Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

Over the past two weeks we have been writing about our new foray into corporate coworking.  We’ve been chatting about leadership and community, which sit at the center of any organization or social movement.  When we move the conversation from coworking in its native environment to coworking in a corporate environment (or Activity Based Work), we are no longer talking about freelancers or small businesses, per se.  We are talking about employees.  Full time employees who work for a single company.

Large Open plan office area Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

It might turn out that, whether we call it Activity Based Work or corporate coworking, the real beneficiaries  of integrating more human-centered approaches to work will turn out to be corporate employees who are required to show up daily to work in uninspiring, sterile officescapes.  If any category of modern knowledge workers needs a dose of coworking energy, it is people who are stuck in the corporate cage.

Employee Experience Design (EXD)?

These observations come from my background in anthropology.  Across the corporate landscape, there are anthropologists that work as consumer researchers, both as employees and consultants, for some of the largest consumer brands in the world.  Firms such as Ethnographic Research Inc., Ethnographic Solutions, Conifer Research, and Pacific Ethnography, conduct ethnographic research for companies seeking to better understand the customer experience.  Carried out under the umbrella of designing for customer experience, this research falls within the broad category of user experience design ( UXD).  UXD, while drawn from human-computer interactivity, is used more generally to talk about the way brands ‘dive deep’ into customer experiences.  The goal: to understand customer needs and unarticulated needs, so that the sponsoring firms can sell more products.  Nothing in the world wrong with this.

However, it is worth asking a basic question: If anthropologists are indeed helpful in uncovering hidden meanings and values in researching customer experience, why is this ethnographic inquiry rarely (if ever) applied to understanding the experiences of a company’s employees?  That is, if the methodology is effective, then surely such research can be used to better understand, and design for, the working experiences of one’s employees. After all, just about every company in the world writes shiny platitudes in their annual reports about how ‘important our employees are,’ or how ‘we are only as strong as our people,’ or how ‘we treat our people with respect and have a culture of integrity.’ blah blah blah.

The answer, sadly, is that most (though definitely not all) companies really don’t care.  Customers have money to spend and can potentially bring money into the business, while employees, despite all of the candyfloss language to the contrary, are (in the eyes of most companies) just a cost.  Why spend money worrying about something that, at the end of the day, is just costing us money?

Cynical, perhaps.  Wrong, no.

coworking space 2 Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

However, if new and more human-centered workplace solutions, such as corporate coworking, were integrated into the larger grid of corporate work, there is no question that the experiences of workers would be improved.  This also must include flexibility options so that workers who, for example, have children, can spend time with them when needed.  Also, reducing the cost and waste of commuting will improve the quality of the work experience for employees in companies that have the &*#@ to adopt new, human-centered solutions.

We don’t assume that firms will start spending money lavishly on employees or on ethnographers to study employees.  Rather, in ABW and corporate coworking, improved employee experiences (EXD) do not have to be costly.  They are, actually, quite simple.  The challenge is to commit, get started, and see what happens.  Your employees will thank you!

Co-mmunity: Corporate Coworking Part, IV

Earlier in the week I wrote here about the concept of co-leadership as part of the social dynamic that has made coworking a successful movement over the past seven years.  Even more fundamental to the movement, though, is community.  While perhaps the notion of community has been so overused by so many people in the past decade that it has started to lose some of its meaning, there can be no question that it is the foundation of the coworking movement.

Marissa Mayer was probably right

Not too long ago Marissa Mayer made headlines when she demanded that those Yahoo! employees who had been untethered from the office were being required to come back to the hive and work at the office.  The reaction to her decision was quite strong, with some accusing her of being out of step with the vibe of the industry and the times.  Her reasoning, though, seems to make a lot of sense.  Communication, collaboration, and innovation very often happen within and between people who are co-present in the same space.  This is the stuff of whiteboards, Post-it-Notes, prototypes and mock-ups, and the myriad iterative steps on the long road of innovation.  Despite all of the promises to the contrary, online collaboration platforms (Asana, Mavenlink, and Base Camp) simply don’t stack up to the experience of people sharing and working in the same physical space.

