Generally used by self employed, co-working spaces could be useful to businesses as well.
Co-working has seen a marked rise in the UK in recent years, contributing to a boom in flexible working that individuals - in particular freelancers and entrepreneurs - have taken advantage of. Spaces for co-working are becoming commonplace all across the UK as the pace of flexible working is making a mark on the economy, and flexible workspace operators are reaping the rewards of the development in working patterns.
According to research published earlier this year by commercial real estate agent Cushman & Wakefield, demand for flexible workspace across the UK saw record growth last year, with take-up of flexible workspace notable not just in London but across the UK’s largest cities too.
For clarification, co-working is the practice of employees, usually from different organisations, working within shared spaces. Sometimes these spaces are entirely free but typically workers would pay a fee to use the space. As this hiring of the space can be paid for in various timeframes, which could be daily, per week or monthly, for the individual worker, co-working provides a relatively low-cost (or even no-cost) means of working within an office environment.
As someone who has recently discovered one such co-working space at the The Innovation Centre Co-working Café in Leicester, I can vouch for the upside that one can get from co-working. Primarily, it’s a way of getting out of the house and working among others, which is fantastic for bouncing ideas off one another. Better still when you consider that this particular space is completely free of charge.
Co-working has become something of a lifeline for many self-employed workers, providing an answer to the problem of isolation that home-working can bring. From a more practical business perspective, co-working can improve innovation and ideas, bringing many minds together to make light work of problems.
For small business owners and self-employed workers, then, co-working provides obvious benefits in performance, psychological and even potentially financial terms. But what about bigger business? Is co-working a potential problem for employers? Is the traditional working space in danger of being exposed as old hat? In short, is this style of working something that could catch on on a wider scale, leaving traditional office spaces behind?
Rather than viewing the idea of co-working as a threat, companies should recognise the benefits that this way of working is bringing employees. There are things that can be learned from co-working that more traditional spaces can replicate in their own way. Even if you think co-working isn’t practical for your business, it might be worth considering having, say, a dedicated room or office space in which employees are encouraged to share ideas and plan for upcoming projects. Or how about setting aside a specific day or time during the week to encourage co-working among relevant groups of workers?
Providing workers with an opportunity to network within a work setting can only be a good thing for the business, and such a co-working system could also potentially bring a means of networking with any freelance, remote workers or contractors that might be working with your organisation. This style of networking will enhance those working relationships further, and you could easily see a knock-on impact on productivity as a result.
Being open to the idea of co-working might also be useful for recruitment too, making a business more attractive to remote workers, which could potentially fill any gaps in a workforce in a more cost-effective, timely manner.
Co-working might not be a solution for everyone, but it offers a viable, affordable option for workers and businesses looking at a different way of working together.
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