The Impact of Coworking

The Impact of Coworking
The Impact of Coworking

What is coworking?

Here is Brad Neuberg’s original conception (this blog post represents the first public expression of the term as it is used today), which we think captures the spirit as well as any other definitions out there:

Traditionally, society forces us to choose between working at home for ourselves or working at an office for a company. If we work at a traditional 9 to 5 company job, we get community and structure, but lose freedom and the ability to control our own lives. If we work for ourselves at home, we gain independence but suffer loneliness and bad habits from not being surrounded by a work community.   

Coworking is a solution to this problem. In coworking, independent writers, programmers, and creators come together in community a few days a week. Coworking provides the “office” of a traditional corporate job, but in a very unique way.

Here’s one of our favorite definitions, from Coworking.com, managed by a team of coworking space managers and owners who have been central to the coworking movement from its early days: 

The idea is simple: that independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone. Coworking answers the question that so many face when working from home: “Why isn’t this as fun as I thought it would be?” 

Beyond just creating better places to work, coworking spaces are built around the idea of community-building and sustainability. Coworking spaces uphold the values set forth by those who developed the concept in the first place: collaboration, community, sustainability, openness, and accessibility.

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How was coworking born? 

Some think that coworking is inspired by the artist’s studios of the beginning of the 20th century. Indeed somdther and work alone or together. These places were created to improve creativity by meeting inspiring peoples, and to make an economy by sharing the cost with others. 
The aim of these places was almost the same as coworking spaces as we know them today.
It’s in Silicon Valley in 2005 that the concept of these collaborative workspaces really took off, with the creation of the first « real » coworking space in San Francisco by Brad Neuberg (at least in name, though there were several similar spaces that didn’t use the coworking moniker that began the same year in other places).
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Why join a coworking space?

Coworking spaces offer dynamic locations of exchange and sharing. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and creatives from diverse fields enlarge your network, but more importantly serve as a resource of experience and knowledge and potential collaboration or inspiration. For many members, however, the most important benefit is purely the positive social energy. Members often feel more motivated surrounded by other focused, hard-working members. 

One of the biggest benefits is improved work-life balance. Location-independent professionals often work from home or from cafes and face one of two common challenges. Either they spend too much time alone and miss the social proximity and social connections they used to have before they were independent OR they have a partner or children at home and have difficulty explaining to their partner or kids that they really do need to work even though it’s true that they set their own schedule.

Most coworking spaces also organize events that help facilitate both the social relationships, motivation, and professional development. Locus, for example, organizes weekly coffee breaks and lunches, and monthly pub nights and game nights to facilitate meaningful social connections. For motivation, Locus hosts weekly Work Jams, where members sit together at the same table and use a timer to work together for a half day with planned breaks, and weekly critique-free writing meetups to help provide a sacred time and place, and positive social energy, for focused writing. 

Coworking spaces promote sustainability as key players in the sharing economy. They allow members to dramatically reduce commute times because they are often located in the neighborhoods where their members work, and they reduce operation costs and startup time by providing great office infrastructure to members who could never justify having meeting rooms, data projectors and other high-quality office equipment in central locations if that space was not shared among many other location-independent professionals. 

Many coworking spaces also serve as a kind of landing zone, helping to connect global and local. About 70% of Locus’s members, for example, come from countries other than the Czech Republic (nearly 30 different countries), with the language of the space being English. This allows newcomers to Prague a ready way to form a community with other people like them, and also with English-speaking Czechs who are welcoming to an international community and reading to share local knowledge. Czech members, who make up about 30% of Locus’s members, get the complementary benefit of ready access to a friendly international community and a workplace where they can practice their English on a daily basis.

Finally, coworking spaces simply offer convenience and accessibility. Coworking spaces have become so widespread that as long as you live in a large city they will often have options that are centrally located OR in your neighborhood, with 24 hours a day, 7 day a week access, and with membership plans that meet your particular needs. Locus, for example, is in both a central location and one of the most prized residential neighborhoods in Prague, Vinohrady. It offers all members smart-phone based access 24/7, 365 days a year, and has membership options from as little as one day per month to unlimited use. For the many members who travel abroad but would still like a reliable office in Prague, there are options to put your membership on hold for up to a year. And for members who already have a full-time day job but want to start their solo career, there’s an Evenings & Weekends option.

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Some statistics about the impacts of coworking 

According to global research by Deskmag and Deskwanted:
  • 74% of coworkers are more productive,
  • 86% have a larger business network,
  • 93% have a bigger social network,
  • Over two-thirds feel more creative and collaborate more on projects
  • A third reported an increase in income.

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Still not convinced?

