In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there are millions of workers who have no way to get to work. And for those lucky enough to have Web-based jobs, working from home is the only option—if you have power, cell service and Internet connection, that is.
While there is a huge benefit to working from home post-storm, it typically comes with a productivity cost. For many new business owners, working from home is distracting, and to be honest, a bit lonely. I have been self-employed for over 20 years and while I enjoy the quiet atmosphere of home, I get more work done when in a place with people around. And storm recovery takes a toll both financially and emotionally. That's why co-working could make sense, either with coworkers who live nearby or with strangers who could become friends or business contacts. If there is a co-working space near you, here's why it's worth considering.
Pooling resources. Many shared spaces are increasingly leveraging new technology. In addition to the phones, copiers and maybe a shared receptionist, there are 3D printers, laser cutters and other specialized equipment to help you improve your business. Usually, there is someone on the team who keeps the laser printers and copiers running, or who can help you troubleshoot a problem with your laptop. There are co-working, shared spaces focused on biotech, for example, and others for artists or musicians or tech startups.
Steve King, of Emergent Research, has studied co-working and sees it as a growing trend. In fact, he reported that hotels are targeting the workspace-as-a-service market. Marriott Hotels recently started a project called Workspring where the meeting spaces are designed for small to medium group collaboration.
In-person networking still works. Here’s a reality check: When is the last time someone contacted you from your social media networks and said, “Hey Bob, are you interested in doing a paid project for me?” When you meet in person, or even on the phone, you create a direct connection and it fires up the problem-solving portion of the brain. Social media fires up the mouse-clicking portion of the brain. I’m not dissing social networking; I’m simply arguing for you to meet people in person. Being part of a loosely connected group is better than no group.
Deskmag recently wrote an excellent post on how co-working strengthens weak ties. In it, they talk about a qualitative study involving 100 co-working spaces and how they expose members to a new people. I have found that it also leads to new work.
As the number of independent workers grows and many won't be able to return to their workplaces after the storm for months, there will be an opportunity to create more co-working spaces. Sure, most of them will probably choose to work from home, but there’s an opportunity for communities, cities, and even corporations to offer space. By doing so, we can tap into the collective brainpower and social power of thousands of entrepreneurial minds. If there were more spaces, I believe we’d see even more startups and new ventures.
Carla Young points out that co-working is one way to find an affordable space when working from home isn’t working.