shift workspace 1024x601 Co mmunity: Corporate Coworking Part, IV

Working ‘home alone,’ as many advocates of coworking have argued for years, can be quite a drag.  Zappos’ Tony Hsieh weighed in on Mayer’s policy change, suggesting that it’s not working from home that is the problem, but rather that working at home alone is the problem.  This is not to suggest, and I am not suggesting, that all work needs to be collaborative, group work.  In her brilliant book (Quiet) and TED talk, Susan Cain argues very persuasively for the the value of introverts and the importance of quiet, heads down work.  The original kernel of an insight that can become an actionable innovation often has its origin in the mind of an individual.  From there, though, to get that idea out into the world, usually requires a team effort.

So, to suggest that all work needs to be done remotely, as advocates of ROWE might suggest, or that all work should be done at the office, as others might suggest, probably oversimplifies the issue.  What is really needed is balance, because some days it is nice to work from home in your pajamas. Especially if you are not feeling well.

But at the heart of thriving, innovative companies (W.L. Gore, Semco, Google, 3M) lie communities of people interacting in physical spaces.  This is nothing new to the coworking world.  We are all about co-presence.  Heck, even when we don’t know much about what the person next to us is working on, we somehow thrive off of their energy.  Parallel collaboration, or something.

What we see in the corporate coworking model we are designing is a venue and platform for injecting more opportunities for communities to develop and flourish inside large firms.  This might mean us encouraging some firms to incorporate more flex-work policies that extend greater choice to their people.  But for sure this will also include our suggestion that, while on campus, as many workers as possible spend time in the on-site coworking space, jamming alongside colleagues.

For this process to be truly helpful for companies, there will need to be accommodation for private, quiet, solo- work as much as there is for open, collaborative work.  This is one of the key lessons we are learning about coworking in its native habitat- variety and flexibility are essential for creating a balanced work environment.

Maybe Yahoo! will revisit this one day soon, and begin to incorporate more flexibility and variety, and perhaps even corporate coworking, into its larger workforce/workspace management process.

Co-Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

Co-Leadership is the third installment in our series on ‘corporate coworking.’  In Part I we introduce the notion of corporate coworking to a broader audience.  We have been kicking this around for a while, and apparently so have others in the world of HR (see John Sullivan’s parallel but rather different take on corporate coworking here).  In Part II, we talk about the cultural dimension of working (and coworking) in corporate organizations.  Today, in Part III, we explore the leadership dimension of the changing world of work as it is informed by coworking.

Across the coworking world, numerous innovative leaders have been busy pioneering, quite literally, an entirely new approach to leadership.  David Walker here at Conjunctured, Tony Bacigalupo at New Work City (NYC), Alex Hillman at Indy Hall (Philly), Jacob Sayles and Susan Evans at Office Nomads, Roman Gelfer at Sandbox Suites, among others, have successfully created and nurtured this new organizational form for many years now.  It is sometimes easy to forget that as recently as 2006 coworking (as we all know it today) didn’t even exist.  Talk about making shit up as we go along!

Defining (C0) Leadership

While the intricacies of a person’s leadership style are quite personal and unique, what each of these pioneers has in common is an ability to build thriving, organic communities without overly taking center stage.  The leadership success that they’ve had stems from an egalitarianism that is for the most part alien to the corporate world.  As David Berreby put it most eloquently over a decade ago in his Strategy & Business article, “The Hunter-Gatherers of the Knowledge Economy,” gone are the days of the alpha male lording over the tribe.  Counterdominant behavior is now the norm, and consensus and sharing have replaced hierarchical notions of leadership.  Even Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, gets it. In a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she suggests that in today’s organizations a “person’s value lies not in what she/he knows, but in what he/she shares.”  Such a mantra has also been at the center of the success of coworking over the past seven years.  Which leads to the question: How do we define such a leadership style?

