Work is changing. From how we stay connected to where we work, it’s all being redefined thanks to the power of technology and evolving theories about work and productivity. A relatively new trend which has emerged in the last few years is coworking – an office or other working environment shared by people who are self-employed or working for different employers; these spaces allow members to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge with one another. Caught somewhere in-between an office, community center, and home office, coworking is a unique setup which combines many of the aspects people like about working from home and the lively environment of a community space or coffee shop. Coworking is creating new opportunities for people to engage, connect, and get work done.
To help provide more information about the definition of coworking, Metropolist a new event venue and coworking space hosted a panel discussion during Seattle’s Coworking Week with the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance (SCSA) to explore the topic, answer questions, and dig deeper into the specifics of what makes coworking such a great alternative to a traditional office. On the panel were representatives from Office Nomads, WS Office Junction, Impact Hub, and a handful of other spaces. As a growing place many are choosing to setup their work space, coworking is an option that deserves more attention and support.
While the idea of working from home has been embraced by many entrepreneurs (myself included) and even some corporations, coworking is still a little foreign to many workers. For entrepreneurs and creatives in particular, coworking creates unique opportunities to collaborate with people outside of your own discipline and engage in conversations you’d often be hard pressed to find in your local coffee shop or office.
In Seattle in particular, coworking is growing at an impressive rate. There are currently 15+ spaces in the Seattle area with new ones opening up frequently. Startup Hall an incubator for new ideas and companies announced at the event, it now too is offering space for coworking. Much of the growth of coworking is tied to Seattle’s robust economy and the influx of new ideas and people into the city.
Like other modern work spaces, coworking has its fair share of distractions. Most due to the nature of coworking are related to noise. This is mostly because of the various conversations occurring in the space at a given time. Whether it’s a phone call, meeting, or friendly chit chat, co-working can get noisy at times. Noise shouldn’t be a deal breaker however when considering coworking. Most spaces ask members to observe common workplace etiquette which includes not using your speaker phone in a crowded room, moderating your volume level, and generally being courteous to your neighbors. If it gets to be too much, there is always the headphones option.
That’s not to say you should block out all noise. One of the gifts of this working arrangement is the access you have to people in different industries and phases of their professional career. In any given space in Seattle you could be sitting next to a technology entrepreneur coding away on their next app, an experienced executive planning out their upcoming marketing campaign, or a budding artist creating their first masterpiece.
Being open to the coworking experience helps newbies adapt to working in a shared environment. While it’s tempting to hold back and wait to test the waters, the panel of experts agreed, when joining a coworking space it’s best to jump in and explore as soon as possible. The first month is often crucial to learning about the space and the different activities that occur there.
Coworking is a global movement. You can find spaces in most cities around the world. It’s also an excellent asset for workers looking for a mobile office setup that isn’t solely based on coffee shop hopping. With over 1,000 spaces participating in the Coworking Visa Program, it’s super easy to hop between spaces in different neighborhoods, cities, and countries.
All coworking spaces are different. Each has its own vibe and builds its own culture. In Seattle in particular there is quite an eclectic mix of spaces. A few noteworthy ones include Impact Hub which attracts a lot of social impact organizations, Metropolisist a new kid on the block which has roots in the real estate community, and Office Nomads a dynamic creative and collaborative space in Seattle’s hip Capitol Hill neighborhood. Ultimately when deciding to sign-up for coworking, the panel agreed it’s important to find the right environment which works for you. After all the spaces are more than businesses spaces and are direct results of the communities which call them home.
Increasingly the definition of work is shifting. It’s no longer restricted to the walls of corporate entities or an industrial 9 – 5 work schedule. Coworking is a resource many people are using to cope with the modern realities of work today. Coworking creates new opportunities to connect, engage, and be part of a larger community. I’m not currently co-working but the talk at Metropolist has sparked my interest in shaking up my home office and coffee shop routine.