Come and try a day of coworking for free at Locus Workspace

Sources

https://www.business.com/articles/coworking-74-of-coworkers-are-more-productive/
http://codinginparadise.org/weblog/2005/08/coworking-community-for-developers-who.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking

The C in Coworking Space Also Stands for Community

We’re excited to be “syndicating” a blog post from Robin Terrell’s amazing blog on the future of work (with a particular emphasis on the location-independent variety): The Global Mobile Worker. This post in particular was meaningful to us because it’s about the meaning of community, and in particular the community Robin found (and helped create! – Thanks, Robin!) at Locus.

Along with creating this blog and being a member of Locus, Robin is a Berkeley-educated lawyer, a writer (her book, Two Broke Chicasa travelogue about her adventures traveling around Central & South America, Mexico, and Cuba with her partner–is available on Amazon), a technology / startup junkie, a proud Amazon employee.

We’re excited to be able to share her blog post here…

wordgram-of-cowork
When I first arrived in town I used Meetup to find people who shared common interest. That led me straight to Locus Coworking space. Once in the door, I quickly connected with both the startup community and the writing community, common members of co-working spaces. It has been almost three years now and although I never signed up to co-work at Locus, I realized that I spent time in one of the two spaces at least once a week.
When my new job took me away from Prague for months, my homecoming included reconnecting with my friends at Locus. I write every Saturday with a dedicated group, committed to various forms of media that involve the written word. We have bloggers, and novelists, and game script writers, and PhD students writing a thesis. We come from different countries, different generations, different genders. Our bond is a long-term fascination with words on a page.
It was through Locus that I joined my E-publishing Mastermind group that has single-handedly taken me from talking smack to preparing to upload my first ebook, Two Broke Chicas, a Travel Series, December 26th, just in time for people to use their Christmas gift cards and make their New Year’s Resolution to travel more. Mentor members, like successful sci-fi writer, Bill King, have made my dreams come true.
While plopped on a big fluffy couch to wait for the group to start, I realized how important Locus was to my social life, and sense of being, in Prague. What my virtual membership gave me access to, besides one day a month and access to my e-Publishing Mastermind group, was a community. A place I could belong with people who shared my passion for a flexible work life.

Community = Thrive

Just like we need a Tribe, we need a community. Research found that people who belong to a co-working space report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices. Read more: Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces
infographic-co-work
Grind, is a growing network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago. Community manager, Anthony Marinos, shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community at Grind, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our staff knows all of our members by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between Grindists.”
Research in Forbes magazine showed that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger.Co-working spaces can be a place for women, known for being great communicators and collaborators, who don’t excel at building power networks can find a safe space to start. (Women tend to build deep and narrow networks women-networkwhile men wide and shallow ones.) I’ve added several women to my network from Locus, and started an informal dinner group to encourage young professional women to support each other, over a glass of wine.

Building Intentional Communities

Some experts believe that co-working space should be built more like intentional communities. Example, Brooklyn’s Friends Work Here. Founded by NYC-based Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur Tina Roth-Eisenberg, who’s also behind the international lecture series CreativeMornings (which happens monthly in Prague, but mostly in Czech) and Tattly. The space came as a response to Roth-Eisenberg’s negative experiences in “soulless” coworking places that are more focused on making money than cultivating inspiration among its members.

A Wealth of Human Resources

Locus is how I found my brief dog-sitting gig. I enjoyed several days of pretending to own a dog, forced to take several walks every day, which did wonders for my mental health. I’ve enjoyed people passing through town and people here for the duration, like my friend Sarah who first came when it was Czechslovakia, and still communist. She is at heart a historian, writes historical fiction, and loves talking about the history of this country she calls home, as a well-informed outsider.
It was hysterical and inspiring to sit in on Texas Holdem’ Poker night, where people from around the world turned into ruthless gamblers who might gut you for a pair of Ace. It was motivational to listen to Regina and Mike talk about becoming Courageously Free, and through that relationship I was interviewed for their podcast – which should be out just in time for my book launch.
There were people at Locus doing, looking for, thinking about the exact same things as I was. We all wanted to marry our fascination with social media and our passion for words. I could pick the brains of people who, like me, were inspired by Prague, determined to make their literary dreams come true. We figured out all kinds of ways to make money with words. My critique and Saturday writing buddy, Beth Green, will fix your words for a fee. Which still leaves her time to search for an agent for her first novel, represent on Booklust and @bethverde, and be a Wanderlust columnist at thedisplacednation.com.
My writing group has sustained me, in ways both creatively and emotionally, over noodles and pivo at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from Locus. We’ve discussed our lives and our loves, U.S. and European politics and the meaning of feminism.
We’ve shared critique groups and book front-cover
launches, like Sonya’s soiree for Under a Caged Sky, held at Locus Slezka, where we toasted with glasses of wine under the skylight, with Prague as the backdrop.

