Co-working videos


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ten Things to Tell the Government About Co-working, Deskmag

If you had half a day with your government’s department of economics, what would you say about coworking on a national level?  Find out what Deskmag had to say here

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Is co-working really about the people or the space?

Is co-working really about the people or the space? 

Well of course the answer has to be both, but I think the question deserves some airtime - the term co-working is popping up more regularly, but often in the context of co-working space (the reason that being pretty obvious), so I'd like to just step back briefly to consider what the key factors are to make co-working happen before we allow it to be all about the space ...

For me co-working is fundamentally about the people.  OK I concede it's about the space as well, but only in so much as co-working needs a context.  That doesn’t, however, need to be physical …  

The "human cloud" (a term I came across recently in an interesting article from Entrepreneur Corner) provides a perfect context for co-working. Support, relationships, inspiration, knowledge all come from co-working in the human cloud through a whole range of social media we're now accustomed to using (Twitter's my personal favourite!) - it never ceases to amaze me how a solid co-working community can be formed in a matter of days or even hours once synergies have been identified (whether that's relating to co-involvement in a business event, a hot debate on a #trending topic, or a request for help or information).  Complete strangers come together as a community seemingly at the drop of a hat, but what often emerges is genuine added value.  

So what drives this type of co-working experience is a common thread or a sense of community, and no matter how temporary this may appear to be at the time it can genuinely add value.  So co-working is about collaboration?  Yes, but the collaboration can be very 'light touch' - it doesn't need to have commitment attached to it, although mutual trust and respect help a lot, particularly in extending the longevity of a community.

According to the Wikipedia definition of co-working it's a 'style of work' which involves a 'shared working environment ... yet independent activity' ... amongst a group of people who 'share values'.  Does the shared working environment need to be physical? The Wikipedia definition gives the sense that it does, although it concedes that this doesn't necessarily need to be an office environment.  

I think some confusion around co-working is associated with the term itself.  Historically the term 'co-workers' has defined the relationship between two people who work in the same company, and who traditionally have tended to work alongside each other at least in the same location.  But time has moved on.  Co-workers (in the traditional 'employed by the same company' context) can now literally work in different continents and time zones, so the physical dimension to co-working has become less significant.  This has led to the term co-working being released to describe collaboration amongst business people rather than purely the connections between colleagues.  

I think a few interesting points fall out of this analysis

-       Do people who are co-employed in the same location collaborate because they are ‘co-workers’?  Having worked in a corporate environments in the past, I found that collaboration and a sense of community was often lacking in a silo culture of departmental boundaries (and open plan offices zoned into departments didn’t address the problem) ... perhaps when people work together in the same location, for the same company, co-working becomes more about the place than the community?  Is there something that organisations could do to stimulate improved collaboration amongst their employees?  Could removing departmental boundaries be removed by introducing collaborative workspaces that enable cross-functional working?

-       I recently read a post from a respected associate who operates within the co-working arena claiming that co-working isn't about networking.  When does collaboration stop and networking start?  I'd suggest the only difference between the two is the mind set (based on whether the priority is to give, take, participate or sell).  Messages intended to restrict networking whilst ‘co-working’ have the potential to be misunderstood.
-       To what extent are physical spaces fundamental to stimulating co-working opportunities amongst those not working within the same company?  It has been suggested by co-working gurus that a community needs to form before a co-working space is introduced, so from that we would assume that co-working communities aren't by their very nature reliant on a physical space.  I'd agree with that to a point, but if the space becomes the 'common thread' then perhaps it has the ability to either stimulate or consolidate a community?  Space on Tap's Colleagues on Tap co-working days prove that point. People who haven't previously connected join together in a 'pop-up office' for the day to form a community from which they gain value irrespective of its temporary nature, and that frequently continues virtually after the event - the space in this case becomes the enabler without which the community wouldn’t have formed. 

-       What’s the best model for creating a co-working space that’s able to focus more on the community than filling its empty desks?

Each of these points will be considered in future Co-working UK Blog posts, but first to conclude - is Co-working more about the people or the space?   

Ok if I was put on the spot, if space is assumed to be physical, I'd say it's about the people.  Co-working communities can collaborate through a 'human cloud' really effectively.  It has to be said though that physical space can play a key role in stimulating, enabling and consolidating collaboration.  Let's think about how full advantage can be taken of that opportunity while social media takes care of the virtual.

Copyright Space on Tap Ltd September 2011

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Melting the iceberg to release the potential of home-based business

First of all just a quick 'stake in the ground', as it were.  Setting up business from home is a good thing to do.  I, like many other business people, have worked at home for years and have no plans to change that.  It's cheaper, it allows you to work more flexibly (that doesn't necessarily mean less!) and it reduces your carbon footprint.  This post is not setting out to prove why we need to encourage people to move out of the home-office - quite the contrary.

