We are big fans of coworking. We think work is a state of mind rather than a building that you go to at 9am and leave early evening. Frankly, we can’t understand why businesses waste so much money on buildings and then force fit their employees into them. It doesn’t make sense at all. But that’s another article…
Our whole concept of work has changed. Increasingly, work is about outcomes rather than time spent on projects. That’s something that independents and freelancers understand. Because we are remunerated by our products – be that a website design, a business plan or a workshop – we are incentivised to be efficient in the way we deliver our work.
But that doesn’t mean we’re loners, and that’s why we’ve seen a massive rise in the number of coworking spaces across the globe. Initially, freelancers spilled out of their bedroom offices into coffee shops and restaurants that offered free wifi. And that was fine. There was a buzz of activity around and it solved the issue of being alone all day. But increasingly, wifi was restricted, or cafes simply got too busy and, well, they didn’t feel all that professional.
Coworking spaces are the alternative, and it seems the demand is insatiable. Often, they operate on a membership model, not unlike a gym membership, where you can choose a plan based on how you want to use the space.
According to a recent report by DeskWanted, there were 2,498 coworking spaces as of February 2013, up from 703 spaces in February 2011. That’s some growth spurt.
In the 18 months that we’ve been blogging about this, we’ve seen an evolution in the models available. As coworking grows, a hierarchy of models is starting to emerge. Essentially, the big difference between today’s coworking spaces and the shared office environments of old is the personal touch. They ‘feel’ much less corporate. They aren’t trying to be a temporary office replacement; they are providing you with the connected, supportive environment that was the one advantage of working in an office that you miss.
Of course they offer you a desk, wifi, power and a coffee machine, but increasingly the coworking spaces are offering you community. We believe that the ones that get this right will be successful.
As coworking spaces evolve, so does the rest of the ecosystem that is growing around the momentum towards independent work and solo freedom. Of course, technology, particularly the ability to manage your work in the cloud has transformed our fortunes, but it’s the practical stuff that is often missing, and the human connections that are what sets this industrial revolution apart from the past.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that with all that technology and ever-smarter gadgets, we still crave the proximity of humans. It’s just that we want to choose who we spend our days with and how we work.
There are some great examples of coworking spaces that have emerged to cater for certain tribes. In London, Google Campus caters for the tech start up world, and the Hubs (now Impact Hubs) at Londons Westminster, Kings Cross and Islington were early pioneers with spaces for social entrepreneur types. Creative Media Lab in Berlin, the uber cool Fuelled Collective in New York City and London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration – which whilst not strictly speaking a coworking space, exists with the sole purpose of bringing together London’s creative community.
Is it enough to just provide great wifi, coffee and a cool environment? For some, yes. But most of us are searching for more than just somewhere to plug in our laptop. This is where KindredHQ comes into play, with a focus on what we call engineered serendipity. It’s not as contrived as it sounds, but we know from experience that creating the right physical environment is only part of the solution. Our pop up coworking groups are held at a variety of interesting coworking spaces in London and soon, in other major UK cities. We’ve learnt a lot from this about the kind of support that people who work for themselves need beyond space. Creativity of all sorts thrives on diversity, collaboration and sharing.
That support includes connections (whether to help with a project or for new business), mentoring and buddying up, the chance to externalise your thinking, practical support with the day to day of running the business and some good old fashioned team fun. It’s not rocket science, really. We aren’t inventing freelance networks, but we might be helping to weave freelance networks together.
There’s plenty more that needs to fall into place to support the independent workforce. But it’s exciting times and we’re certainly in for the ride!
What do you think needs to happen? Let us know in the comments below.