Coworking is the New Networking

Photo by rawpixel.com

Photo by rawpixel.com

The way we work is changing. 
Ever since the Internet became commonplace around the office, the way we work has been evolving from one of drudgery and punching a time clock to one in which networking and collaboration are critical. This evolution didn’t happen overnight, but slowly we’re recognizing that we’re free to work differently. We no longer need to be chained to a desk in one place day in and day out. To-dos can be done from anywhere with a reliable wifi connection and normal office hours are becoming flexible suggestions.

With this evolution, our definition of a job is also changing. We’re living in a gig economy. Instead of joining a company straight out of school and retiring from that same company, we’re switching jobs every few years and choosing to become freelancers, consultants, small businesses, and solopreneurs instead. Big businesses are shrinking their staffs and real estate footprints in order to become lean and try to keep up with agile startups that lack legacy costs.

Office remodels are racing to catch up. 
Open any magazine, newspaper, or blog discussing business and you’ll run across the term ‘coworking’, one that seemed to pop up out of thin air. It’s a term that explains the use of shared workspaces by startups, freelancers, and remote workers. These spaces are opening at a rapid rate as real estate races to catch up to the changes we’ve already been making to the way we work.

Coworking spaces are flexible environments that fit the need of the new working professional in a gig economy. Most offer the basic benefits of unlimited coffee and free wifi, but they have benefits that go far beyond just a desk. Because a gig economy is very isolating, coworking fills that empty space by providing connectivity beyond digital - with people.

Coworking is networking on steroids. 
Coworking crushes traditional ways of networking by amplifying the connections forged between members. Sure, we all know there are a million reasons that networking is good business. Networking drives word of mouth recommendations, helps you find suppliers and mentors, can broaden your way of thinking, improves your communication skills, and so on. You'll notice though, that the way we normally network at events in rooms full of strangers isn’t easy. First, there’s a deadline for meeting everyone. Second, it’s ineffective because you’re just as likely to get stuck talking to someone who can’t help you as you are to find someone who can. Third, who can remember all those names? (Ugh!) Last, with the stakes so high, the pressure can be overwhelming and cause you to slip up in some way thus negating your entire reason for being there in the first place!

Coworking flips networking on its head by building spaces that foster a noncompetitive community that organically spurs innovation and creativity. Nimble startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and now even big businesses can mingle naturally in an environment that is authentically more social, and encouraging of collaborative interaction and knowledge sharing. The energy in these spaces is contagious and businesses of all sizes want to tap into it.    

Big business wants a piece of the action. 
Some of the most super-growth companies you know and love (think: Uber, Indiegogo, Instagram) grew out of coworking spaces. Big businesses are recognizing this changing tide in the way we work and they want in (the FOMO is real). As a way to enhance brand image, improve employee retention and moral, and to keep up with startups, big businesses are cutting back their real estate footprint and increasingly joining coworking spaces. There’s no better way to draw inspiration from startup culture than to be in the same space with actual startups.

Working side by side is by far a better way to socialize and knowledge share than in a crowded room full of strangers. Coworking is a natural way to network and to build connections that go far deeper than awkward, single-serving 30-second conversations asking someone what they do for work in the middle of noisy room while trying not to spill your drink. No matter the size of the organization, there is always something to learn from being surrounded by people actively doing great work. 

I think you'll agree, too, that great work is all the more inspiring when it’s done by people in different industries or companies. What better way to interact with them in a space where the gloves are off and real connections are the norm? While networking has its place in the business world, coworking offers a new model for doing it even better.

 

Danielle Lim