If you believe that business knowledge and tons of years of experience are necessary to run a successful business, you might think differently after reading this post! Meet our member Cyril who set up his own company right after finishing college. Cyril and his team founded Flat, a startup that provides a collaborative software tool for music notation. Keep reading to learn more about how he embarked on this exciting journey!
Online events at Locus Workspace are stronger than ever! One of our top priorities is to keep events alive to maintain our well-known sense of community among our coworking members and add value to their memberships. Locus’ goal is to help freelancers, digital nomads, remote workers and other location-independent professionals be more productive and work better. Despite these challenging times, we wanted to make sure to keep up that spirit, and that’s why we’ve gone virtual!
Keep reading for a full list of all our virtual events…
The Freelancing market makes up 35% of the global workforce, which works out to 1.1 billion workers. In Europe Freelancing has grown by 45% between 2014 and 2019. Since this career path entails a lack of a traditional office, freelancers have a choice to make regarding their work environment. However, having more possibilities can complicate the decision-making, raising the question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of different working environments? We’re going to answer this question in this article, focusing on four of the most prominent working environments: home offices, cafes, executive suites and coworking spaces.
- Price: the most obvious advantage of working from home, it’s free.
- Convenience: set your own schedule and eliminate the commute entirely, you don’t even have to leave your bed.
- Comfort: a comfy couch can be your desk and pajama pants are completely appropriate office attire
- Work-life balance; a lack of clear borders and deadlines can make it difficult to focus. The transition from relaxing with a TV show to starting a project is rarely seamless.
- Distractions: kids, flatmates, pets, household chores… oh my
- Loneliness: there’s no one to chat with by the coffee machine, no one to celebrate your small victories with. Working from home can be lonely, being lonely can be depressing, and being depressed makes it hard to do your best work.
- Procrastination. Even if you don’t feel lonely, working alone removes many of the external social motivators and feedback that helps most people stay motivated and to stop you from watching just one more episode.
- Stagnated learning and professional development. It’s hard to find a mentor, a collaborator, a teacher, or just an answer to a simple question such as where to print business cards in the neighborhood when you’re at home all day.
- Work/life separation: just changing your place of work and getting out of the house will give you this separation.
- A motivating social atmosphere: sometimes just the mere presence of other people working on their laptops can provide a break from loneliness and the motivation to stay focused
- Refreshments: if you feel like rewarding yourself, cafes have no shortage of drinks and snacks.
- Distractions: music, loud customers, and the constant grinding of coffee beans, all create an environment that can be hard to focus in.
- Price: once you factor in the expensive drinks and food you end up buying, cafes can become a costly option.
- Reliability: Café WIFI connections are notoriously unreliable. Additionally, if the cafe is a popular working location, power outlets and even tables could be difficult to secure
- Stagnated learning and professional development: similar to working from home, cafes can lack meaningful networking interactions and professional growth opportunities.
- Work/life separation: private offices provide this change of location and separate ones work from their life
- Convenience: your set-up will remain in your office, no need to commute with it
- Professional environment: executive suites often provide many amenities and possess the infrastructure that facilitates one’s productivity (high-quality internet, good printers, mail receiving services, furniture, meeting rooms).
- Privacy and confidentiality: you can meet your customers in a professional location without having to worry about prying eyes or ears.
- Price: While they remove the initial cost and time that comes with setting up your own home office or unfurnished private office, they are definitely the most expensive option on a month-by-month basis.
- Location: executive suites are often located in the city centers or are part of the Central Business District.
- Work/life separation: just like the three previous entries, coworking spaces offer their users a chance to separate their life from their work.
- Professional infrastructure: coworking spaces provide professional work environments with resources like meeting rooms, printers, high-quality internet, and projectors.
- Location: coworking spaces are experiencing a surge in popularity, leading to more diverse locations like both city centers and residential areas.
- Variety: the work atmosphere of coworking spaces varies widely and can cater to most preferences. Coworking spaces can have a relaxed café-like atmosphere to a more executive-suite-like environment.
- The community: Coworking provides a space where you can work alongside other like-minded people, without any office politics. They tend to organize networking events and facilitate communication among members to build a sense of community and connectedness in ways that you’ll rarely find in an executive suite or at a café.
- Professional development opportunities: Coworking spaces offer opportunities for further learning and growth in one’s area of expertise. If you find yourself in a new country, the network of members can help you navigate the regional particularities of your profession.
- Security and storage: Unlike cafés or most libraries, you can store your personal belongings in lockers in the space and also feel more secure when leaving your laptop at your desk, knowing that the other people in the space are your colleagues.
