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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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Genevieve DeGuzman

Great post! It definitely feels like there's going to be a shift in how we work as more people become freelancers, part-timers, and independent workers.

But I also want to point out that coworking spaces are starting to see an influx of telecommuters and other remote workers, too-- essentially employees of companies looking to work remotely but who don't want to work from home.

Coworking really works for a lot of different people. For a recent book we did on coworking, “Working in the UnOffice" (Night Owls Press, CoworkingGuide.com), we talked to everyone from the usual digital technology and graphic design freelancers that flock to coworking in droves, to the more unusual inventors, innovation consultants, and even telecommuters working remotely for big corporations. Some of them have been in business for years, with polished operations. Others are bootstrapped shops, or people throwing their hats into the ring as “accidental entrepreneurs” because of the recession.

What makes coworking so great for a wide swath of professionals is what sets it apart from your usual, cookie-cutter shared office space. Aside from the energy and networking opportunities, here are other benefits we found:

* ‘Accelerated serendipity’ galore. Just by exposure to other people, you discover something new without trying— be it a new Ruby on Rails tweak, a PR secret, or the best restaurant for sushi. And you get to meet new people, new clients, and find new resources the same way.

* Collective brainpower. In his book, “Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration”, Keith Sawyer says that acts of collaboration, not solo flights of genius, are the key to breakthrough creativity. When you hang around a coworking space, where collaboration is not only encouraged but also cultivated, you get the opportunity to harness your coworkers’ collective brainpower.

* A professional venue— and outlook. Not only do you get a business address, you also get a professional venue to host meetings with clients and colleagues.

* Shared resources. If you need to get things done on the cheap, coworking spaces are the place to do it. You don’t have to fight for a spot, all the equipment and space you need to run a business is there (printers, Wi-Fi, conference rooms).

* Opportunities for bigger projects. With access to people working in different fields, you can now nab bigger projects without worries about biting off more than you can chew or hiring new people. In fact, you can simply outsource the parts you can’t handle to your coworkers.

Overall, there’s the sense of belonging that we derive from being part of a broader group. You aren’t just renting a desk or office space, and you aren’t just around people for the sake of being around people. Throw people in a room— you may get a lot of staring and then a quick shuffle to hunker down with laptops and smartphones. Throw people into a coworking space— something else happens entirely.

Additional reading on coworking - check out Deskmag's 'Five Must-Read Books About Coworking' (http://www.deskmag.com/en/five-must-read-books-about-coworking-161). Shareable.net is also a good resource on collaborative workspaces.

Genevieve
co-author, Working in the UnOffice (http://www.CoworkingGuide.com)

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