In this guest post we look at the rise of coworking from Rentadesk's Jason Theodorou of Smart Social Videos.
Working for The Man – it's no fun at all, is it? Stuck in your tiny cubicle, hammering out spreadsheets while a sweaty boss looms over your shoulder, stroking his white cat and breathing down your neck about 'knocking off the horseplay and filing the Henderson report'. It's enough to make you fantasise about working from home, that paradise where you can wear your favourite novelty rabbit slippers, sip a hot cup of cocoa and watch Daybreak – and get double the work done in half the time.
The Terrible Truth About Homeworking
For those who reach the oasis of homeworking – remote workers, freelancers and startup businesses – the dream rarely lives up to their expectations. For one thing, it's really hard to be productive when you're working next to a pile of dirty laundry, or an Xbox and a pile of unplayed games. Too many distractions, even for the iron willed!
And even if you make a strict schedule, you need to work on your own for nine hours a day. After a few months staring at the four walls of your boxroom, you'll start to feel like John Tracy in Thunderbirds, orbiting the Earth in a lonely space station, starved of human contact and reduced to crying lonely tears into your little blue uniform. Nobody deserves that fate, not even a puppet.
The Joys of Coworking
The solution for many freelancers is coworking. In simple terms, this usually means a group of self-employed professionals working together in a shared office space. On a basic level, this can mean three graphic designers sharing a cramped studio in Dalston, with project sketches and ironic posters all over the wall. But in the best case, it's a range of professionals from different industries, working together in a shared office.
To the uninitiated, it may sound like a traditional office arrangement, albeit one populated by a more rag-bag crowd of workers than the average paper supplies company. But coworking is actually a modern and growing style of working, an industry that has naturally thrived in a harsh economy where self-employment or remote working is an attractive alternative to the unforgiving scurry of the rat race.
My Top 3 Reasons for the Rise of Coworking.
1. The Social Benefits.
The Deskmag Global Coworking Survey, released this year, shows that 92% of coworkers see a boost in their social circle from renting a desk, and 84% of all coworkers see the interaction with other freelancers as their primary reason for renting a desk. Coworking provides an unmatched equilibrium between a social and professional experience.
2. Freelancers Are Thriving.
The 2012 Freelance Industry Report indicates that 49% of freelancers have felt little to no impact from the economic downturn, and 77% are optimistic about their business prospects. More self-employed people can afford to escape the homeworking trap, and they aren't scared of doing it, with the number of coworking spaces doubling every year.
3. It's Good For Business.
While often portrayed in some industries as bearded wierdos operating in a bubble on the fringes of the 9 to 5 world, freelancers are actually very good at networking and creating new opportunities from informal conversations. This is borne out by the good old Deskspace report, which shows that 82% of coworkers prize the 'random discoveries and opportunities' that come from sharing an office, and collaborating with their office mates.
3B (yeah, I know). Mad and Fun Things Result From It.
Coworking is an adventure! Who knows what's going to come next!
The guy in the office next door could get you involved in running a Zombie Boot Camp, as happened to Rentadesk coworker Laura Yates (read Rentadesk's Case Study of Laura to get the lowdown on her mad, exhilarating journey into the world of zombies).
Get Started With Coworking
If all this sounds good to you, the good news is that you are spoilt for choice if you want to sign up for a coworking space. There are at least 2150 active spaces across the world, so with any luck there's a spare desk with your name on it (and a couple of other people's names rubbed off it, but that's a given, as self-employed people do love to move around a lot, don't they?).
I could be accused of bias (cough), but I think Rentadesk in Central London is a great place to get started with coworking. Made up of offices within Grade II listed buildings, Rentadesk has an amazingly varied clientele – from business journalists to a full time marine biologist, pretty much every industry has been represented here over the years, which makes for a lively and inspiring working atmosphere.
It's also got to be one of the most flexible coworking spaces in a capital city, anywhere in the globe – there are five different coworking packages to choose from, which is perfect for anyone from an ambitious entrepreneur who needs all the desk space he can get, to a grungy fashion designer working one day a week who 'needs a lot of flexibilty and space, man'.
After all, it takes all types to make a coworking community.
Happy coworking! Jason Theodorou of Smart Social Videos.