(A founder’s reflection on opening day of the first coworking community in York County, SC – a suburb of Charlotte, NC)
Within just a couple of years, almost half of our workforce will be entrepreneurs and mobile, freelance or contingent knowledge workers. Coworking communities, numbering over 8000 worldwide, are becoming an expected amenity to the creative class when choosing where to live and engage.
Coworking advocates agree that the benefits of and magic within these facilities is about community, not about the building. That the programming and the ecosystem that is created in coworking communities, incubators and accelerator programs are what distinguish them from office providers and keyman spaces. As the programming coordinator, I have to agree. We have already seen collaborations and increased business between community members created via our meetups over the last several months, before our lease began.
However, as a designer and construction manager, I have to emphasize the value of the tangible space and the facility as a resource to the independent workers of our area and to the entire community. Without the space acting as a catalyst, can a community really be created?
The physical space is a conduit for the energy spawned from face to face interactions and serendipitous opportunities with members of a diverse but like-minded group of coworkers helping to grow your business faster. It expands personal and professional networks, eliminating isolation felt by many independent workers. Being surrounded by motivated professionals creates connections with those who act as sounding boards for ideas, making way for innovation and success.
“Establishing human connection within a built environment is at the heart of ‘placemaking’ and customer experience …
Providing people with places to connect, innovate and co-create is becoming more important than ever before….
The office is no longer regarded only as a place to work, but must involve an emphasis on lifestyle, convenience and amenity”
Having a contemporary, well-designed, ergonomic and inspiring space allows professionals to be more productive and creative rather that roaming aimlessly to the fridge or being distracted by pets or laundry. Within an environment they can be proud of, their health and confidence increases.
The tangible location gives a destination for independent workers, those who crave a professional work routine and balance, in order to get back to a time when work life was work, and their home was a place of peace and tranquility. They want to regain their professional presence while retaining the flexibility they have come to appreciate.
This physical space offers an alternative for those in transition … those whose businesses are growing. Those who cannot thrive or appear professional working out of their home or a coffee shop, but who are uncertain or unable to sign a long lease, pay the utilities, maintain equipment, and make a commitment to a space of their own. Coworking offers options and flexibility.
The surrounding walls of our workspace create a backdrop for the appreciation and support of local and student artists, giving our community exposure to a wider range of cultural activities and encouraging the patronage of neighboring institutions. It gives us a vessel to serve our area as a whole, not just our members, by bringing services like workshops and coaching from organizations like the Small Business Development Center, encouraging entrepreneurship and advancement.
Our event space, something desperately needed in many downtowns, gives a flexible venue for educational, community, and creative pursuits (like the weekly photography class that begin next week!).…. and providing the space and amenities for budding teachers, leaders, and innovators from our area to pursue their interests and share their passions with others.
The physical location connects us to downtown, brings foot traffic to merchants, encourages members and visitors to appreciate the historic and authentic heritage of our home, and prompts residents to explore and support our existing small businesses. Our proximity to new growth business and residential growth allows us to bring together a range of creative, technical, academic, and non-profit businesses, creating new possibilities for synergies and partnerships and being a support to our local schools.
Which brings us to this rendering that you see here …. Our community will be moving into our permanent facility in early fall and we are excited to bring our members 50% more square footage with twice as much meeting and event space as well as 14’ ceilings and a more contemporary space with increased amenities, outdoor space and natural light.
But a building is just a box without the energy generated by the skills, desires, collaborations and growth of the people inside. We ask that you reach inside and out into the community to see how you, your colleagues, neighbors, coworkers could utilize the services, programs, AND space of coworking communities like ours:
- The more people there are working and creating within the space, the more synergies, relationships and business opportunities are created, benefitting the local economy and residents.
- The more community benefit partners and allied merchants a coworking community has, the more members will be encouraged to shop local.
- The more organizations reach out to collaborate and utilize the skills of coworking community members, the more their entrepreneurial spirit will inspire others to seek their passions.
- The more the facility’s multi-functional event space is utilized, the more knowledge and skills are disseminated, increasing the engagement and viability of our home.
We ask that entire communities become partners in progress with coworking communities, incubators and accelerators and help small towns and suburbs not just keep up with what is going on in urban areas and worldwide. Help your neighbors generate a form of home-grown economic, professional and personal development. We need to create an enviable standard for innovation, just as bigger cities already desire to have our quality of life amenities, education system, and community spirit.
So – it is about space? Is it about community?
Try out coworking and decide for yourself!