Small business is big business! Self-employment and casual work have grown rapidly in recent years with the market seeing a shift from full-time to casual employment. In fact about 25% of Australians worked on a casual basis in 2017, creating new challenges and opportunities.
Although there are many benefits to being self-employed, it can get lonely and blur the lines between work and leisure. Many work from home or from coffee shops, sitting side by side with strangers, but without ever really interacting.
For that reason, collaborative coworking spaces are an impactful difference, offering not only a physical space in which to work, but also structure, support, and community.
Working alone together
Coworking spaces accommodate self-employed people by giving them a space where they can ‘work alone together’.
A study by Steve King reports that 89% of participants felt being happier after joining a coworking space. One of the most important reasons is collaboration. Sitting in a coffee shop, a library or at home can offer great freedom, but no social gratification.
Coworking solves this problem, with 83% of participants in King’s study reporting being less lonely since joining a flexible workspace and saying they use theirs to meet people, socialise and expand their social network.
Research also suggests flexible workspaces are even better than normal offices.
A group of researchers from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business studied how employees and people at coworking spaces thrive, and found that members of flexible workspaces reported feeling more energized and avoiding burn out more successfully - an average of 6 on a 7-point scale – than employees at traditional offices.
We can simply sit next to people on a bus, but we know that sparking a conversation and learning something new or teaching something valuable is far more rewarding. Coworking spaces are proving they provide the same experience.
Coworking spaces are sometimes called human spaces, because humans are social animals. We group into and build communities because we’re more successful in them. We need interaction to thrive.
A study published by Frontiers in Psychology found that mobilising social support is essential for members to thrive in flexible workspaces. It’s what sets coworking spaces apart and make them so successful, creating that perfect balance between interaction and privacy.
Coworking members have the freedom to be social when they want to, but they also have the option of spending their day working alone with their headphones on without colleagues or bosses looking over their shoulders.
There’s no pressure to be social, but the opportunity is still there.
According to the Michigan study, members feel a sense of community. In fact, it’s what most co-working spaces aim for. Community Managers make it a point for the members to get to know each other and facilitate introductions between them. They work to become facilitators rather than just landlords.
When members begin to identify themselves as a part of the community, their attendance at work is given purpose. That’s what employees and business owners strive for! Having a meaningful reason to be at work every day is what boosts satisfaction more than anything else, including income.
Professional relationships are as important as social ones. For freelancers and business owners who don’t have an office to go to, it can be hard to build these relationships. When working from home, attending events are usually the only – and not always effective – way. Any business owner will tell you how exhausting it can get to finish a full, long day of work then rush to a networking dinner.
Unlike traditional networking setups, flexible coworking spaces offer a culture where interacting and networking on the daily are encouraged and facilitated. Getting referrals and asking for help or guidance is expected and appreciated rather than frowned upon or made taboo.
Of the sample in King’s study, 82% reported that coworking had expanded their professional networks while 80% of participants also turned to other members for guidance.
Finding the balance
While socialising and networking were both important reasons for coworking members, these do not need to happen every day to have a successful experience.
In fact, the earlier Michigan research study concludes that autonomy and flexibility were an important factor in motivation for joining a coworking space, as they strike the ideal balance between autonomy and structure, allowing members to make the most of their time.
Coworking spaces offer a variety of memberships for this reason, so members can go as often or as little as they like. Business owners or freelancers who are just starting out might want to go two days a week or even less, while more established businesses could benefit from a full-time membership with a dedicated desk or serviced office.
Co-working is an investment
Today we have a more fluent border between work and free time, which allows us greater freedom but also comes with the need to find new ways to balance them.
Coworking is a solution as it offers a combination of social and professional support, alleviates loneliness, boosts motivation, increases productivity and strikes an ideal balance between autonomy and collaboration.
It’s important to note that we didn’t report on monetary benefits in this article. This is primarily because income is a product of one’s own efforts and results will vary based on too many sensitive variables. What we can say without a doubt, is that all the above benefits like enjoyment, purpose, community, networking, etc. are what factor into success when paired with tenacious effort. So, it isn’t whether coworking spaces will drastically increase your profits, it’s more that the benefits of coworking can only improve your chances of doing so.