The way we work is changing pretty radically. We all know that because we are smack dab in the middle of the change. We feel it every day.
Coworking is a style of work which involves a shared working environment, sometimes an office, yet 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 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 talented people in the same space.
When you investigate coworking, the first thing to understand is that people are choosing to participate in coworking because it helps them do better work. And, when you read about it or talk to people who do it, the common themes you hear about why it works are pretty telling: openness, diversity, flexibility, shared values, and socialization. The people in these coworking spaces aren’t your ordinary, everyday workers either. They are talented, motivated, driven creators of work. These are the people who we covet in corporate recruiting circles, but who have opted out of the corporate hamster wheel because they don’t like being told how to work–and they are talented enough to dictate their own terms.
So, if we want to attract the next generation of highly talented rock star employees (read innovators) into our workforce, we may need to completely rethink how we organize our workplaces. Instead of assigning desks or offices, we create spaces and places where people can chose to work based on what kind of work they need to do that day or how many people they are working with. We may need to rethink the idea of housing departments together and instead mix it up. Coworking spaces bring together people doing completely different work in completely different industries and they benefit greatly from the collision of ideas and perspectives. What would happen if we mixed up the product people with the business development folks and (dare I say it) the HR folks. One thing you generally won’t find in a coworking space, cubicle walls. Cubicles are miniature silos. They kill creativity and openness. They make us think and behave smaller than we are.
Depending on your business, why not build a network with some other non-competing businesses to create a network of coworking spaces for employees to share and use. These spaces don’t need to be anywhere near your brick and mortar corporate palaces. The just need to have the basics that employees need to work and be designed to feel like a place you’d want to go to do work.
At the end of all of this is my underlying point: to find out how work is changing, don’t study what’s happening inside of yours or any other organization. To find out what’s really happening, go study how work is being done (from the worker’s perspective) when there isn’t a traditional employer-employee relationship involved. There are loads of examples and I’ve only given you two here. That is the future of work and it’s playing out all around us.