With many companies moving to a hybrid working model, here’s you need to know about a co-working space, according to Hays’ Jane McNeill.
At a time when flexibility has never been greater, some people are moving towards co-working spaces. However, co-working isn’t for everyone, so before you make a decision, it’s important to fully understand what the advantages and disadvantages are.
There’s been a huge amount of research and commentary about the pros and cons of working in a co-working space – so let’s start with the pros.
Interaction with people
According to researchers at the University of Michigan, the most common reasons for people seeking co-working spaces are interaction with people (84pc), random discoveries and opportunities (82pc) and knowledge sharing (77pc). It’s a similar situation as far as corporate co-workers are concerned.
If you are able to work from home, but miss in-person interactions, a co-working space could be a solution.
This Harvard Business Review article also explains how co-working space can give you the flexibility that you want and need. Co-working spaces are normally accessible on a true 24/7 basis, for example, so people can take their pick between putting in a long day when they have a deadline looming or need to make progress and taking an extra break in the middle of the day to attend the gym.
Increased control over your space
In the words of Harvard Business Review writers Gretchen Spreitzer, Peter Bacevice and Lyndon Garrett, users of co-working spaces can also “choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is encouraged.”
Creative freedom and the opportunity to upskill
Another great advantage of co-working is the opportunity that it gives you to fuel your creativity and upskill. A change of environment can be energising, while working with different people from inside and outside your organisation can spark creativity and innovative thinking. Sure enough, 68pc of co-workers report improvements to their existing skillset.
However, one of the biggest co-working benefits of all is improved innovation, as people in a co-working space collectively share ideas and experience greater diversity of thought due to the variety of people from multiple organisations and industries that are all working in one space. It’s a mode of working that exposes you to ideas and best practice from other industries that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter in your current role if you were siloed in your office.
Other cited benefits of co-working include heightened productivity, as well as the fact that 84pc of individuals surveyed in a 2015 global study reported they were more engaged and motivated since joining their co-working community, with 89pc of respondents conveying a higher degree of happiness.
A sense of community
That word, ‘community’, is certainly a strong one in the world of co-working. A 2014 survey of more than 200 US co-workers conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business confirmed that belonging to a community was the most common reason for people to seek out a co-working space.
This sense of community can help to improve your problem-solving skills and the users of a co-working space are often more than happy to help fellow co-workers to tackle a challenge.
With even the likes of cafés and gyms potentially serving as amazing co-working spaces, it’s fair to say that the co-working culture has taken a strong hold across the world – bringing with it all of the aforementioned benefits.
Are there any cons of co-working spaces?
While co-working can clearly provide many benefits, it can also present several challenges. It’s hardly the most private way of working, for instance, which also potentially means a lot of distractions. Someone simply slurping their coffee could drive you crazy if you’re already stressed out and trying to concentrate on an assignment with a tight deadline amid all of the other noise surrounding you – but having said this, such distractions are also common in a conventional office.
Linked to this lack of privacy is a greater scope for personality clashes, a dilemma that anyone who has ever flat-shared will recognise. Any situation that places many people in close proximity to each other heightens the risk of such conflict and it’s not as if there’s a HR department to formally resolve any disputes arising between the users of a co-working space.
How to transition to a co-working space
If you are confident that you can overcome these cons and think co-working might be for you, or indeed, have just accepted a position that is based in a co-working space, these tips will help you make the transition seamlessly.
- Make the effort to introduce yourself to your fellow co-workers – first impressions count.
- Set a routine as quickly as you can. You will have more flexibility in a co-working space, so it’s important that you are diligent and mindful of your time – otherwise, your productivity could suffer.
- Make the most of the opportunity to work with different people each day to build your network, upskill and make new contacts. Many co-working spaces run regular networking and office events, so head along to these wherever possible.
- Make your desk feel like home – experiment with different areas of the shared working space and see what works best for you.
- Get to know the office or community manager. Having a good relationship with them will make it easier to get help from them if the printer breaks or the Wi-Fi goes down.
- Move to a quieter space if you know you are going to be on a long conference call that could be distracting for your co-workers.
- Learn how to deal with distractions – you could purchase some headphones, for instance.
- If you are working for a brand, keep your employer front of mind, rather than the culture of the office space you’re working in. It can be easy to feel detached, but regular communications and face-to-face meetings should help.
- Eat away from your desk and take breaks out of the office. In many co-working spaces, everything is under one roof, so it can feel like there’s no need to get out, but the truth is that you do need to get out for your own wellbeing.
- Prioritise face-to-face communication. Research has found that in open plan offices, which is what many co-working spaces are, the number of instant messages sent increased by 67pc, while employees also spent 72pc less time interacting in person in an open space.
If co-working is a mode of working that suits you, and you handle it in the right way, a wide range of benefits could result.
By Jane McNeill
Jane McNeill is director of Hays Australia. A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.