Can Coworking Work for Your Small Business?

The concept of coworking has been around for a long time — some date it as far back as the 1800s — and the term has been in use in the U.S. since the late 1990s. It refers to a work style that combines a shared environment with independent activity. Coworking can be an attractive option for small business owners like independent contractors, consultants and freelancers. If you fall into one of those categories and you’re looking for a new, different and, by all accounts, enjoyable work environment, read on!

“The idea is simple: independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone,” states the wiki Coworking.com. “Coworking spaces are about community-building and sustainability. Participants agree to uphold the values set forth by the movement’s founders, as well as interact and share with one another. We are about creating better places to work and as a result, a better way to work.”

Think of coworking in terms of a cooperative, where the focus is on community rather than profit. It has also been described as “a community of like-minded individuals.”

Wikipedia reports that some coworking spaces were developed by “nomadic Internet entrepreneurs” seeking an alternative to working in coffee shops and cafes, or to isolation in independent or home offices. In fact, the Coworking wiki entices future coworkers thusly: “Tired of working out of your living room and escaping to coffee shops that are noisy and have unreliable wireless? Love being independent, but get lonely working solo sometimes? Need a great environment to work out of that isn’t too ‘office-y’, but is professional enough to bring a client in for a meeting?”

Deskmag, the online magazine about coworking, its people and spaces, recently released the results of its Global Coworking Survey 2012. It reports that the average member size of coworking communities has increased, a third of all coworking spaces plan to expand to a new location and (perhaps most importantly) “coworkers chose one unexpected word to best describe their coworking space: fun!”

Some other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • Fifty-three percent of the responding coworkers categorized themselves as freelancers, with the remainder identifying themselves as entrepreneurs, small company employees and big company employees.
  • The proportion of female coworkers is on the rise, from 32 percent in 2010 to 38 percent today.
  • Seventy-one percent of the respondents said their creativity had increased since joining a coworking space, and 62 percent said their standard of work had improved. Countering the common criticism that coworking spaces can be distracting, 68 percent said they were able to focus better — only 12 percent said the opposite — and 64 percent said they could better complete tasks on time.
  • Most coworkers (69 percent) are so content with their workspace that they have no plans to leave. Less than 5 percent will stay just for one month, disproving the notion that coworking is for mobile workers only.
  • The outlook for coworking spaces is good, with 29 percent of spaces planning to add extra desks, 9 percent wanting to upgrade to a bigger location and 36 percent expecting to open a new second location.

Want more information about coworking and how to get started? Visit the Coworking wiki for both.

About the Author: Beth Longware Duff writes about small business merchant services, including why you should accept credit cards on your website.