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Co-working: A cost-effective, New-age Concept of Networking The industry is growing everyday as more people strike out on their own to freelance or open their own businesses

By Priyanka Krishnan

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Sharing a work space, possibly with several strangers seems a bit intimidating, doesn't it? But as you enter the arena of "coworking' spaces, you realize it is not as scary as it sounds.

The term "co-working' was coined by Brad Neuberg when he started the space sharing movement in San Francisco in 2005. His vision was to combine the independence of working with the structural community of an office space and he wanted the term to reflect the feel of the workspace. Hence, the verbal twist "coworking' with no hyphen was invented.

Everything around us is changing and the place where we spend the better part of the day is no exception.

Multinational giants like Google and Facebook were the first to realize the importance of open spaces and its correlation to productivity. They took the plunge and eliminated their status–based, single workstation areas byembracing open workspaces to encourage the flow of ideas and creativity.

The bet paid off and it is now a well-known fact that these unique work environments are actually creating greater productivity.

Following the trend, coworking spaces are replicating the same for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and work-at-home employees. For the uninitiated, coworking is an open, communicative and no-barrier office culture where you share work space with several individuals and in effect, several organisations.

This concept is more evolved in the West. India, however is getting familiar and slowly marching towards these shared spaces.

Some of the initial coworking spaces were founded by drifting entrepreneurs, seeking an alternative to the buzzing coffee shops (or distractions) or sometimes isolation faced from working at home.

They were inspired by the quest for a creative atmosphere — the camaraderie and eclectic but comfy atmospheres of these spaces.

Coworking Spaces Offer the Following Benefits:

1. It is an extremely cost-effective and hassle-free proposition for many companies and individuals, saving them time, effort and money involved in finding and setting up traditional office spaces. You can select stellar locations that may otherwise be unattainable and have the added advantage of not dealing with seemingly constant repairs, service fees and office maintenance.

2. The open, harmonious and internally connected work area fosters a better interaction with like-minded as well as different individuals. Cafes and common areas in shared office spaces often become a breeding ground for networking, sharing information and knowledge with fellow co-workers. It is an opportunity to interact with people from varying professional backgrounds, who would likely be a useful connection and this in turn can be converted into generating leads and partnership opportunities.

3. A non-hierarchical coworking space has a favorable influence on the decision making of employees, which is the strength of any entrepreneurial startup.

4. Being surrounded by committed, enthusiastic workers is highly motivating. Your co-workers give you new perspectives on projects you may have never considered. These collaborations often lead to business expansions.

5. The interactive dealings with others throughout the day is healthier for the mind and body and results in a happier you.

The Trends

Between 2006 and 2015, a few studies have shown that the number of coworking spaces and available seats have roughly doubled each year. There was an 83 per cent gain in coworking spaces globally between 2012 and 2013. The interest in coworking spaces probably stems from multiple factors, like the economic downturn breaking apart companies and the need for flexible freelancing. But the revolution rests largely on a changing workforce which demands:

a. Flexible Spaces

Millennials love to achieve a work-life balance. A flexible work schedule offers people the perfect opportunity to create an optimal balance. With this, the need for fixed spaces has become obsolete. Shared spaces give you the option of choosing the kind of office you want, at a time that is convenient for you.

b. Value-added Benefits

Most coworking spaces in Mumbai offer amenities like a pantry, high-speed Internet, a lounge and community engagement activities. Coworking spaces in Mumbai also host timely events such as high teas and lunches, as an initiative to get to know others and promote their business and services, providing an opportunity for community-building, business expansion, or networking.

Human nature is addicted to fun. Even at work. Today, the biggest challenge for organizations across the globe is to truly understand how to motivate people to enjoy their work.

Most of this understanding comes from what we ourselves find enjoyable about our jobs. Openness, transparency, freedom of expression, friendlier low-stress environments — all make fun workspaces for employees.

The world over, companies are experiencing better autonomy, increased efficiency and therefore increased turnover with opting for coworking spaces that prod people to think out of the box; better still, stop seeing the box at all.

The coworking industry is growing everyday as more and more people strike out on their own to freelance or open their own businesses. As talented individuals choose to be freelancers, multinationals are willing to bear the cost of the shared office space for them, thereby dispelling the myth that co-working is only beneficial for start-ups and small teams.

A few pointers to people wishing to maximize their networking experience at a shared office space:

  • Introduce yourself to your co-workers. If you are hesitant or shy, get your community manager to facilitate introductions.
  • Make an effort to attend events, luncheons and other activities organized in your center. For those who truly want to reap all the benefits of co-working, attending these communal events is recommended.
  • Keep abreast of all the latest happenings. Keep track of the new members being added to your co-working space by repeated interactions with your community manager.
  • Be as open to sharing information and knowledge as receiving it.

To my mind, as they say, when walls break down, minds begin to meet.

Priyanka Krishnan

Co-founder, ISharespace

Priyanka Krishnan, Co-founder of IShareSpace, founded the new-age business centre
“ISharespace” in April 2016. She has previously worked in BDO Consulting Pvt. Ltd and BDO LLP for
about three years where she was part of the Mergers and Acquisitions team.

Priyanka has also worked in the Global Data team at Bloomberg India, where she oversaw the
updation and maintenance of data for India and South Korea. She also briefly headed
Bloomberg India’s philanthropic activities for India.

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