Arguably, by putting words to it we might in fact be spoiling it, so apologies in advance.  However, I strongly believe that, in the same way that the ‘organizational form’ of coworking is a model that the corporate world desperately needs if it is to ever be fully humanized, the style of leadership that has driven the success of coworking is equally important.

burning man Co Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

For this, I refer to what is happening in coworking as co-leadership.  One would think that this is already a highly developed notion, but not so.  David Heenan and Warren Bennis’ book, Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships, is a nod in the right direction, but doesn’t go near far enough.  What I am talking about here isn’t about two or more people leading an organization together, but rather ‘leadership being an emergent social dynamic that is merely the result of the context co-created by a group of people.’  Perhaps at the center of the context are visionaries like David, Jacob, Tony, Susan, and Alex, but their visions are advanced not through traditionally defined leadership, but rather through the sharing that Ginni Rometty talks about.  This isn’t “servant leadership,” either, which usually has as its goal the purely financial success of a firm or organization, even if that is achieved in a more humble manner.

Co-leadership, as it seems to be evolving in the coworking world today, is different.  It reflects the counterdominant values of today’s Gen Flux, where Silent Gen and Baby Boomer assumptions of power and authority no longer hold.  That said, this is, even if it is a totally different animal, a form of leadership nonetheless.  Perhaps un-leadership is better than co-leadership.  Either way, it is clear that, in light of the cultural values that are rising to the surface in a highly networked global culture, such an approach is effective.  Yet another of many lessons that the rest of the world can (and should) learn from the world of coworking.

Designing Culture? Corporate Coworking, Part II

Within the past week we have begun sharing our vision for how we want to extend the coworking experience ‘beyond coworking.’  What we are calling corporate coworking is elsewhere referred to as Activity Based Work (ABW), but it is really more than that.  At the heart of this is culture.  Our growing passion is to transform, and evolve, the cultures of as many organizations as we possibly can.  How do we propose to do this?

Transcending the Standard Corporate Culture Model

There is no shortage of consultancies out there that claim to understand and measure corporate culture.  Several of them, such as Denison Consulting, Chandler Macleod, Human Synergistics, and Walking the Talk, have developed highly “scientific” formulas for measuring a company’s culture.  The results of their surveys inform companies that their culture is ‘people oriented,’ or ‘customer focused,’ or ‘aggressive,’ or some other combination of words used to describe what is going on in that company.  Visually, the results of these surveys are most often color-coded, so that a company is more or less red, blue, or possibly even green.

denison Designing Culture? Corporate Coworking, Part II

But what really, at the end of the day, do these sorts of assessments tell us, or more importantly, what do they actually do for an organization?  After the results of a survey are presented, the client company is then faced with the challenge of changing values, behaviors, and a whole host of other rather personal things.  Implicit in this approach is an accusatory tone that says to many people within the firm that they have the wrong values and beliefs, and that in order for the organization to change in a desired way those people need to change (who they are).

This is rubbish.  What starts out as a bunch of words ends up with just a bunch of other words.  All firms aspire to be innovative, fair, customer oriented, grounded in integrity, focused on all stakeholders, etc.  What company doesn’t want these things?  What is presented by the A-List culture consultancies is merely candy floss masquerading as science.  Managers know that they need to attend to culture, yet they are so wedded to and blinded by the magic of science that they lie down and eat the candy floss.

Coworking as Change-Management Methodology

As the various experiments in ABW are showing, a company doesn’t need words about values, beliefs, and feelings in order to embark on meaningful cultural change.  Rather, what is needed are commitments.  The physical design, and the socio-physical-psychological interaction of people in well-designed spaces, creates patterns of community interaction on its own.  Of course it’s not all in the space alone.  It also includes giving employees choice, flexibility, and autonomy in how they do their work.  Companies can say that they aspire to be all sorts of things, but what high-performing knowledge workers really want is not that mysterious.  They want:

1. Trustworthy leaders

2. A business strategy that has a purpose beyond $

3. Involvement in meaningful work

4. Colleagues that don’t suck

5.  Maximum flexibility in how they organize their lives

6. The opportunity to innovate and grow professionally and personally

These things only become accessible and real to a group of employees if a company commits to them.  This entails designing spaces and policies that flow in accordance to the organic flows of human nature.