Staying Engaged

partyOnce I’d had that moment of realization, that my co-working space was my community, I started to look around for other ways to participate. Engaged in the social media connection and found easy, fun ways to stay involved. I am looking forward to the Christmas Party catered by Ethnocatering, a social enterprise of migrant women that serves authentic food from Georgia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Armenian. You can’t find this deliciousness in restaurants. I know, I said it, that bad M word. Well, I must own it because here in Prague, I’m a migrant. A tax paying, law abiding expat seeking shelter and new beginnings.
I know I’m not alone in this revelation and would love you to share your experience of finding community in co-working spaces. Tell us your story in the comment section here at the Global Mobile Worker Project.

Coworking or Working in a Home Office

I have now experienced both working from home and working from a coworking space.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages. As my business changes from freelancing to bringing others on board to help, a home office is no longer suitable.

 
In an ideal world having both a home office and a desk in a coworking environment is the best option.  There are days when it would be great just to stay at home and relax more than I would in an office.  Very occasionally I miss having an office at home during the weekends. – I have ended up working weekends three or four times during the year, so it is not a huge drawback going to the office.

The Benefits of a Home Office

I always like the time saving when working from home.  Breakfast, shower, then work – rather than having to spend time going to an office.  I have sometimes found myself not leaving the house for two or three days, I am sure that is not great for my mental welfare.

Young Children and Home Office

My youngest is now nineteen months.  For the first two months, it was great working from home – though I did a lot less work than normal.  To be there to help was good for everyone.

Not Being Around Other People

I can find other people trying.  It is often much easier to separate myself and get on with work.  I have worked in places where co-workers would be highly negative, be very loud, interrupt with a bloody cat video that you really have to watch because it is such a laugh – there are times when people can drive me mad.
 
However, while working from home I found that a day or two could pass without having a conversation with anyone except my other half in the evening.  Sometimes the isolation was so much that I would walk to the shop just to get out of the house.  So my high points on personal interaction was a brief conversation with a shop assistant.  Not great.

Quiet

At times I need complete quiet around me for some tasks that require deep concentration or while creating videos.  It is impossible in an open office to have good sound quality on videos while others are talking nearby.
 
Thankfully the coworking space I inhabit has a meeting room.

High Self Discipline

During the last ten years, I have worked from home about half of the time.  This has created great self-discipline.  No matter what is going on around me I can sit down and get on with the work at hand.

The Benefits of Coworking

I work now from Locus in Prague.  For my clients, it would make no difference what city I was in.  I have met a few coworkers that use this flexibility to live in and see other cities in Europe.

Professional Environment

Only once while working from home was my office not a spare bedroom. Even then that office turned into a bit of a store room. Due to remotely working with clients I use video and screen share.
I find it embarrassing to have a bed or storage boxes in the background while having calls.  I know many do not like this – but image is hugely important in business, (and in life).  First impression matter.
 
It does not matter if others are in the background having calls or talking while I am on a call – this is what I expect in any office.

Office Address

Like most other around me, I find most of my business via my website.  I have seen competitors use their home address on their website.  It does not look professional; at least a virtual membership in a coworking space looks after this aspect.
 
Additionally, most coworking spaces are in the centre of cities.  This makes it easier to meet with clients.
 
Google local is likely the most important part of SEO for many smaller local businesses. It is much better to turn up in these searches in the middle of a city with higher search volume than in some small village or town.

Everything is Organised

The internet connection is fast and I never have to touch it.  The coffee machine works and I never have to clean it.  The trash is emptied and I never have to think about it.  You get the picture.
A large amount of trivial items that have to be organised in your own office are there and working.  This lets me just get on with work, instead of making lists of things that need to be done that steal away my time.

Being Around Other People

I run a few websites and an SEO company.  Ideas come more often when interacting with others.  I get information from people about tools for writing, publishing, project management, the list is endless.  I understand that I can look up this information online.  Running websites has imbued me with a lack of trust in most information online – everyone has an agenda – as one of my philosophy lecturers who was also a priest told me, as I was arguing about his agenda.
 
We started a mastermind group that includes six members.  We meet every two weeks, talk about problems, set goals, and are held accountable for these.  This has improved my work tremendously forcing me to regularly review goals and stick with them.

Separation of Work and Home

I have been out of my home office and back in coworking for the last three months. This has been the biggest advantage – when I am at home I am not thinking about work and at work I am not thinking of home.
 
While working at home, sometime during breakfast my head would move into work and I was less present for my family.  Lunch could be a challenge to talk about non-work related subjects.  I would eat my lunch and head right back to my office.
 
Now I find myself talking more with my other half during lunch on the phone than I did while working at home – who would have guessed?

Better Concentration Skills

Over time, concentration skills become better if you work in environments that are not completely quiet.  This can be difficult in the beginning and some perseverance is required.  But you can end up being able to work anywhere, which is a great habit to develop.
 

