As more companies allow employees to work remotely, and as young, aspiring entrepreneurs are trying to get their projects started (and funded), a new office trend is emerging: the coworking group. Founded on the principles of collaboration, openness, community and sustainability, coworking means sharing office space with other entrepreneurs or work-at-home professionals who want to save money on office leases and enjoy the camaraderie of working with others. These groups are starting to pop up in metropolitan areas around the world but are especially prevalent in the United States. They’re usually composed of young professionals or start-up boostrappers who have different employers or who even work in different industries. Currently, web developers and Internet workers dominate the coworking scene, but people from all industries and at all professional levels are welcome to join, whether they want to start their own cupcake business or just want to escape the isolation that working from home brings.
The ideal coworking members are outgoing and intent on making new professional contacts as well as social ones. They may start happy hour traditions, share contacts and vendors, or even live together in a type of hybrid work/live space. If you want to get involved in coworking, check out the resources below to learn more about the different opportunities for joining groups or starting your own.
Resources for getting started
- Google Coworking Group: This Google group provides a space for discussion and networking among those interested in coworking. The four main coworking values — collaboration, openness, community and sustainability — are taken seriously on this site, so be honest about who you are and what you want to achieve through coworking.
- Coworking wiki: The coworking wiki includes basic information about coworking and help for those wanting a coworking visa, a "passport" for frequent travelers who want to visit other coworking spaces to do work when they’re away from home. Sub-pages exist for Space Owners, Space Catalysts, Coworkers and future coworkers, and those who are Just Interested.
- Jelly: This new community is a semi-weekly meet-up, or "work-together" that takes place in cities around the country. Usually hosted in a coffee shop or person’s home, jellies are a good chance to learn more about coworking before committing to any single group. Free wifi is provided, and lively, open discussion and collaboration are encouraged.
- Coworking Community Blog: Like the Coworking wiki, this blog has sub-pages for space owners, coworkers and others interested in coworking. Find a link to edit the wiki, join the blogging network, join the LinkedIn group, make educational videos on coworking, and learn about coworking in other parts of the world.
- AltamontCowork Facebook page: This Tracy, CA-based coworking group has a great Facebook page with photos, news and insight into what it’s like to belong to a coworking group.
- Conjunctured: Conjunctured is a coworking company in Austin, TX, that has an excellent website explaining their philosophy and organization. You can browse pictures of their office space, learn about rates and amenities, find out what kind of people belong to coworking groups, and more.
If you want to start your own community, you’re known in the coworking world as a Space Catalyst. Your main job in the beginning is to network, add your intent to the Coworking wiki, and join the Coworking Google Group. List yourself on both the wiki and the Google Group under your city if you find it, and if your city doesn’t have any coworking groups yet, go ahead and add your location. It’s a good idea to point others to your Twitter page, LinkedIn profile, blog and other online social sites so that you can connect on multiple levels and increase your visibility and networking opportunities. The wiki also recommends finding a mentor to help you get started. You can look for one on the Space Owners page on the wiki or ask around on the Google Groups page.
For pricing information for your new office space, visit the PricingExamples page on the wiki. Pricing depends on several factors, including whether you want to use the space for profit or non-profit work. A general formula for break-even and profitable models is listed there as well, and as you research pricing, you’ll come across different types of coworking groups. Decide how many people you want in your group (either a minimum or maximum), and the kind of space you want to provide. You may have one large room with different desks and a single community supply and tech center, or choose to divide up a larger office space with private rooms and suites. Having a clear idea of the amount of space, office dynamic, open hours and kinds of supplies you want in your coworking group will help you facilitate the process of starting up much faster. Other things to consider include allowing members to pay by the month, opening up your office to one-time or pay-as-you-go visitors, getting a partnering Space Owner, and securing vendors for snacks and equipment.
Coworking group members — and especially Space Owners and Space Catalysts — are fundamentally committed to cultivating friendly and open professional relationships. You’ll need to be willing to share business contacts, help others in your group, and support the larger coworking community with projects, just as they will offer assistance to you. Work on perfecting the balance between creating an atmosphere that lets people work independently and efficiently but also fuses that focus with creativity and collaboration. Coworking is based on being social and welcoming, so it’s a fundamentally friendly network to join.