A culture change process that starts with the materiality of design has the potential to actually build culture, through design, without using an excess of words and colors.  The challenge, it seems, lies, first, in building the spaces and policies that align with human nature, then second, just getting out of the way.

Howdy Corporate Coworking- Part I

A Bit About the Journey to Corporate Coworking

This is the first in a five part series on corporate coworking here at Conjunctured,  We have been in the kitchen now for quite some time, and are starting to take some goodies out of the oven.

Over the past couple of years we have been exploring various ways to grow our business.  On several occasions we came frighteningly close to signing leases on BIG and very costly spaces.  It makes sense, it seems, that if a coworking space aims to grow it would want to open a second or perhaps bigger location.  For quite some time we were driven to have multiple spaces here in Austin.  Not so much any more.

Thing is, there are such awesome coworking spaces (Vuka, Link, Posh, Plug and Play, Soma Vida, Capital Factory, Center 61, Golab, Tech Ranch, to name just a few) already spread throughout Austin, that that need is already being met.  Overall, we have one of the most balanced and vibrant coworking ecosystems in the world.  Just another of many reasons to love Austin!

As we explored various options and directions, it became clear that the coworking world, both here and around the world, is healthy and thriving.  However, there are other parts of the world, particularly many of the world’s large companies, that are in desperate need of cultural renewal.  Recent research by Right Management Consultants shows that 86% of corporate employees surveyed indicated that they are looking to move jobs in the coming year.  This is horrible (and costly news) for human resource managers across the corporate landscape.

Meanwhile, other firms, such as Macquarie Bank in Sydney, are embracing Activity Based Work, a workforce/workspace management solution that is eerily similar to traditional coworking. In ABW workplaces, all employees (including the CEO and other officers) forgo offices and are instead armed with a laptop and a locker.  People come and go and work in one of 8 Neighborhoods or Cafes, and move around from space to space on a daily basis.

one shelly street Howdy Corporate Coworking  Part I

What Macquarie discovered was that the design of the space actually became a lever, or mechanism, for initiating significant change in the company.  Participants cite the accessibility of the CEO (who works out in the open space with everyone else), and the elimination of meetings (because everyone is accessible all the time anyway) as drivers of what they refer to as the democratization of their workplace.  What starts as a design project becomes a cultural change project.

Coworking spaces are not encumbered by all of the toxic politics that define so many companies.  Rather, we all work in spaces where we choose to go.  If companies could possibly tap into the energy and vitality that thrive each day in coworking spaces around the world, there is no question that this would make the world a better place.  The values that the coworking community stands for ( autonomy, community, transparency, accessibility, fairness, collaboration, innovation, authenticity), as has been pioneered and exemplified over many years now by New Work City, Indy Hall, Office Nomads, Citizen Space, etc., are in short supply in much of the (corporate) world.  Our vision for launching corporate coworking (our version of Activity Based Work) stems from this recognition- working in a large firm does not have to suck!

Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long journey that has many passengers.

Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of Capitalism

Donating to the problem

 

afterlife of clothes Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of CapitalismIn an NPR story this morning, The Global Afterlife of Your Donated Clothes, we learn yet more about the dark side of our cultural addiction to cheapness.  Some 80% of donated clothes ends up in the hands of the textile recycling industry, which simply puts those materials back into the wicked cycle.  Twice in the past half-year manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh have collapsed/caught on fire, killing scores of innocent people in the process.  In what can only be described as slave-labor conditions, workers in this Bangladesh facility were required to return to work even when employees at the bank in the same building were told to stay home because of safety concerns with the building.

Cheap costs dear

Sadly this is nothing new.  This is the stuff of Wal Mart’s “everyday low prices,” or of its more recent promise- Save Money, Live Better.  In her book, Cheap, Ellen Ruppel Shell documented the interconnections between bangladesh collapse afp670 Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of Capitalismour addiction to cheap and the global labor conditions that make cheapness possible.  Her book is informative, depressing, and important.