I have made my choice, working in the company of other people is more stimulating, encouraging, and motivational for my temperament. Leslie writes on his own blog, but more often on his company website.

The Benefits of Coworking – a Personal Perspective

Much has been written about the psychological benefits of coworking and being with others. In my case, it has been personal experience that has convinced me of the advantages.

I moved to the Czech Republic from the UK in 2000, and started working as a freelance editor, journalist and translator in 2002. In my early days as a freelancer I worked from home and didn’t mind; in many ways there was no choice because no coworking spaces existed in Prague back then. Cafés are a favourite haunt of freelancers, but much as I love idling away the hours in Prague’s coffee houses, working in them didn’t have much appeal, because I associate them with relaxation rather than earning a living.

But when I started freelancing full-time again in 2011, after several years working for an employer or regularly for a company on an external basis, I found that working at home didn’t have much appeal either. I had learned to be more disciplined and less distracted over the years, but I had also become much more outgoing and sociable than I used to be. And while I have many introverted personality traits and am happy to spend time on my own, I missed the interaction with people in an office, and the structure and routine offered by such an environment.

Thankfully coworking had then become firmly established in Prague, and I spent time at a number of the city’s coworking spaces. I went through a particularly difficult period in 2012 and 2013, when work from clients dried up. The situation has turned around, but coworking was of enormous benefit psychologically during those challenging days. It was a huge boost to be with others, not sitting at home moping. I also made new friends from different backgrounds and countries. I get a buzz from meeting new people from different places, and coworking was a brilliant opportunity to do so. I also appreciated the fact that I could be with likeminded people, socialize with them and go to lunch with them – without any of the office politics that employees have to negotiate.

The positive environment around me also undoubtedly helped me raise my productivity levels and get more done during the day. I am certain that I would not have achieved as much by working at home. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could balance work and having time for breaks and chatting to other coworkers, and getting to know them.

David Creighton

Coworking, Positive Psychology, and a Better Way to Work

My name is Sam and I’m obsessed with coworking. It’s a strange thing, really, to be obsessed with a concept like sitting in a room and working together. I view it as a little more complex than that, so let’s see if i can shed some light on why I keep telling people about it, why I’m currently living in Prague, why I’m sitting in Locus Workspace as i write this, and why I’m in graduate school (they’re all related, I promise). 
During my time as a substitute high school teacher I had a 4 month block where I was writing full-time. Each morning I would wake up in the complete joy of having control over my work schedule and would happily skip to the local Starbucks. At least, for the first week or so. Then, I noticed myself thinking in the morning, “Crap. Where am I going to work today? The library is too quiet and the wi-fi sucks. I don’t feel like buying coffee all day to justify the 8 hours I’m likely to spend in Starbucks. And the last thing I want to do is sit in my crappy apartment by myself.” There had to be a place where I could go where other people would be working on interesting projects, where I could feel free to talk to other people and not receive the death glare of a librarian. Free coffee wouldn’t hurt, either. I eventually realized that such a concept existed and it was called coworking.
Fast forward a couple months and I’m going to graduate school to study positive developmental psychology. My focus is on understanding what it means to optimally develop. How can people fulfill their potential, utilize their strengths, learn to be engaged with what they’re doing, etc. I want to figure out ways for people to achieve high levels of well-being and psychological health. A huge part of that psychological well-being is determined by our work. The work we do, the way we do it, the people we do it with, the meaning we place on it — it’s all incredibly important. To that end, coworking as a concept fascinates me because it can be so much more than just a place to rent a desk and crank out some work. Getting passionate, intelligent, and motivated people together and then not doing anything with that human potential seems like a missed opportunity. How can coworking and coworking spaces help their members become healthier? How can it help them feel better about their work? How can it affect the way they think about and approach their work? On an even grander scale, what effect might coworking spaces have in the communities in which they’re situated? Can coworking spaces become hubs of something greater than just a shared workspace? Big, but exciting, questions.
I think coworking is the beginning of something big in terms of how people work and how we can work better. It has ramifications far beyond shared desks and an Internet connection. For that reason, I jumped at the opportunity when Will invited me to Locus Workspace this summer. I have the opportunity to spend a few months in a top-notch coworking space learning how it’s run, observing, bouncing ideas off of people, and developing my own plans and thoughts. This blog will serve as an outlet for this experience as I share my thoughts, observations, and general musings about coworking as viewed through the lens of a positive psychologist in training.
Feel free to share your thoughts and impressions — I’d certainly love the feedback and conversation. How can we make coworking better, together?
Sam Spurlin is an American graduate student studying the intersection between developmental and organizational psychology. He writes and coaches at SamSpurlin.com and is spending the summer in Prague working in Locus Workspace. He’ll be sharing his thoughts and observations about coworking here for the next couple of months. You can follow him on Twitter (@samspurlin) or send him an email (samspurlin AT gmail DOT com).