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Alex Hillman

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How coworking can work for more people than you ever thought

3 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Allow me to expand your mind beyond tech, startups, & remote work

First, take a quick peek at this mini-story about a new member joining a coworking space:

“We just got a new member who is not in the type of business I expected would be interested in coworking…but definitely has the needs of a coworker:

He started a cleaning business 6 months ago and spends about half his time on admin and commercial work. He was so fed up of working on the kitchen table between his wife and kids or in noisy cafés that he looked for another solution.

He was so happy when he left today saying he’d been super productive! Made my day!”

Getting stories like this make me smile like a goofball, partly because coworking has another happy customer but also because it’s clear that she’d been so surprised by this unexpected new member’s instant desire to sign up for membership.

There are SO many preconceived notions about who would want to work in a coworking space. I’d be willing to bet that sometimes you still get stuck trying to convince someone to pay for a coworking space when they know they could just work at home, in their underwear, for free.

So today, I want to peel back the layers of just one of those preconceived notions…all the way back to the deeply rooted core from whence it came.

In the “old world” of corporate jobs, everyone went to the same place to do the same task handed to us by the same boss. Day after day. Our work days were relatively certain, for better AND for worse. One particular benefit of that certainty – real or an illusion – meant that we could focus only on the specific skills needed to get the job done.

Meanwhile in the modern world of work – the one that coworking spaces are most connected to – things couldn’t be more different in that regard. In order for you to be successful today, in addition to whatever skill or craft you practice, there’s countless “meta-skills” that you need to learn including time and task management, communication.

Does it really make sense that ALL of your work is done best in the same kind of environment?

What would change if we learned how to choose an environment that was best suited for the task we were trying to accomplish?

Most people have NEVER learned the meta-skill of breaking their “work” into smaller components, so they can think about their work-day as interconnected but separate chunks of work.

And I can’t exactly blame them…where would you learn that skill other than to see someone else do it, and try it yourself?

Which is why my team and I so often ask people about their administrative tasks – like invoicing, paying bills, research, paperwork, etc. Let’s be honest: it’s not the work that we like to think about. In fact, it’s the work that many people would happily avoid…and many do, to their own detriment.

Even if someone’s not a freelancer or an entrepreneur, EVERYONE has chunks of time that they need to dedicate to slogging through that admin work.

But here’s the fun part: once you’ve got someone thinking about their admin work – something really magical happens when you bring up coworking. 9 times out of 10, it clicks for them.

“Oh, I could be sooooo much more productive if I carved out time to do that admin work, and did it around other people instead of letting myself procrastinate. Sign me up!”

Which is just like our friend with the cleaning service, who I’m sure you can easily imagine was thrilled to turn a dull, boring day of admin tasks into a productive, inspiring day of GETTING SHIT DONE.

The big lesson here is that a coworking space is more successful when it’s suited for a certain style of work, than certain kinds of people and professions. And there’s a good chance that it’s YOUR job to help people learn how to use this to be more productive, and happier at work.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.