At Foxconn’s manufacturing facility in Shenzhen Province, where yours and my iPhones were made, 17 people committed suicide in 2010-2011.  With little to no social mobility, and unable to ever buy the products they make, workers there are caught, like their peers in Bangladesh, in the crossfires of our love of cheapness. And efficiency.

What’s Wrong with Efficiency?

So why is this a problem?  From a managerial perspective, of course, this is not a problem at all.  Rather, it is a reality, the realization and application of principles of efficiency carefully taught and learned in business schools around the world.  Even more to the point, it is the realization of a management agenda dictated, in large part, by the triumph Wall Street and their Economist lovers (see the Chicago School here).

Ronald Coase, 1991 Nobel Laureate in Economics, has recently been worrying about this too.  In his 2012 Harvard Business Review article, Saving Economics from the Economists, Coase challenges the hegemony of economistic thinking, suggesting that what he calls Blackboard Economics has replaced our understanding of how people and culture, not numbers and statistics, actually sit at the center of any economy.  “Coase argues that in the early 20th century, economists began to focus on relationships among statistical measures, rather than problems that firms have with production or people have with decisions.”  “It is suicidal for the field to slide into a hard science of choice,” Coase writes in HBR, “ignoring the influences of society, history, culture, and politics on the working of the economy.”

Humanistic Economics

As a remedy, Coase and a few colleagues have proposed a new economics journal, one that focuses on the human side of global business, in addition to (and not necessarily opposed to) the more narrowly defined principles of efficiency that tend to predominate today.  At the end of the day, the challenge of humanizing economic transactions won’t occur in the classroom or in a new academic journal, it will happen only through the behavior of American (and other Western) consumers.  If we were to care enough to break our addiction to Cheap, and in doing so stop rewarding the scientists of efficiency, fewer real-life tragedies like those in Bangladesh and Shenzhen would occur.

DJ

Code for America’s Civic Innovation Hackathon to be hosted at Conjunctured 2/25/12

We’re thrilled to be hosting Code for America’s big hackathon event Saturday, February 25th, at Conjunctured! Code for America is an AMAZING initiative started with the goal of “helping governments work better for everyone with the people and the power of the web.” They’re a non-profit, non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization that is bringing together tech communities and local governments across the nation to bring about innovative problem solving.

codeforamerica banner Code for Americas Civic Innovation Hackathon to be hosted at Conjunctured 2/25/12From the KXAN article: “Last year, Code for America developers in Boston helped create an app that let parents track school bus routes in real time. The app not only provided information to parents, it also helped free up city staff who routinely handle a large number of calls about delayed school buses during winter weather events in Boston.” How cool is that?! I’m excited to see what the Austin folks come up with!

Code for America helps governments become more connected, lean, and participatory through new opportunities for public service — both inside and outside government — so we’re not only making a direct impact everyday, but also creating the relationships and network for lasting change. – “How we make a difference” Code for America

Austin is one of eight cities participating in a coordinated hackathon on February 25 called “Code Across America: A National Day of Civic Innovation.” In fact, even our mayor is a big proponent of the organization’s efforts:

“I think it would be good if Austin could work with Code for America fellows and create new applications for our community… I know Austin’s tech community will be very interested in the Fellowship program – it’s a great opportunity.” – Mayor Lee Leffingwell

The all day event at Conjunctured (on a hopefully beautiful Saturday) begins at 9:30am and will go until 7pm. It’s free to participate. If you’d like to come, here’s the info page with the RSVP sign up link:

Code Across America ATX: A Civic Innovation Hackathon

Relevant Articles:


If you have an idea for an event you’d like to host at the Conjunctured house, we’d be happy to have you! Check out our event booking page for information.

The Death of the Press Release

If for some reason you decide you want to irritate me by email, there’s a very easy way. OK, the easiest is telling me I’ve won the UK lottery or that you’re a Nigerian prince in a tough spot (unless there’s a funny typo in there — I’m a sucker for a good typo). But the second-best way? Send me a press release. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a topic I write about or one I’ve never heard of — I hate press releases with a burning passion.

