Monday, May 23, 2016

Co-working: What's It All About?

Go into any coffee shop or restaurant that serves coffee in the U.S. and you'll find people sitting at tables with computers, trying to get some work done.  On any given day, it can be difficult to find an empty table just to sit and think because they're filled with freelancers, remote workers and others looking to take advantage of free WiFi and coffee/tea on demand.

But coffee shops and restaurants are generally noisy.  People are chatting it up all around you.  The chairs are hard.  You spend more money than you'd like because you feel guilty about being there without ordering anything.  You also don't want to go back home and work; you miss the buzz and energy of being surrounded by people while you're working by yourself.

Co-working facilities are popping up all over the U.S. and overseas as an alternative to the coffee shop workplace.  But there's a lot of confusion about exactly what a co-working site is and does.  Is it just a smaller version of the executive suites of years ago?  Are they expensive?  Let's take a look.

Co-working has actually been around for centuries but it entered our business world in 1995, when hacker spaces were opened in Berlin, Germany.  They were collaborative workspaces where independent, freelance coders and developers could work in one room, feed off each others' energy and get a lot of work done.

Today, the vibe is much the same in co-working, if not the intention.  Co-working spaces today each have a different feel, depending on their focus; it can take a few tries to find the one that fits with your style of working.  Some co-working sites have an open setup, with desks, plugins and free WiFi.  You sit among others doing their own work and there's a more communal feel, with everyone knocking around, chatting to one another and people coming and going constantly.

Other co-working spaces have a more business-like feel.  Each person is at their own desks, no one talking, just focused on work.  They feel almost like you're working in a library; you hate to say too much for fear of disrupting the quiet.

Still others are a mixture of both.  One innovative co-working space in Austin, Texas - Orange Coworking - is a hybrid coworking space.  On one side, the owner, Shelley Delayne, has set up a mixture of restaurant booths, standup tables and lower work tables, where you can work by yourself or with others.  The conversation is always lively and energized with so many creative minds in one place.

On the other side of Orange is the "focus" area.  If you need to just push out a bunch of work in quiet, you can go into the focus area, where there's little conversation and people are just buzzing, getting work done.

In between the two sides are conference rooms that can be rented by the hour or the day, ranging in size from a two-people room to a larger seminar-type conference room.  And, as in most co-working sites, there's unlimited coffee, tea and ultra high-speed WiFi.

When you're looking at joining a co-working site, see if they have a one-day free pass to test the waters.  If you just want to be left alone to plow through a bunch of work without the phone ringing, the kids coming to ask questions and the significant other asking about dinner, a more business-type setting would be your co-working site.  If you miss the buzz of others around you when you're working at home, a more communal-type coworking site is where you'd like to be.

The bottom line - co-working is here to stay.  If you work from home, it can be a lifesaver and you might be surprised how much more work you get done.

By the way - Shelley Delayne will be on my BlogTalkRadio show tomorrow (5/24/16) at 4pm Central and you can listen on demand any time after then.