Working from home can be difficult for some. Either they don’t have sufficient space and organization for an office, or they miss the creativity and social interaction that comes with an office space. Coworking can be a solution. This phenomenon, loosely defined, is the term for two or more independent workers sharing the same work environment, whether that be in someone’s home, a public place or a rented room.
In the 1980 comedy movie “9 to 5" (starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman), three professional women solve their company’s problems (finances, staffing and harassment issues) by banning their boss and initiating a flexible work model as well as participating in shared work environments. One of the last scenes shows a woman in a wheelchair switching shifts with another employee, and everyone is smiling. Coworking was a radical idea back then.
Bernie DeKoven, an American game designer, originally coined the term coworking in 1999. The notion has been around for decades. Its popularity has recently grown due to easier access to the Internet and increased use of mobile devices. Coworking is similar to workshifting in some respects, in that it represents a very flexible work mode. According to a survey taken a few years ago, the average coworker is 34 years old.
Coworking is not appropriate for every type of business or person, but it benefits certain work styles and work places.
Start-up Companies: Young entrepreneurs, especially those with technology-based companies, don’t need a lot of in-house staff or large offices to get things done. Start-ups don’t want to spend a lot of money on a home base if they keep irregular hours, they travel frequently and the company is still “in the red." They just need a dependable mobile device, access to a cloud/server and a place where the staff can meet as needed.
Working Parents: If both parents in a household work, life is hectic. Between household issues, day-to-day work and whatever necessary travel there is, working parents can barely manage normal office hours. Coworking satisfies both worlds; people can work at home when the schedule dictates and also enjoy community, social stimulation and get out of the house when time permits.
Buying Shares in a Public Space: Coworking also extends to situations in which groups of people working in different industries buy a share in a public office space. Coworking spaces are popping up all over the world, particularly in the more expensive cities. Cities leading the way are Oslo (Norway), London, New York and San Francisco. Sharing space in this way is more affordable and tends to promote a more creative and fun atmosphere.
This work style is similar to another new trend, workshifting. Both workshifting and coworking rely heavily on the cloud/server computing, use of mobile devices and are based on flexible workday schedules. Both can also heavily tax access to servers—and cause endless headaches for IT.
The movie “9 to 5" showed coworking as the answer to that company’s issues. Each company can decide whether coworking is beneficial to its environment.