Journalists are supposed to be impartial and unbiased, so when someone approaches me who’s being paid to promote a specific product or service, I’m instantly wary. The moment I see a press release, I give it a scoff of irritation and and quickly hit delete.

I admit: Sometimes press releases work well. Newsworthy topics can get a positive response, and online journalists use press releases frequently. But if you’re pouring money into press releases that aren’t getting you any publicity, maybe it’s time to re-examine your strategy.

Now for the good news.

There are other ways to get your name and your company’s name in front of potential customers — and they’re free. Journalists spend a lot of time looking for sources to interview. If you’re qualified to provide insight, you may well get better exposure than any ol’ press release could provide. Think about all the expertise you’ve gained in X during your X number of years in the X business. Surely these topics are in the news from time to time.

Maybe you’re an underwater photographer, and could comment on the decline of a particular type of fish. Or perhaps you’re a teacher who runs a pet-sitting business on the side, and could comment on how hard it is to make a living wage as a teacher these days. Giving the media insight into any of these topics can help provide valuable exposure for your business.

I’m not suggesting you pretend to be an expert when you’re not. I’m suggesting you think about the ways in which you genuinely are an expert in something, then find the journalists who are writing about these topics.

So how do you find the right journalists? You may already know some of them. Think about the blogs, newspapers, TV programs and magazines you already pay attention to that cover your field. Consider sending the journalists an introduction email, perhaps commenting on a recent article or report they’ve done. (We love knowing that people are paying attention to our work!)

Here are some other ways to up your odds of getting quoted:

  • Make sure journalists and editors you meet know what you do. If I’m looking for a bakery owner to interview about the rising cost of flour, and I remember someone I met a few months ago, I’d rather go to him or her than spend time searching for someone else. Likewise, sometimes a magazine editor will provide the name of someone I should interview, so even if an editor you know doesn’t do any actual writing, he or she may be a useful contact.
  • Use social media. If you know me, you may know that while I’m liberal with the F word, I don’t take the T word lightly. So believe me when I say that in this case, both Facebook and Twitter are your friends. Find journalists who specialize in your field. Follow them. When they tweet about needing to interview someone who fits your description, let them know. (Bonus points: If you know someone else who fits the description, make the introduction. We will love you and be 10 times more likely to use your expertise in the future).
  • Sign up for Help a Reporter Out, Reporter Connection and News Basis. Here’s how it works: Journalists post a description of whom they’re looking to interview, and potential sources can email them with why they’d be perfect. Just make sure you really do fit the bill before responding to a query.
  • Lastly, follow up. If you initially get a positive response from a journalist but then don’t hear back for a couple of weeks, write to him or her again with a polite reminder. Be persistent but not annoying, and you may strike gold.

SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community

Despite the geographic distance between coworking spaces worldwide, coworking space owners and community managers have done remarkably well at maintaining and building an online community of support to help one another grow the coworking movement. It’s not every day that you get to take a thriving online community and see it happen first hand in the real world. The Coworking Unconference and the Coworking Happy Hour brought together the coworking community like never before.

Coworking Unconference

To coincide with SXSW, the very first U.S. Coworking Unconference was organized and brought to fruition by the fine folks over at LooseCubes. LooseCubes helps people nationwide find a “friendly place to work.” Attracting space owners, coworkers, and community managers from all over the country (and a few global folks too), the Unconference was a rousing success! The event ran smoothly all day, filled with breakout sessions run in a casual, lets-have-some-real-conversations approach. In addition to the breakout session there was also a keynote led by Tony Bacigalupo, founder of NYC’s New Work City and a moderated panel to close out the day. Here’s a clip of the panel moderated by Alex Hillman, founder of (Indy Hall), where he interviews a panel of other coworking space owners from across the country, “Who coworks now and in the future?”:

0081 SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community
Source: GoneCoworking.com

Here’s a great article from a Shareable writer who attended the Coworking Unconference:
Visions of the Future of Work at the Coworking Unconference

SXSW Coworking Happy Hour

coworking happy hour e1301690149636 SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community

With the flood of coworking enthusiasts already in town, we figured there was no better time than SXSWi to invite all attendees from the unconference as well as others passionate about the coworking movement over to our coworking home, Conjunctured, for a party. (Here’s the attendee list) So we partnered with local coworking spaces (Link Coworking & Creative Space) and a variety of we-love-coworking company sponsors to host a happy hour, 4-7pm on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Texas sun.

