If you explore the history of coworking, you'll find that the term was first coined in 1999, when an American game designer used the word to describe people coming together as equals in a professional environment. It wasn't until 2005 that coworking evolved into the framework we know today, thanks to a man called "Brad Neuberg", who launched the first coworking space in San Francisco.
For those who don't know - coworking spaces are fully-equipped office spaces that come with internet access, conference rooms, tables, and kitchens. They're essentially your way of having your own office, without the rules of a standard office schedule.
Over the last few years, the popularity of coworking has skyrocketed, with freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups and contractors all around the world coming together to escape the isolation of a work-life away from the standard nine-to-five routine. The question is, what makes coworking such a great opportunity for today's non-traditional worker?
The answer depends on who you ask, but here are five of the top factors that convinced me to give coworking a try, when I was launching my own company.
1. Access an Incredible Community/ Network
Let's face it, how many chances do you get to build real connections with people when you're working from your own home? While working at home means that you can spend all day in your pajamas, and never have to worry about brushing your hair, the best connection you're going to get is the one you have with your broadband provider.
While you can host video conferences and instant messaging chats from anywhere, you'll only get the face-to-face networking opportunities you can get from a true office setting, if you get out there and work alongside other people. Coworking spaces give you a fantastic opportunity to expand your social circle, connecting with people who share the same creative and ambitious mindset as you.
In a coworking space, you can sit down with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, and get into real, valuable conversations with other people in your network. These bonding moments spent in a coworking kitchenette are the perfect opportunity to discuss new business ideas, collaborate with peers, and even get answers to your most pressing business questions.
2. Improve Productivity by Separating Work and Home
Coworking professionals can be anywhere up to 74% more productive than their work-from-home counterparts.
While it's fun and relaxing to work from home, your lounge or dining room might not be the environment that's most conducive to success. In fact, it's brimming with possible distractions - from your barking dog who wants to run around the backyard, to the television that's calling your name only feet from where you're sitting.
If you live with your family, you're bound to find yourself struggling to stay focused on work when other chores and responsibilities come knocking. After all, even if your family mean well, they can often assume that if you're at home, you must be available to help out.
While you can work at home effectively if you have a lot of self-discipline and understanding from your loved ones - those things will only take you so far. Creating a physical separation between where you work and where you live can be the key to going the extra mile in your career. When you're surrounded by equally-focused individuals all growing their own companies, you'll feel more driven to accomplish your own goals.
3. Achieve a Better Work/Life Balance
Separating your work life and your home life isn't just a good way to stop yourself from falling victim to distractions. A lot of people start working from home or launch their own business because they believe it will make them happier and more productive. They dream of a better work/life balance, where they can choose the hours they want to spend "in the office" and leave at a moment's notice to spend time with family.
However, things rarely work out that way for home workers. While you might be able to choose your own schedule to a degree, you'll find that it's increasingly difficult to "switch off" from your work life when your office and your home are the same places.
When there's no line between your professional hours and your leisure hours, it can be difficult to remind yourself to switch off at the end of the day and leave your business stress behind. This can mean that you're more likely to burn out than an office worker. Coworking spaces allow you to have a separate place for work, so you can keep both parts of your life separate.
4. Improve Comfort and Save Money
Eventually, as your company starts to grow - like mine did, you might find that you need to add a few extra people to your roster. For organizations scaling upwards, investing in your own office space can be a huge and expensive risk. First of all, you'll be held to a specific term that you need to pay for that office - and you'll be required to make the payments, regardless of how well your business is doing.
Secondly, as the cost of real-estate continues to go up, you might find it difficult to find an office in a good area that you can afford to rent. On the other hand, coworking spaces are incredibly flexible. As your company begins to grow, you can invite other people to come and work with you in the same room. If those people don't work out, or you need to scale back, then you can simply switch back to hiring a desk.
Coworking spaces aren't just flexible - they're more comfortable too. Rather than asking your new team to work cramped around an uncomfortable kitchen table, you can enjoy ergonomic furniture, state-of-the-art resources, and more
5. Eliminate Loneliness, and Stay Inspired
Finally, while you might consider yourself to be the most independent and confident freelancer there is, it's fair to say that we all need a social experience from time to time. While being a one man, or one-woman army is often fun at first, when you lock yourself away in a room for hours every day, with no-one to talk to, feelings of isolation can begin to set in.
Humans are naturally social animals, and we like to bounce our ideas off other people. In fact, as you start to grow your business, you might find that being alone makes it harder for you to come up with concepts that are outside of the box because you have no-one to discuss your thoughts with.
Coworking spaces give you people to reach out to when you need a little extra motivation or help with a new idea. They also ensure that you're surrounded by individuals who have been through the same experiences when the going gets tough. The people you meet in your coworking space could inspire you to keep pushing ahead when everything in your mind tells you to give up.
Should You Try Coworking?
There's a good reason why new coworking spaces seem to be springing up constantly around the world. People find that these unique spaces deliver better productivity, more satisfaction at work, and countless opportunities for innovation. In fact, coworking even takes advantage of a psychological phenomenon called "the social facilitation effect". This idea suggests that simply being around people who are also focused on work can boost your concentration.
Ultimately, if you haven't tried coworking up to now, it could be a good time to take the plunge. Hiring a desk won't cost you much, and the chances are once you've tried it, you'll never want to go back.
Bio: Raj Jana is the man behind Java Presse, an environmentally-friendly coffee subscription company. When he's not keeping his business running smoothly, Raj likes to share his experience, advice, and tips with other budding entrepreneurs.
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