Coworking: Redefining the Way Work Gets Done

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Coworking: Redefining the Way Work Gets Done

refinery1A global business movement has grabbed hold of Indiana, and it is creating a new paradigm for doing business.

Coworking is redefining the way many entrepreneurs are running their business and interacting with other business owners like themselves. Google defines coworking as “the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.” Coworking goes far beyond this definition.

Think of it this way— the whole idea of coworking is to bring bright, creative people together and let their ideas collide.

Coworking officially started in 2005, when Brad Neuberg, a software developer in San Francisco wanted “the freedom and independence of working for myself along with the structure and community of working with others” and invited anyone to join. More importantly, he invited those who liked the idea of sharing. Seeing a good thing and not wanting to keep it for himself, and as an advocate for open source thinking, he encouraged other people to take the newly defined concept of coworking and run with it.

And a lot of people ran with it. Soon Neuberg’s ideas for decentralized resources to help small businessmen like himself grew rapidly around the world.

There are some basic, simple precepts to a coworking space:  collaboration, community, sustainability, openness, and accessibility. These principles take the idea of just having a work space with a shared kitchen and turning it into an inviting coworking environment. Believe in these values and the coworking space becomes one of community-building and sustainability.

Pretty lofty ideals for just a place to go and get some work done. Yes, and it works. Coworking environments attract a diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals from all industries. More importantly, these professionals feel they are part of a community. This connection with others is a big reason they come to a coworking space as opposed to working from home, the local coffee shop, or renting a nondescript office.

The Indiana Coworking Passport, www.indianacoworkingpassport.com, lists 36 coworking sites across the state where a membership in one will get you access to the others.

In Muncie, Indiana, the CO:LAB, established in November of 2014, was the fourteenth coworking space to open in Indiana. According to Jennifer Greene, Community Catalyst, the CO:LAB is dedicated to building a local network of startups, mentors, and investors. It takes connections, innovation, change, and personal investment for a collaborative, open workspace to be successful. The end result is innovation.

“Coworking offers a high potential for innovative creation, and its positive effects still are largely underestimated. This movement is quickly expanding beyond providing conducive work environments for freelancers and start-ups,” Greene offered. “More and more corporations are realizing that incorporating such a model fosters higher productivity and happier employees.”

Many coworking spaces offer amenities like kitchens stocked with snacks and beverages, high-speed internet, printers, meeting rooms, couches and other places to take a comfortable break, as well as that spare pencil or legal pad if you forget yours. It far exceeds using your local coffee shop as your office.

Others may offer more social amenities such as seminars with guest speakers and shared staff members such as a receptionist.

But the real value of a coworking environment might be the impromptu conversations that take place at the coffee machine where an exchange of ideas or a question answered can lead to a productive afternoon. The shared knowledge and experience of your peers based on a small chat can spark a new idea or solve an old problem.

Perhaps it is the social aspect of coworking that people find attractive. There are those who like to work around other people, and they find inspiration from their peers. Along with the potential for networking, the people you meet could be in need of your kind of work or they could be great resources for your needs on a project or job.

No matter the place or the amenities, what is important is individual workers coming together in a shared place to enjoy greater productivity and a sense of community. Jennifer Greene’s theory about coworking takes on a very universal approach, “Because of the strong community culture that develops within our environments I believe we will see coworking spaces making contributions beyond the business world and influencing civic needs. There is a new movement of talent that no longer wants to work for a huge company, they often choose to work as or for a start-up where their individual impact is visible.”

Coworking is redefining the way work gets done. It is a simple idea where professionals and those that need workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone. Co-working answers the question many entrepreneurs ask themselves while working from home: “Why isn’t this as fun as I thought it would be?”

Tom Steiner

Tom Steiner joined the East Central ISBDC in May of 2009. Tom was the owner of the Blue Bottle Coffee Shop for 7 years. Prior to the coffee shop, he worked at a Fortune 500 company developing proprietary software. Tom was responsible for training, technical support, writing technical manuals and product development and testing. After college, Tom started a freelance photography business specializing in architectural, medical and scientific photography. Tom holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Columbia College.
Tom Steiner can be reached at tsteiner@isbdc.org.
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