Everyone needs space.
Whether you’re self-employed, freelance, or operate a company with a large or dispersed workforce – co-working spaces are increasingly becoming the go-to solution. These specialist facilities allow individuals or companies to work independently or collaboratively in shared office spaces.
And it’s a phenomenon that’s growing.
According to a 2017 report, the number of co-working spaces globally is expected to grow to more than 30,000 by 2022. By this date, an approximate five million people will be using such spaces.
Here in the UAE, entrepreneurs are already saving money and administration by running their operations from an existing space. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the misconceptions around co-working.
Myth #1: Co-working inhabits productivity
Possibly the most longstanding negative idea about co-working is that it inhibits productivity. For some managers, co-working conjures up images of employees dressed in casual clothes, arriving late and putting in half the work they would if they were under their manager’s direction.
It’s the idea that people aren’t really at work unless they’re, well, at work.
This one is easy to dispel. A report from 2017 asked co-workers how they felt about their productivity. It found that 71% felt they were more creative in a co-working space, while 68% believed they had more ability to focus. Deadlines were also easier to meet, at least for 64% who felt they could complete tasks in a timelier manner, and 62% said their standard of work was higher.
They simply did better work.
Routine can be good for discipline, but routine to the point of monotony can actually lead to lower productivity. Allowing employees to work in different environments, meet people from different companies and even sectors that aren’t your own can encourage ideas, connections and engagement.
Myth #2: Co-working affects team morale
The idea of ‘morale’ is nebulous – it depends on a wide variety of factors, which include the working environment, but also the life circumstances and personality of any individual.
However, the suggestion that co-working spaces are detrimental to morale, or engagement, is flawed. While the logic might run that teams operating in their own space feel more of a sense of shared ownership and pull together as a team because of it, the figures don’t stack up. The 2015 Global Co-working Unconference included a survey of nearly 700 co-workers and their emotional states. It found that 84% of respondents were more engaged and motivated when co-working and 83% were less likely to feel lonely.
Myth #3: It’s isolating
That loneliness statistic is interesting, as it brings us to Myth #3 – a persistent idea that makes little sense. The very idea of co-working was born from a desire to remove isolation from the lives of people whose professions didn’t naturally include colleagues.
Often credited as the first co-working space, or at least the first to use the term, Brad Neuberg’s 2005 San Francisco co-working space was born out of financial difficulties. Working at a startup, Neuberg wanted to combine the independence of working in his own space with the community feel and structure of having colleagues.
Co-working spaces exist precisely because of a desire to remedy the problems and shortcomings of other working environments. The ethos behind them is to tackle isolation, allowing workers to make new and diverse business contacts, sparking innovation and creativity.
Myth #4: It’s expensive
Quite the opposite. The ability to run a business without having to pay for dedicated premises, manage their upkeep, or foot the bill for repairs is actually a key attraction. In the UAE the trend for furnished, serviced co-working spaces is growing, because it takes away one more of the many hurdles that face aspiring business people.
Those with business visions want to be allowed to get on with what they do best. In the same way that outsourcing PRO services takes away legal and administrative headaches, basing yourself in a co-working space gives you access to modern, reliable headquarters without many of the drawbacks of owning or renting your own.
It also means it can be less expensive to expand your team as and when you need to. Dubai alone supports thousands and thousands of freelance workers, and the ability for firms to bring people on and expand on space or downsize staff and contract can be vital for special projects.
Myth #5: It’s just for one-man bands
This is less of a myth and more of a piece of received wisdom that isn’t really true anymore.
Co-working did begin as a way for freelancers and small businesses to work in a more communal space and enjoy some social interaction, along with a bit of networking. But in recent years, established businesses have come to see the benefits. Social interaction isn’t just a way for lonely workers to feel better, it’s a great way for businesses to network and cross pollinate.
According to a report from Entrepreneur magazine last year, only 50% of co-workers asked identified as individual workers – consultants, freelancers, or telecommuters. Of the remaining half, 40% identified as employees, working for a company, but at a co-working space. The final 10% were employers.
‘But we’ve always done it this way’
Many of the negatives around co-working spaces are outdated at best and demonstrably false at worst. But there’s a sense that they persist because of another more sinister force lurking behind them.
It’s a piece of entrenched, institutionalised thinking that can get in the way of progress. You might recognise it in its other forms: ‘It just doesn’t feel right’ or ‘It’s not what we’re about’. Keep in mind, the phrase ‘we’ve always done it this way’ often turns out to be the most costly six words in business.
Time and again, the companies that do things differently turn out to be the successes, while the ones that fall short are those that aren’t quick enough (or willing enough) to adapt. Co-working spaces can save time and money for employers, while allowing workers to blend the perks of freelancing with many of the benefits of full-time employment.