By now, this far along into the 21st Century, anyone living in a major city or, in many cases, a reasonably large town, probably has some sort of access to a Coworking space.
These spaces have sprouted up around the world over the last fifteen years to fulfill an important social need — the provision of a work orientated environment geared to the personal needs of the users. The facilities allow people to share (usually) office-like environments and are largely used by those who have or require more flexibility in their schedules and how they want to work.
For many of us — in theory — all that we really need to do our work is a laptop and a reasonably good wi-fi connection. But not everyone can or likes to work at home, and cafés, while being able to provide a soothing background noise for some kinds of tasks and projects, can still leave you feeling isolated and subject to undue random interruptions.
While there are tremendous advantages to not being tied to a specific desk or work station in a specific location, it doesn’t follow that we will be better off working all on our own. Being entirely alone is not healthy for us because as humans we are highly social creatures. According to Daniel Goleman, a leading thinker on emotional intelligence, we humans are wired to be with each other. Daniel claims that, “To a surprising extent, then, our relationships mold not just our experience, but our biology.”
But what if we could have the best of both worlds? Access to the necessary social interactions that we need to get through the day but in the environment of our choice and at the times we choose.
The informality and flexibility of a Coworking space gives us the option to switch between focused, intense work that some tasks require and the looser more social aspects of working such as research and the sounding out of ideas. Also, bringing people together provides the possibility and opportunity for collaborations to occur.
So, to summarize briefly, on the one hand we have technology allows us to escape the confines of the limitations of the conventional working environment, and on the other, we have Coworking spaces that allow us to take advantage of all the good things about working with others such as:
Human contact – which is essential to physical and mental health.
Conversations that can inspire and be the source of new ideas.
Sanity checks – having others with which to sound out ideas and make sure we are not going to far down the rabbit hole.
Collaboration as an option rather than an obligation.
The sense of energy that comes from being around productive people.
Fluidity of time and space and the power to determine when to engage with others or not on your own terms.
Space to work when it suits us to work.
How to get started
If there is no facility in your area the wiki also information on tools that you can use to set your own one up.
By far and away the best place to start investigating Coworking is the Coworking Wiki. There you will find information on the history and philosophy of Coworking as well news about Coworking sites in your locale.