24/7 access – or there are hot desk options for people that need the space a little bit and float around in a hot desk environment.

It can get noisy – Since coworking spaces are usually constructed in an open environment it can get a bit noisy. This can be a hard environment for some to work and when you need to take a sensitive phone call you don’t have privacy and it might at times sound like you are hanging out at Starbucks. I would recommend paying for a day pass to the space to see if you like it and get a feel for the place first.

Some places allow dogs – I have a pet and I would love to start bringing her to work. However, you might be allergic or just not like man’s best friend. You should be aware that some coworking spaces do allow you do bring your well-behaved dog with you, so just ask in case you have the concern.

We want to hear from YOU

Have you worked in a coworking environment are you thinking about it? Please share your perspective and stories so that others might learn more.

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