Coworking - a phenomenon for the self employed
Updated: Oct 18
I am writing this in the café area of a health and fitness club where I'm a member. The exercise class that I want to attend doesn’t start for well over an hour. I purposely arrived early.
I’m self-employed. A freelancer. A ‘work at home professional’. I own and run my small company Alder from my kitchen table.
And I needed to get out of the house!
Working from home full time can be lonely. I miss the daily interaction that I used to get from working in an office. The ‘did you see episode 4 last night?!’ or ‘fancy grabbing some lunch?’.
It's not easy to switch off from work when you are at home, or switch off from home when you are working, if you work at home.
I am not actually interacting with anyone here at the gym (apart from to order a cup of tea) but it feels good and indulgent to purely concentrate on work!
No housework in the corner of my eye. No emptying the dishwasher while the kettle is boiling. No dog wanting to go in and out of the garden. No washing machine beeping to signal the end of its cycle.
Lydia Mansi, owner of Lydia Mansi Media (whom I interviewed for an ‘Alder Woman’ feature), hit the nail on the head when I asked her what the most recurring issue/stumbling block that self-employed women that she encounters face is....
“Loneliness. Hands down. Women are social creatures and it’s really, really hard to be creative and stay driven when you’re sat at the kitchen table by yourself. Especially if you’ve left a career where you were part of a team. Self-doubt and procrastination soon creep in and really hold women back from reaching their goals.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people opting to be self-employed is growing with every passing year. From 3.3 million people in the UK in 2001 (around 12% of the labour market) to 4.8 million (over 15%) in 2017.
So, is coworking the answer? And what is it?
Coworking involves people that might otherwise be working in isolation, sharing a physical space (such as an office). These individuals still work separately and independently but are able to enjoy the company of working with others. Coworking can help to draw a clearer line between office and home space and can help create boundaries. Really useful collaborations can occur naturally between like-minded entrepreneurs who may not have otherwise ever met.
While coworking itself is not a new concept (my grandmother would take her veg round to her friend next door so that they could chat whilst both preparing their respective family dinners for example), it was an American called Brad Neuberg that named it ‘coworking’ in 2005.
“I had both worked for myself and worked at a job and was unhappy because I couldn't seem to combine all the things I wanted at the same time: the freedom and independence of working for myself along with the structure and community of working with others.” Brad Neuberg
Neuberg rented a room for two days a week at a feminist collective space in San Francisco. After a slow start, the coworking idea soon caught on and a second space opened a year later.
With the number of coworking spaces roughly doubling each year between 2006 and 2015*, it really is changing the way not only that individuals work, but how cities and businesses plan their spaces.
wework, established in 2010, has enjoyed mind boggling success with its beautiful coworking offerings. They offer spaces all across the world to everyone from individuals to teams of 250+ and in June 2019 the company was valued at a staggering $47 billion.
And they are just one in a huge list of companies that are embracing and capitalising on the shift in our working habits.
In the last few weeks I have spent time at two different female coworking spaces in London.
AllBrightmembersclubs brings coworking to an entirely different level in terms of opulence and a feeling of being part of an exclusive club.
Membership of their community gives access to their two beautiful clubs in London with a third club due to open this summer in LA.
I had the pleasure of looking around AllBright Rathbone Place, London and I could quite happily have moved in!
From ‘cinema’ (or intimate screening room) and beauty salon in the basement to an uberstylish bar on the fifth floor, it has something to offer at all stages of the (ideal!) working day.
The restaurant menus are designed by an award-winning chef and a selection of spaces are available over the floors in which to work in a relaxed and serene manner!
I also had the pleasure of visiting Blooming Founders which is a coworking space the heart of trendy Shoredich, East London.
Blooming Founders is aimed very much at helping early stage business founders. It's a welcoming space which entrepreneurs have the option to ‘pay per day’ to use. There are meeting rooms that you can book or you can work at any of the desks or tables dotted around the stylish rooms.
There is a relaxed atmosphere here with music playing gently in the background and a communal kitchen encourages conversations.
What has struck me when I have coworked, is that it really is quite irrelevant that you are working on something entirely different to anyone else in the room. There is something exciting about working alongside other people who are also creating something that they feel passionate about.
I am part of a group of local business women in Berkshire/Hampshire called The Shire Collective. Just last week the ladies that run the collection announced that they have secured a space in a local hotel which will allow us to cowork on a Monday. I'm excited about that.
Perhaps I could start a new national coworking club that links entreprenuers nationally.
There would be rules though.
First one is that I'd have to insist on a drinks trolley on a Friday afternoon for example.
who's in ;-)
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