Work as we know it is changing. With an emerging gig economy, and the advent of technologies that allow us to work from almost anywhere, many self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs are discovering that sometimes, working from home can be a little lacking: not much social interaction nor professional networking.
So it probably makes sense that communal coworking spaces have boomed in the last few years, catering to these independent professionals who crave the community and perks that are missing from working at home. But there's more to it than just having a nicer space to work in. If you're already working from home or from a café, and are curious, here are a few surprising reasons to try coworking out, and why the burgeoning coworking movement can benefit local communities as well.
1. Coworking spaces can be built like intentional communities.
Perhaps one of the main reasons why people join coworking spaces is to feel less isolated. Coworking spaces can provide not only inspiring, shared office spaces and amenities like real meeting rooms, they can also help people network, swap skills and build their businesses in an organic way -- something that's much more difficult if you're working from home.
Of course, there's also the trap of sterile, "soulless" coworking places as well. So how can one separate the wheat from the chaff? As Brooklyn-based Tina Roth-Eisenberg, founder of Friends Work Here, puts it:
Unlike most co-working spaces, I believe in keeping things small. Small community, small space. I don’t believe in looking at it like a business. A co-working space should have a value system in place that everyone understands, that creates a kind, safe, supportive environment where people feel at home.
2. Better work-life balance.
Another big reason for going down the coworking path is flexibility and a better work-life balance. Without the need to be tied to a specific place and time to work, many location-independent professionals now have more options to balance work with play. I noted:
But why work where you live if you can take your work with you and travel? The rapid growth of co-working hubs around the world are fueling an emerging trend where some entrepreneurs, self-employed digital nomads and remote professionals are opting for what's called a "startup retreat", "co-working retreat", "co-working vacation" or a "co-workation" -- a more structured, exotic version of a regular co-working space membership, one could say.
Even if you can't travel to far-off, exotic places to cowork, one can join a mobile coworking space that makes daily rounds for biking, hiking and surfing (of the beach kind). And if you really can't get out and have kids to worry about, you can find a coworking space with childcare.
Read more: Can co-working vacations offer a better work-life balance?
Mobile coworking bus lets professionals work, hike, bike & surf
Why aren't more co-working spaces offering childcare -- and a list that do
3. Coworking spaces offer attractive perks.
Much has been written about how this generation's young people value perks when it comes to choosing a place of employment, and that's no different when it comes to selecting a shared office space. Many of these new, communal workplaces offer in-house gyms, yoga classes, climbing walls, playgrounds and one even has its own plant army. And if you only want women in your coworking tribe? Fear not, there are spaces for you, too.
4. Revitalization of derelict spaces, and creating new kinds of public spaces in communities.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a magnificent bank building in Old Montreal built in the 1920's that was vacated in 2010. It has since been revitalized and turned into a publicly accessible café and a classy coworking space managed by Montreal-based startup The Crew Collective.
Across town, Temps Libre in Montreal's innovation hub is another coworking space that is doing things a bit differently: in addition to being a non-commercial coworking space, they offer the local community a library, an arcade and a cooperatively managed, flexible space and café that's open to everyone. There are plenty of these hybrid communal spaces popping up all over the world, waiting to be discovered. Coworking spaces, if done with a larger vision in mind, can revitalize and benefit the local communities they are a part of.
5. Coworking can be a transition into digital nomadism.
Working remotely and coworkations can be taken even further into the realm of full-time digital nomadism and slow travel. But being a digital nomad isn't easy; there's a lot of planning that goes into selecting places to live and a period of disorientation and not knowing anybody when you first land in a new locale.
To counter that, some now offer "global co-living subscriptions" that allow members to live and work in a number of locations around the world, such as this one that has residences in Miami, Bali and Madrid:
A startup called Roam is piloting an interesting new model where participants can sign a lease to live in various co-living spaces around the world. The idea is to foster a global community of digital nomads, while giving them a network of places to call home.
There are also cheaper and more hostel-like versions for travelling professionals, like PodShare, a "coworking and co-living community" in Los Angeles:
PodShare makes life more affordable because there is no security deposit or cost of furnishings and we provide flexible living. Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new. [..] We’re creating a social network with a physical address. Our open-floor model offers the highest rate of collisions for social travelers. We do not identify with hostels—we are a co-living space or a live-work community.
Want to save even more money? Consider housesitting while coworking abroad. Even self-employed professionals with kids can transform themselves into digital nomad families who worldschool their kids. With the abundance of online learning opportunities, as well as real-life, hands-on educational moments found during travel or even in a coworking space abroad, working in a different and more fulfilling way is becoming more possible than ever for a growing number of people.
And hey, if you really love working from home but still crave some social interaction, you can consider setting up a coworking space in your own home.
Read more: Have work, will travel: How digital nomads are redefining work
Roam: "Global co-living subscription" lets you sign a lease to live in different locations
PodShare: Pod-based co-working and co-living community flourishing in LA
How 'worldschooling' parents are educating their kids -- by traveling the world (Video)
Hoffice project lets people share their homes as free co-working spaces