Coworking: Working Solo, But Not Alone
When asked why folks come to the Beahive, the new shared creative work space Kingston, NY, the replies were as varied as the work they do: "My day bled all over the place before I started coming here. It was hard to stay focused and motivated with all of the distractions." "I need background noise to ignore...can't work in silence." "There is a noticeable lack of interpersonal friction here." "I just come to soak up the energy of the community." "I feel a bond with the other folks here even though we are all working on our own stuff." "I've got 4 kids at home."
The virtual office has blown open the possibilities of work and has single-handedly redefined the way the world works. Wi-Fi, laptops, fax machines, Skype and cell phones make it possible for so many people to work remotely. By creating environments for workers with workplace flexibility in the context of community, coworking takes independent working to a new level. Coworking spaces are built around a sustainable model of building community through collaboration that can enhance productivity.
The concept of shared office space is increasing, as workers are signing on and finding that the community-building, and networking benefits are advancing their work. For many entrepreneurs, creative workers, microbusinesses, freelancers and consultants, the traditional 9-5 work day with it's time consuming eco-unfriendly commutes, office politics, and confining cubicles is a prehistoric model. For those who can work remotely, the coworking movement may be a closer fit for their work style.
Why is coworking thriving? It seems that the economy has forced many workers and companies to scramble to keep afloat. Coworking is starting to become more and more organized as it can be especially appealing to a one-person business, or solopreneur which the Small Business Administration claims grew 8% in 2008. It has signaled a socialized and economic shift in how people work.
"There are coworking spaces in almost every major city in the United States and more than 75 spaces globally, listed on the coworking Google group's website. There are coworking "remixes" that fit every niche from green business to working mothers. And, coworking is emerging not just as a rich work community for the self-employed, but as an efficient platform from which to build a business." ~ Inc. Magazine
For those who work at home, how does coworking stack up against a home office? While home offices may provide privacy, less distractions and a chance to work in your pajamas, loneliness and isolation seem to be byproducts of the convenience and luxury of working at home. Business Week finds this to be the biggest complaint from at home workers.
"Virtual offices" can fulfill the physical needs of many...co-working facilities help fill the social needs people have as well--either informally, by simply bringing together a group of people with similar interests, or formally, through networking events, holiday parties, and even softball leagues."
As a freelancer/telecommuter, I found the apparent perks of working in a home office both liberating and isolating. Soon after I started working from home it became apparent that there is a missing link in the work/home paragon. A new study of 3,600 telecommuters commissioned by Microsoft revealed their number one complaint was lack of face-to-face interaction. I'd been battling this issue since I jumped off the commuter rat race and joined the "pajama" working class. I've found that while I wouldn't give up my home office, I need more of a demarcation in my day that includes human interaction. I have started working once a week in local Internet caf
It felt casual, quiet, calm and less transient than a bustling coffee shop. The coworking space is open. The day I visited, there were mostly creative folks - two musicians, a massage therapist, and a few "solopreneurs". One of the founders, Amara Projansky mentioned that coworking spaces, such as the Beahive offers, along with a working experience, a network of professional workshops, seminars, social and cultural events. Their hope is that it will also serve to strengthen the local economy.
Coworking in a brick and mortar space provides human interaction to engage in community, collaboration, connectedness, accessibility, networking and a sustainable working environment. Check out coworking.com and join a global community of workers.