Coworking space owners and indeed co-workers themselves are regularly asked the seemingly simple question “What do you mean by coworking?” – Surely a simple question with a simple answer.
I myself have been in that position many times and at first, I tried to reel off a set answer and benefits that usually included a series of coworking buzzwords such ‘loneliness’, ‘commuting’, ‘trendy office space’ and of course ‘community’. No matter how many times I was asked the question however, I found myself giving a slightly different version of the same answer. This actually was quite frustrating that I didn’t seem able to give a consistent coherent response and have my 30 second elevator pitch down pat.
However, it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t alone in this. Speaking to many other coworking operators or the ‘experts’ if you will, plenty were also in a similar boat. Then the realisation came, there is no single definition of coworking. More specifically, coworking and its benefits mean different things to different people.
I have found that the only way to successfully answer the “What is coworking” query is to ask some questions in return. The theory being that only once you understand the questioner’s own situation, can you properly give a meaningful and relevant answer and explain why coworking can be more than just a bunch of people sitting around together tapping on their laptops and drinking coffee.
For someone who is self-employed or works from home, becoming a member of a coworking space and working with others may be a solution to the loneliness of working by themselves, or a way to provide a structure and discipline to their days. To other business owners or independent workers, joining a space may be about networking to generate business, or indeed an opportunity to mix and benefit from the expertise and contacts of like-minded others in similar sectors or professions. For commuters, the answer could be the time-saving they get by working flexibly in a professional environment closer to home, or it could be the opportunity to find solace to get the work done that they find impossible from the constant interruptions and impromptu meetings that come from being visible in the office. Indeed, others find value in getting to learn and share experiences with coworkers from outside of the daily bubble and inward company-centred conversations at their main offices.
To the C-suite or real estate professionals at larger corporates, shared office spaces may mean the opportunity to cost-effectively place project teams away from their own offices. More than just traditional serviced offices; coworking spaces can play a part in talent development or R&D strategies by placing certain core teams, such as IT or technology employees, beside the skills and more-nimble start-up talent often found working there. Increasingly, it could mean the flexibility and value of shifting entire business operations. Once in the space, businesses of all sizes value the ability of having their own private office areas, but still be able to use the entire shared space as their own without the traditional price per square foot charges that comes with it!
Coworking as an industry continues to grow and evolve with new business models and related concepts seemingly appearing every year. I am sure readers of this article will have plenty of additions and potentially disagreements to my list above and there could probably equally be a healthy debate about what coworking isn’t. One thing is for certain is that while there is no set answer to the original question; the significant growth rates of coworking spaces around the world show that people are learning the value that it can bring to their own personal situations.
I have seen this value first hand at our regular coworking days in Maidenhead. If you are based near us and would like to try out coworking, then come down and visit our fantastic space in town centre Maidenhead. Book a tour. If you don’t then I urge you to find a space near you and find out what coworking could mean for you.
– A more visual explanation of coworking