Co-working is (according to the unimpeachable veracity of Wikipedia):
a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is also the social gathering of a group of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with like-minded talented people in the same space.
The rise of co-working spaces in the last decade has been fuelled by several things, including technologies such as cloud computing; more freelancers and remote workers in the workforce, which means greater demand for flexible work arrangements; and economic pressure on firms’ property costs.
A key part of my vision for Croydon to be ‘The Second Tech City‘ (blog post soon come, I promise!) is to capitalise on this trend and cultivate a strong and vibrant community of entrepreneurs and workers in the co-working space of Matthews Yard in Croydon’s Old Town district.
For those who prefer pictures to reading this is a really interesting presentation that I found which profiles some of the effects of co-working in various European countries:
I am convinced that Matthews Yard is best positioned as a co-working space which budding entrepreneurs and more established groups in Croydon should be utilising, for a variety of reasons:
- Better networking. Not everyone is comfortable with the soulless flurry of handshakes and calling cards at networking events. But, when you’re among a group of diverse people in a coworking space, without even trying, you’re already networking! Even better, you can actually see the kind of quality of work your coworkers do, and their own contacts, when passed on to you, have most likely been vetted.
- A professional venue with a meeting room (without the cost!)
- ‘Accelerated serendipity’ galore. Just by exposure to other people, you discover something new without trying— be it a new Ruby on Rails tweak, a PR secret, or – most importantly – where the nearest KFC is(!). Furthermore, you get to meet new people, new clients, and find new resources the same way.
- Collective brainpower. In his book, Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Keith Sawyer says that acts of collaboration – not solo flights of genius – are the key to breakthrough creativity. When you hang around a coworking space, where collaboration is not only encouraged but also cultivated, you get the opportunity to harness your coworkers’ collective brainpower.
- Shared resources. If you need to get things done on the cheap, coworking spaces are the place to do it. You don’t have to fight for a spot, all the equipment and space you need to run a business is there (printers, Wi-Fi, conference rooms).
- Opportunities for bigger projects. With access to people working in different fields, you can now nab bigger projects without worries about biting off more than you can chew or hiring new people. In fact, you can simply outsource the parts you can’t handle to your coworkers.
- Maslow’s Pyramid of (co-working) Needs
At a local level, co-working has tangible impact on micro-economies and public realm:
Coworking keeps stellar talent in town
Coworking spaces are “office buildings” for those who had the ingenuity to create their own job in a difficult economy. Without coworking, many in mid-sized urban areas (like Croydon) would have to commute or move their families to bigger cities with more opportunities. Coworking provides an opportunity for workers to stay in town, preserving their money, talent, and enthusiasm for use in the local economy.
Coworking supports small business
Don’t let the mega-corps fool you; they employ people only because it’s necessary for the creation and dissemination of their products and services, not because they want to revitalize a town (*cough* Nestle *cough*).
Small to mid-sized businesses are the lifeblood of a local economy. They live and work and shop locally, and tend to invest more into the personal lives of their employees. It might be the swarthy world-weary hotshot who just formed his own PR practice or couple of buddies who decided to create their own design company. Either way, these businesses are driving down unemployment rates at a time when multi-billion pound companies are still laying people off. Joining a coworking space means these tiny businesses will have a safe place to grow and learn from more experienced members.
Coworking creates a network for collaborative consumption
The quest for bigger, better, faster has crippled our economy. People are tired of keeping up with the Jones’ and just want to keep their families fed. Collaborative consumption means reusing, growing, renting, bartering and making instead of buying. But the sharing economy demands a network of friendly, trustworthy people to make it work. Like the people who work right next to you in a coworking space.
When a community is connected and open to sharing, people save money, learn new skills, and reduce their impact on the environment. New ideas emerge, problems are solved in creative ways, and the community at large reaps all the rewards of a happy independent workforce.
That’s what a great coworking center -particularly Matthews Yard – can do for Croydon!
To learn more about Matthews Yard or buy a membership, please go here.