Have you ever tried to work from home? Chances are, if you’re a freelancer, an independent contractor or an entrepreneur, you’ve experienced this dynamic. In fact, according to a 2013 Statistics Canada study, those job subtitles apply to more than one in five Canadian university graduates. While working from the comfort of your bedroom, kitchen or couch sounds like a treat at first, for the vast majority of telecommuters, the lack of structure and separation between work and home becomes more of a burden than a boon. That’s why cafés, led by Starbucks, have positioned themselves as the “third place” — the middle ground between home and work. The problem with coffee shops is that they’re inherently social places, which means its hard to not get distracted by the crying baby one table over or the couple breaking up (very publicly) behind you.
A new type of workspace — a fourth place, if you will — is on the rise. Appropriately titled co-working spaces, these areas are often open-plan office environments that have no official desk assignments and are filled with unaffiliated professionals. These communal spaces offer startups, freelancers, small businesses and entrepreneurs the place they need to go to work without restricting them in the way that a traditional office space does. Instead of holding meetings with investors or clients in your living room, you can invite them to your co-working space’s meeting rooms. It’s the best of both worlds!
We are staunch advocates for the co-working ecosystem – but don’t just take our word for it, here are four of our favorite aspects about these environments.
- Flexibility Is King
Accessible offices with flexible hours means you can spend longer days at the office during crunch time or take off early on lighter days. It allows you to structure your workday around your own schedule, and ensure that you’re maximizing the time that you’re productive when you’re actually at work. Of course, wanting more control doesn’t mean you want to abandon all structure and access to a traditional workspace, it just means you want to reclaim how that workspace works for you.
The secret to the success behind these spaces is to take the freedom they provide you with, and structure it in a way that benefits you the most. Are you a morning person? You can be in the office before most of your fellow co-working coworkers have had a coffee. Feeling lethargic and need a midday pick-me-up? Squeeze a yoga class in after lunch. Just tack an extra hour onto your workday and use that Vinyasa flow to get your creative juices moving!
- The Power of Conversation
We know the benefits of conversation in the workplace. Pixar’s president, Edwin Catmull, explained to the Harvard Business Review that one of the main reason’s he thinks Pixar has been so successful is because the office is actually designed to “maximize inadvertent encounters” — a way to get people from different departments and specialties to talk to each other and boost creativity. Co-working spaces are often laid out in the same way — communal desks, one coffee machine per floor, and a shared cafeteria to help foster a casual, conversational culture.
Besides the creativity benefits, getting people to talk to one another means you’re increasing employee engagement. “Employee engagement” is one of those buzzwords that seem to be everyone’s answer to everything. It’s become one of the highest priorities for organizations and there’s a good reason for that. According to a 2015 Gallup survey, disengaged employees tend to miss an average of 3.5 more days per year, are significantly less productive and often end up costing more to employ. Engaging with your coworkers is the quickest (and easiest) way to get more engaged in your own work.
- Connections Are Crucial
While getting to know your co-working peers, you’ll notice that your personal network is expanding both inside and outside of your field. You might be part of a new media startup with connections to the right journalists and PR folk, but when you’re ready to expand your team to include a marketing expert, things might get a bit trickier. But that’s the best kept secret to these co-working spaces — your desk neighbor, a marketing strategist, could know just the right person for the job.
Co-working spaces are also a great place for you to get hired. A staff writer at entrepreneur.com pointed out that a handful of their summer interns found full-time jobs with startups at their co-working space after their placements had ended. If you’re a young professional looking for a change, your co-working space might be the perfect place to start the search. But before you do, be sure to check out our tips for how to make sure that you stand out from the competition.
- Collaboration Over Competition
Perhaps the biggest advantage to a co-working space is the collaborative culture that it instills. The co-working manifesto, a crowdsourced document created to outline a co-working code of conduct, focuses on creating a community within these spaces. The emphasis on inter-company camaraderie means that you’ll find yourself helping (and being helped by) other like-minded entrepreneurs. They could offer you some important insight from experience to grow your business, so why not use their successes and failures to your advantage?
If you’re an entrepreneur looking for a way to take your company to the next level, then joining a co-working space could be just the thing your business needs to do so. It’s a great way to connect and collaborate while also developing your company’s culture. If you’re looking to emphasize creativity as a part of your business and its brand, then a co-working space might be something you should look into! Plus, the sooner you focus on your company’s culture, the sooner you can focus on something equally as important: the culture of your company’s content.
We can help you with that! Download our free eBook for tips to reignite your brand’s digital presence.