The Way We Work

shown above: TechSpace, Los Angeles, CA

We’ve come a long way from the days of the in-office cubicle and rigidly-defined 9-to-5 schedule. In an effort to continue attracting top talent, many companies have transitioned to a much more flexible approach to ”working from the office.” We’ve also seen many professionals embrace freelancing, enjoying the freedom and flexibility it offers them. These mobile professionals seek new office environments that better suit their needs, often ditching a home office or disruptive coffee shop for space that helps give their day structure, offers a sense of community, and fosters collaboration.

Coworking spaces help satiate the needs of the (continually growing) population of freelancers and mobile professionals currently in the workforce—a direct result of the millennials’ coming of age. Millennials have forced the rules to change as companies scramble to appeal to this growing pool of workers. By 2020, millennials will account for nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce. High on the millennial’s list of job desires: Death to the 9-to-5. The children of the Internet age were raised on dreams of living their “best life,” where their career is not just a paycheck but also a lifestyle, their work intrinsically bound to their sense of personal identity. Above all other factors, millennials crave the autonomy offered by flexible schedules and locations.

The Hattery (San Francisco, California)

The Hattery (San Francisco, CA)

When we asked Liz Presson, founder of WorkingRemote.ly, why she left her cubicle lifestyle behind, she referenced a quote by Brian Doll: “We work on the Internet and that doesn’t care where you are.” In our hyper-efficient world, new technology has sprung up to help us find equilibrium as we rush to balance the need for location flexibility with the need for effective communication. These tools allow teams to streamline their digital communication and track time spent on projects online. They can even help someone book a desk for the day to power through a dense assignment while they’re out of town.

However, for all of its selling points, the life of freelancing and working flexibly comes with one major caveat: It can be quite lonely. For every glorious rainy day spent warm, dry, and indoors, there is a day where that same freedom can leave you with the distinct feeling that you’re being left out of the loop.

When we talked to the founders of successful coworking spaces about the impetus for founding their company, motivations were strikingly similar. Rachel Young founded Camaraderie to serve as “[a coworking space] that would take in anyone that was looking for community and collaboration.” Ahmet Onur designed Kolektif House as a space to nurture the creative process by organically forming a community founded on the concepts of mutual inspiration and support. Bruno Freitas created São Paulo’s Plug as a space to welcome small companies and startups fighting against Brazil’s rigid approach to the traditional workplace.

Each story was different, but shared a core commonality: Coworking spaces are a long awaited safe haven for those who think differently.

Rainmaking Loft (Berlin, Germany)

Rainmaking Loft (Berlin, Germany)

Coworking spaces are increasing in popularity at a rapid rate, transforming these flex offices from “quirky concept” into a full-blown movement. What is it about these spaces that creates such nurturing environments for freelancers?

At their core, they’re workspaces defined not by the needs of a corporation but by the needs of an individual. An investigation by Harvard Business Review found that freelancers in a coworking environment see an increase in productivity and happiness for a handful of reasons, including autonomy, sense of community, and a chance to shake up their daily routine. Many enjoy the chance to establish a ritual and routine to ground their process while still enjoying the flexibility of 24/7 access. Working among people with a collectively diverse set of skills, interests, job titles, and experience often leads to invaluable opportunities for collaboration—a great way to stay inspired.

Perhaps most importantly, these collective spaces offer independent workers the chance to connect and form a community. Seth Godin, author of the bestseller Tribes, believes truly meaningful change occurs not when leaders force their views on the public, but when their ideas encourage like-minded people to flock together and form a community. Coworking spaces are wildly successful in part because of the magnetic energy of workers who are enthusiastic and passionate about their work.

Freelancers and employees alike can find what they’re looking for in a coworking space. That’s the beauty of this new office environment—its very nature is that there’s enough freedom for anyone to find what they’re looking for.

Coworking spaces are swiftly becoming a fixture in the landscape of office environments. There’s never been a better time to leave the loneliness of solo work to join a community of like-minded flex workers, building a community (and space) from the ground up. Flexible work is the future of work—a logical evolution towards a happy, balanced lifestyle.

This article was submitted by ShareDesk and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.

Mara Savina Falstein

Content Manager, ShareDesk

Mara Savina Falstein is the Content Manager for ShareDesk, the largest platform for flexible workplaces with a network of over 4,500 locations spread across 70+ countries. She passionately explores the ever-evolving coworking movement, sharing the stories and voices of ShareDesk's diverse global community on the ShareDesk blog. You can reach her at social@sharedesk.net.