- Flexibility: many coworking spaces offer a wide variety of memberships (1 day passes to multi-month commitments) making them suitable for visitors and longer-term city residents. Additionally, some of them may have 24/7 access adding work-time flexibility
- Value for price: Coworking spaces allow their members shared use of office infrastructure at a fraction of the cost they would pay while purchasing their own. Furthermore, members save money on refreshments, since many coworking spaces provide hot drinks for free.
- Distractions and lack of privacy: while coworking spaces facilitate fruitful interactions being surrounded by people inevitably leads to a lack of privacy and distractions.
|Home Office||Cafe||Executive Suite||Coworking Space|
While every work environment we covered has its advantages and disadvantages, the good news is that unlike working from a corporate office, as a freelancer, you really don’t have to choose! You can mix it up, working from home, cafés, the library, or a nice coworking space depending on your mood or needs. If you still don’t know whether which environment is right for you, we encourage you to give a couple of spaces a try! Why not start with a coworking space? You can get a free day at Locus, no strings attached. Better still, try us out for a month and get a real sense as to whether Locus is right for you! First-time members get 1000 Kc off a Full-Time Membership for the first month. Happy working!
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.
How was coworking born?
Why join a coworking space?
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.
Some statistics about the impacts of coworking
- 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.
Still not convinced?
N.B. Just to be sure it remains clear, Locus Workspace is NOT closing. We closed our original location at Krakovská 22 near Prague’s Muzeum metro (a.k.a., Locus–Muzeum) in April 2017. Our Vinohrady location at Slezská 45 is alive and well!
This blog post is in large part a tribute to my father, Warren Bennis (1925-2014), who influenced my life in profound ways that I continue to discover. Those closest to him know that even at the end of his life he was the eternal optimist, regularly reporting (and wholeheartedly believing) that he had just had “the best glass of orange juice ever,” “the best day yet.” He would make those statements with conviction, but also with a self-conscious smile, recognizing that we—his audience—might not buy it. “Dad, there is no way you just had the best glass of orange juice ever… again… today,” I would lecture him, thinking I was being a responsible son by letting him know. What he knew, and I was slow to recognize, was that he could. While these might have only been subjective, momentary “best evers,” in the grand scheme of things, the moment, for him, was more palpable and intense than his memories of those past experiences he was comparing it with, and so they were indeed often the best ever. And no upstart, narrow-minded, inexperienced son, who was yet to understand the objectivity of subjectivity, was going to take that away from him! The best thing of all, of course, was knowing that the next day promised to be still better. I love you, Pop.
The story of Locus–Muzeum’s closing was largely the story of three distinct emotions: sadness, relief, and optimism. I wrote about the role of sadness and relief in the two previous blog posts. The post about sadness was largely about the meaningful things that happened at Locus–Muzeum and the feeling of loss that goes with saying goodbye. The post about relief was largely about the particular difficulties associated with that location and the freedom that closing the doors gave us to put those difficulties behind us. This long-overdue post explains why I feel so much OPTIMISM.
There is one main source of optimism: scaling back helps me find the time and space to transition from being a business manager to being a business leader, from worrying about the day-to-day trivialities of running a business to being able to create and achieve a vision of something bigger that inspires others and keeps the business relevant over time. This transition from manager to leader, “from working for the company to working on the company” (to use the language of Michael Gerber in The eMyth) might be the single greatest challenge to the early-stage entrepreneur. Certainly it has been my greatest challenge in running Locus Workspace.
The day-to-day trivialities are things like answering emails, ordering inventory, marketing, designing the website, building relationships with my members and potential members, invoicing, bookkeeping, and collecting past due payments; hiring, training, or firing employees; maintenance and improving the office infrastructure, noticing the myriad things that matter to customers but that employees don’t have the sense of ownership to care about, etc., etc., etc. Okay, these “trivialities” are not in fact trivial. They are essential things that need to get done for a business to succeed. They are what make good managers so essential to a successful business. And I would guess that almost every beginning entrepreneur works long hours in part taking care of these kinds of things (unless they’re independently wealthy, they have deep-pocketed investors, or they struck gold with such a good idea that caring about quality just wasn’t necessary).
That’s the crux of the problem. It’s hard not to get stuck working every minute of the day taking care of these essential daily distractions, that are in fact far more than distractions: if you (the business owner) don’t do them, the business won’t keep running. But if you do them, they quickly come to take up nearly every second of every day. The obvious solution is to delegate: the CEO shouldn’t be doing these things. And certainly great CEOs are particularly great because they delegate effectively. But knowing and doing are two different things. With a company started on few resources and a philosophy that jumping in and trial and error are the surest road to success, I am in awe of any CEO who can effectively run (that is, manage) their business while also maintaining and communicating a strong vision for that company (that is, lead). Forget about other important aspects of living a good life, like time for family, friends, and exercise.
