Co-working has moved beyond the disruptor stage to become an established way of working. The number of spaces continues to ramp-up globally with membership rates growing at around 40% per year.
The way in which co-working space is being consumed constantly shifts and evolves, with many professionals choosing to take space on a semi-regular or even permanent basis. Of course, the very point of such environments is that there is no such thing as normal – working patterns can shift to suit the individual. Businesses are becoming better at managing by results rather than by face-time, enabling individuals to work when and where they want.
Given this ‘anything goes’ environment, it is interesting to monitor the language used to discuss co-working. Commentators talk about the vibrancy of such spaces, the buzz of creative environments that enable kindred-spirits to network. They talk in terms of collaboration – individuals bouncing ideas off each other. So far so good – and so exciting.
But this approach is one of many. Members of co-working environments are not duty-bound to break every hour for brain-storming sessions around the coffee hub.
First and foremost, these are environments geared towards productivity, towards getting the job done. The first thought of any professional must surely be – will this space enable me to complete tasks to the best of my ability?
That’s why the best spaces offer a combination of working areas to suit different moods and different tasks. Some may prefer the social interaction of working around a communal table, others may prefer a more private booth or a quiet corner. The ‘co-working culture’ embraces all of these ways of working and more.
Business leaders or individuals may make the mistake of equating co-working solely with entrepreneurial extroverts, believing that these spaces are suited only to certain jobs and tasks. But this is very far from the truth and potentially damaging if such thinking results in the option of working more flexibly being side-lined.
In fact, the co-working culture encourages individualism as much as social collaboration. It encourages people to work in ways that suit their own temperament, that match their own productivity patterns, that fit their schedule on any given day. Indeed, the co-working culture is best described by what it is not. It is not conforming to an office dress-code, it is not shoe-horning working hours around set times and routines; it is not the same old 9-5.
Whether energetically collaborating one day or being quietly industrious the next, co-working space provides an environment for professionals to be themselves. This freedom is resulting in some truly inspired performances.