The coworking movement is huge

It’s crazy to think about how much coworking has grown in the last years. There were people visiting from all over the world, and we soon found out people are coworking all over – some as far as Berlin and Stockholm. And, the coworking movement has become so huge, spaces are popping up all over. Below is a map that shows everywhere our happy hour attendees have coworked. (We sketched a basic map on the dry erase board and attendees started filling it in!)

photo 300x224 SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community

We met owners and community managers from all over the country – some with big, open spaces that can fit 80 people; others with smaller spaces that are better for just a few freelancers.

Coworking unifies people

One of the biggest things that was evident was how much coworking unifies people. Regardless of where the space is located, its general vibe or personality, coworking brings together people who may not have otherwise worked together. It gives them a reason to go into “the office” and get work done because that’s what everyone else is doing – and they know there’s a supportive community waiting.

Coworking is going to keep growing

Here’s a video of Liz Elam, owner of Link Coworking, here in Austin talking about the likely continued explosion of coworking spaces:

If you missed the 2011 Austin Coworking Happy Hour, take a look at some of the photos captured by Deskmag and some more here too: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=18547482893&aid=277409.

We want to give a huge thank you to the following companies that made the 2011 SXSW Coworking Happy Hour possible:

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Sponsors

We’d like to thank the following sponsors for supporting copartying.

Premier Sponsors

turnstone SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community

Partners

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Co-Sponsors

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conjunctured SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community cs SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community cocoa coder SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community LiquidSpace SXSW 2011 Brings Together Global Coworking Community
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14 Reasons Why Joining a Coworking Space Beats Renting Your Own Private Office Space

For the past two years I’ve heard loud and clear (direct from Conjunctured members) why coworking is the way to go for them. We’ve been open for a little more than two years now and I’ve spoken with just about everyone that has walked in the front door. Members, visitors, and I have discussed all kinds of things. Specific to coworking, we’ve talked about what they’re looking for in an office, complaints about their previous setup, their experience working from home, the positives of being in a coworking environment, the negatives of being in a normal office, etc.

I decided I would share some of these things I’ve learned in a top list of sorts for coworking. I tried to make it general and not super specific to how Conjunctured does coworking. Every coworking space does things a little bit different, so I tried to focus on the commonalities. This list will be good for those of you out there that are considering coworking, but you’re just not sure if it’s really the right solution for you. Or perhaps you’re trying to convince a friend (or spouse!) of yours they need to get the heck outta the house! Feel free to send them this list to nudge them along and direct them to the nearest coworking space in their city or neighborhood. There’s coworking locations all over the globe, with a coworking space in pretty much every major USA city (see graphic below). No excuses!

Screen shot 2010 10 17 at 11.25.19 PM 14 Reasons Why Joining a Coworking Space Beats Renting Your Own Private Office Space

So, without further adieu…14 Reasons Why Joining a Coworking Space Beats Renting Your Own Private Office Space

  1. No lease! Coworking is month-to-month.

    Most commercial office spaces require you to sign at least a one year lease and many times even longer. Commitment issues? Flexibility is the name of the game in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship.

  2. Working alone sucks: the need for social interaction.

    In your own private office, yes, you can shut the door and concentrate. But the lack of human interaction for some is very difficult. After all, human beings are naturally social creatures. Simply being in a coworking spaces will give you that social element without you even having to try.

