August is a month rich with various days of celebration that resonate with empowerment, relaxation and collaboration in the workplace.
August 26th will be National Women's Equality Day, reminding us of the progress made towards gender equality and the continued efforts needed for an inclusive society.
August 15th will be National Relaxation Day, extending an invitation to pause and embrace self-care.
August 9th will be International Coworking Day and our topic for this month's discussion.
We want to take this month to celebrate and highlight the importance of coworking, as coworking is marking its 18th anniversary this year. It is odd to say about a concept coined back in 1999 but don't worry - by the time you have scrolled to the bottom; we will make the reason behind this particular date more apparent.
What is meant by "Coworking"?
Coworking is a modern work arrangement where individuals from different professions share a common workspace.
It provides a collaborative and community-driven environment for independent workers.
Coworking spaces offer a flexible alternative to traditional office setups or coffee shops where the atmosphere could be disruptive.
It promotes networking, skill-sharing, and social interaction among other professionals.
Co-working fosters productivity and creativity through a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere.
It allows individuals to work independently while enjoying the benefits of a supportive community.
Coworking spaces often provide meeting rooms, high-speed internet, and shared resources.
It caters to freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers, and small teams.
It has become a global movement, transforming how people approach work and collaboration.
Some coworking spaces are also niche-specific and offer different amenities, with some spaces being female-focused (equipped with changing stations and beauty salons) or even pet-friendly areas (equipped with grooming stations and daycare).
Some spaces also offer the bare minimum of a desk and Wi-Fi for a more minimalist style.
Modern coworking spaces have revolutionised how we work and collaborate, breaking away from the confines of traditional office environments. They have emerged as flexible, affordable and dynamic alternatives to home offices for individuals and teams alike to offer a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters creativity, productivity, and valuable networking opportunities - almost similar to the benefits of apprenticeships.
But before we delve into why coworking deserves to be celebrated, please allow me, as the writer, to ask you a question. Why is this our chosen topic for the month?
If you were to ask anyone about their dream job, regardless of age, how many would say something similar to the following?
"My dream job would be one where I am greeted kindly by the warm flickering lights upon entering the office.
Nobody utters a word as I go down the delightfully dreary labyrinth of cramped cubicles back-to-back to start my day. Finally, I reach my cosy corner and begin to lower myself gently to sit down in my uncomfortable chair, but before I sit down, I notice what little stationery was in my pot was taken. Sure, it would be hard to write without a pen. Even though I could ask to borrow one, I eagerly sink into my chair as it emits a choir of groans that drown out the most recent heated argument about the "lack of communication" and "being distracting". I am a bit uncertain as to whom I can hear, but I can certainly tell by the booming voice that overshadows the sobbing that it's time to begin my day and focus on one of my many tasks!"
Chances are nobody would, as most jobs are dynamic - requiring some form of freedom and communication, from the most extroverted individuals who thrive on socializing and banter as they work to the more introverted types who prefer quiet and solitude.
We all feel lonely sometimes, and a lack of movement or a dreary atmosphere can make one feel trapped when faced with a gargantuan stack of tasks.
Co-working, whether in a physical co-working facility or via virtual collaboration tools, helps to alleviate these unpleasant sensations. Being a part of a co-working community allows you to interact with like-minded people, exchange ideas, and participate in conversations that can ignite creativity and passion. Physical or virtual connections with others also assist in breaking up the repetition, making the workplace more active and exciting. Furthermore, having a supportive network of coworkers can reduce feelings of isolation and provide emotional support through difficult times, establishing a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Individuals can share the load of chores, seek advice, and offer assistance in co-working environments, boosting personal and professional growth.
A (Blank) Space For Collaboration
In 1995, 17 computer enthusiasts from Berlin founded "c-base." - a non-profit organisation that provides a community space for hackers, artists, scientists, and technology enthusiasts to collaborate and work on various projects.
Its name is a reference to the fictional space station of the same name featured in the show "Raumpatrouille Orion" (also known as "German Star Trek") and the programming language "C." Interestingly, this space is located in a repurposed underground storage facility, giving it a unique and somewhat futuristic atmosphere. Combined with the intriguing sci-fi myths about the supposed space station and theme, c-base introduced the notion of "Hackerspaces" and set the standard for coworking.
Skipping ahead 20 years to 2005, a technologist named Brad Neuberg founded the first coworking space in San Francisco (in an area called "Spiral Muse" - a feminist collective), emphasising community, openness, and collaboration. His concept rapidly gained popularity and catalysed the global movement, transforming how people work, interact, and socialise. Brad's very first blog post about coworking (which you can read here) is why the 9th of August is the annual date to celebrate the spirit of coworking.
And now, back to the present. The concept of coworking has expanded, with applications such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom connecting remote workers. These platforms synergise with hybrid coworking spaces, enabling workers to split their time between a physical office and a virtual venue. This setup offers the benefits of a shared workspace while avoiding distractions that may occur when working from home.
Hotdesking is one of the strategies used in hybrid coworking spaces, where employees come into the office each day and choose any available desk to work at. They might sit in a different spot every day (or whenever they go into the office) and don't have their personal belongings permanently set up at a specific desk. Instead, they bring their laptops, files, and other work essentials with them and take them away when they leave for the day, offering a spotless, tidy desk for the next person.
However, like any work arrangement, hotdesking has its strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, it fosters a more dynamic and social work atmosphere, encourages networking, and can save office space and costs. On the downside, some employees may miss the sense of ownership that comes with having a dedicated desk and personalised workspace.
Despite this, coworking continues to shape the way we collaborate and innovate, offering a shared space for professionals from all walks of life to come together, exchange ideas, and create something amazing - regardless of the size of the space.
Discussion points for Equality and Diversity / British Values:
What would be your ideal workspace and why?
Can the Rule of Law be the key to fostering trust and collaboration?
Do the people drive a workspace, or should a workspace drive the people?
Do you think that an online coworking space will ever be able to emulate (or enhance) an industry?
How does diversity contribute to co-working?