The idea that leaders and managers are distinguished from each other in this particular capacity is not original. It was introduced to me by my father, who told the story of his own career transition from a manager–leader (president of a large university) back to being an academic in the 1970s. Before that—in the 1950s and ’60s—he had the great fortune to be a young scholar in the fledgling field of management studies, propelling him into what must have been the closest thing academia had to rock-star status. He left that career in the late ’60s, first to serve as provost of social sciences at the University of Buffalo (which evolved into acting executive vice president), and next as President of the University of Cincinnati.
He likes to tell the story—which he told in print in his memoir, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership (2010)—of a point late in his administrative career before returning to academia, during an invited lecture about life as a university president at the Harvard School of Education. He had a hard-earned gift for communication, with public speaking being the domain he considered his strongest asset. But during this talk, Paul Ylvisaker, at the time dean of the graduate school, perhaps sensing something emotionally discordant, asked, “Do you love being president of the university?” It was not a question he was prepared for, and—caught off guard and at a loss for words—he remained silent to the point of everyone’s discomfort, until he finally responded, “I don’t know.” Ultimately this forced self-reflection and recognition that indeed he was not happy was the catalyst for a big life change. He would have been the first to tell you that it was the best career choice he’d ever made.
That sense of dissatisfaction came from precisely the challenge discussed in the previous paragraphs: he had left academia and the study of management practice to get out of the ivory tower and into the “real world,” to take on a real-life management role and see if his ideas about management could be applied in practice the way he thought they could. He spent almost a decade in that pursuit. But all he was able to find time to do during those years (years when he left for work before I woke up for school in the morning and usually didn’t make it home until after I was long asleep) was manage the day-to-day “trivialities” of administration: reply to complaints, work through piles of papers… put out fires (or so he felt, though he would be remembered far later by the students and junior faculty at the time quite differently).
The insight wasn’t trivial and it wasn’t lost on him. It is the story he tells to explain why he left that work (in an applied leadership position) to return to academia, and how he decided to shift his focus from management to leadership. It launched a new academic career that many would consider the origin story of the field of leadership studies. The motivation was essentially to understand what might separate the job he had been doing as university president (primarily the job of management) from the job he thought he should have been doing, the job that great organizational heads do (what he saw as the job of a good leader), what distinguished effective managers from great leaders. In large part, that is the story of how you move from putting out fires all day to building something great. To quote him: “the manager maintains, the leader develops” (from On Becoming a Leader). He felt he had been maintaining and not developing, and to his credit he took himself out of that context where that was all he could manage to do, and put himself into a context where he could develop.
I had spent much of the seven years before closing Locus Workspace-Muzuem maintaining, constantly aware that I need to be developing, but unable to find the time to do it. The decision to close Locus–Muzeum inspired optimism because it promised time to stop putting out fires and to focus on a bigger vision.
A key insight from my father’s own journey is how important the environment is to one’s ability to make that transition successfully. My sense is that he could not have done it while remaining a university president. The fires would continue to need to be put out. That essential element of time, which all good leaders need in order to reflect on what is most important, to maintain and evolve a strong vision, and to communicate that vision to others, would never be there. So he had the wisdom—thanks in no small part to that one incisive question—to change his environment so that he could change himself.
It is no coincidence that changing one’s environment in order to successfully change oneself is a central theme of this blog post and of the decision to close the original Locus. It is also the original and ongoing motivation behind Locus Workspace itself. Locus—as with most successful coworking spaces—was created with the conviction that the environment is essential to successful location-independent work; even more important than the traits of the workers themselves (except to the extent they have the capacity to choose and create effective environments for themselves).
Freelancers, remote workers, digital nomads, and other location-independent professionals face one of the greatest challenges among all business people because—without the right environment—they are largely alone, their own source of motivation, accountability, and continuing education. We humans, in many ways the most social of the social animals, can’t be our best on our own, no matter how talented or driven we are when we start our solo journey. As my father changed his environment so he could transition from manager to leader (in helping to develop the field of leadership studies itself), coworking spaces like Locus help change location-independent professionals’ environments so they can can work for themselves not by themselves. Closing Locus–Museum reflects a conscious effort to change my own environment so that I can work on my company, not for my company. A good reason for optimism.
It doesn’t hurt knowing that Locus’s next years are probably going to be the best ones yet.