  3. Office spaces are expensive! Coworking grants you low startup costs and low overhead

    As much as people join coworking spaces for social reasons, it is hard to deny the logical reasoning. Moving into your own private office costs money. Furniture, equipment, monthly utilities, internet access, fridge (and everything to stock it with) —- all of it costs money! Wouldn’t you rather spend the money investing in your company and simply borrow all the office stuff? Coworking gives you that option.

  4. A unique place to meet clients.

    Yes, a private office gives you the opportunity to do this too. Many times, though, coworkers enjoy bringing clients by and sharing what an innovative workspace they work in. Choosing to headquarter your company in a coworking space shows your client you’re on the edge of innovation and apart of the small business community in your local city.

  5. Make professional contacts.

    There’s something about coworking spaces that attract specialists in their industries. As a result, working in a coworking space rather than a private office space allows you to weed through the mediocre professionals and jump straight to the best. It’s very common for people to hire each other as contractors, establish mutually beneficial partnerships between member companies in related fields, and even to start up companies together. It happens more often than you think.

  6. Make friends.

    There’s something about being around the same people every day that allows you to slowly get to know one another. Friendship is pretty hard to guarantee, but it’s pretty easy to make a friend or ten when you work in a coworking space. It’s very common for people to go to lunch together, grab drinks after, do weekend trip together, etc.

  7. Receive pro-bono consulting.

    Need an opinion on your company’s new logo? How about you lean over to the graphic designer next to you and get his quick opinion. Need feedback on your new headline for your soon-to-be-submitted advertisement? Ask the copywriter down the hall to give it a quick read. The scenarios are endless. Certainly, you don’t want to bug someone and get free advice all the time. The law of reciprocation definitely holds true in a coworking space. With a spirit of giving, often you get much more in return.

  8. Learn about and become a part of the local entrepreneur, social media, tech community.

    Many coworking spaces host events for local meetups and get togethers. And if they don’t, many times the members are attending them, so all you have to do is keep your ears open and you’ll naturally learn the inside scoop on the important events to attend.

  9. Share important contacts

    Coworking is a perfect example of the “six degrees of separation” philosophy. Example: At Conjunctured, we share media contacts we have good relationships with so that when one member needs to get some press attention it’s just a matter of an introduction.

  10. Build yours and your company’s brand and reputation.

    Often times coworking spaces will promote their members to the local community. Conjunctured has a specialists page where we promote freelancers, a members directory, and also have a weekly featured member that is spotlighted on the main page.

  11. Have a cool place to host company events, workshops, parties

    Often times if you were to get a private office, it wouldn’t be as spacious as a coworking space. Most coworking spaces allow their members to utilize the space however they want as if it were their own. At Conjunctured we’ve hosted company launch parties, a book release party, organization meetings, workshops and more. Members have a free for all and genuinely feel like it is their office.

  12. Be more productive.

    It seems counterintuitive that being around other people would cause you to be more productive, doesn’t it? There’s this interesting phenomenon coworking seems to have discover: social pressure. There’s something to be said for being surrounded by others who are working hard, staying focused, and making big things happen. There’s something about overhearing your coworking neighbor close a big deal on the phone that’ll get you motivated to make big things happen too! It’s hard to daydream and stare off into space too much when you’re around others.

  13. Experience a pet-friendly work environment

    Many coworking spaces allow pets. Animals bring a new dynamic to the workplace. There’s something about having pets around that keeps things fresh and fun. See our blog post: Coworking’s Best Friend.

  14. Learning little things you wouldn’t expect.

    Many coworkers at Conjunctured have learned to make a barista quality latte on our commercial quality espresso machine. It’s a fun talent that many enjoy sharing with others. No doubt there have been a few that have brushed up on their chess skills and their guitar skills at Conjunctured, as they’re both just there, waiting to be played. We even had one member start trying the crossfit workout program after another member spoke so highly of it. And we have shared library where members bring in books that were integral to their professional and personal growth. With a spirit of sharing and community, learning comes naturally.

I hope this list was helpful to you! If you can think of more ideas I forgot on why joining a coworking space rocks, then by all means comment below!