Through running Space on Tap for the past year or so it's become obvious that there's a gap in workspace provision for homeworkers that now needs to be filled to make home-working a more viable option when homeworkers aspire to grow their business.

What's worrying is that to a great extent this 'need' hasn't yet been transformed into marketplace 'demand'.  We plan to change that, because with the exponential growth we're experiencing in people setting up business from home, the existing gap in workspace provision is fast becoming an iceberg which has the potential to stifle growth in home-based business (and home-based business is the biggest form of new business start ups in the UK).

Here we start our quest to melt that iceberg.

Gap in existing provision
From our experience, existing space (in the North East of England at least) fits into two categories for homeworkers:  office provision that's ideal if you need an equivalent to your home office outside of the home (ie to work alone); or space that's available for hire for group activities that it wouldn't be practical to do at home, such as meetings or training.    What there's a real lack of is space that complements the home as a workspace - not as an alternative, but in addition to the home office;  space that's affordable, and that adds value by providing more than a desk (otherwise you might as well just stay at home!).

The added value that homeworkers can gain from co-working space can be truly transformational
We've seen  plenty of 'hot-desking' spaces emerge over the years.  They're great for dropping in for short periods when the home office won't do (holidays, mid-appointments, broadband failure).  The focus for hot-desking space is the space - a desk with broadband and access to a meeting room if you need it.  The added value in hot-desking spaces beyond the obvious convenience is limited.

Why Co-working's good for business copyright Space on Tap
Co-working space (collaborative workspace, shared workspace) is different.  Co-working space that works well succeeds because of the collaborations and community it facilitates more than the quality of the furnishings.  Although it has to be said that fast broadband and decent coffee do feature high on the list of essentials, the added value that homeworkers can gain from co-working can be truly transformational.  

New connections, new knowledge and creativity are key factors in accelerating business growth; working in a home-office can isolate businesses from these key growth factors, therefore the introduction of co-working as an ante-dote is fast becoming an imperative.  Co-working can be achieved, to an extent, virtually, but nothing can replace the value of the connections and serendipitous conversations that can start by the coffee machine.

Why latent demand is becoming an iceberg that needs to be melted
A lot has already been written about the features of successful co-working space around the UK and globally from the homeworker's perspective (we'll be aiming to summarise what's been written so far in future posts), and the business case for the development of co-working spaces from a space provider's perspective is also now starting to emerge (again a topic for future posts).

This post, however focuses on why we think that the latent demand for co-working space that exists in today's business marketplace is becoming an iceberg that needs to be melted.  By raising awareness of the potential hazards, we aim to release the potential of home-based business by stimulating the development of co-working space in the North East of England and across the UK.

Top 3 contributors to iceberg formation

  1. Growth through people.  Research suggests that whilst a high proportion of home-based businesses are forecasting growth, the majority are not intending to employ staff to facilitate this growth.  Using sub-contractors and associates is fine to a point, however two key issues need to be investigated further:  a) how can home-based businesses be supported to identify the most appropriate sub-contractors and associates (to extend their networks and their horizons); b) is this decision to not employ staff driven by the desire to remain at home and therefore the obvious barrier associated with employing staff at home, and if so what workspace solutions can be offered to overcome this problem which do not result in the homeworker having to move out of the home office?
  2. Access to support and networks.  The ability to set up a business from home opens up entrepreneurial opportunity to those who may previously have been excluded because of their life or family circumstances, as well as to people who have limited capital resources albeit they have expertise and a great business idea.  When starting up from home, without formal premises, many people do not even class themselves as running a 'proper business', and those that do can still experience barriers to accessing the support they need to grow.  The introduction of business support and networks to home-based business can be challenging, not least because many remain under the radar, without VAT registration or formal business premises. Finding ways to introduce dedicated resources and support for home-based business is critical to avoiding business failure and releasing growth potential.
  3. Rural isolation.  Home-based business start-up is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where business isolation and access to services are already recognised barriers to growth.  What workspace solutions can be provided to rural businesses to avoid them suffering a detriment relative to their urban counterparts through lack of access to new connections, knowledge and stimulants of business creativity?

Space on Tap is undertaking research and providing development support to public and private sector organisations with an interest in supporting the development of home-based business through creative space solutions. Contact Jayne Graham to find out more.

Copyright Space on Tap Ltd September 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

Exceptional Coworking Space Models, deskmag 12.7.11

Post one of a series exploring coworking models.  This article explores the potential of setting up temporary, trial coworking spaces in almost a 'pop-up office' along the lines of Colleagues on Tap to test demand, explains why it would be a good idea to encourage students to join coworking communities, and the concept of anchor tenants who contribute towards the management of coworking space.


'Working Separately, Together', New York Times article 16.7.11

Tales of cross-pollination, having people to challenge you and bounce ideas off, and maybe a little bit of eavesdropping to boot ...


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Introducing Co-working UK

Space on Tap started its journey mid-2010 and has since developed a directory of spaces that are available for occasional use by homeworkers, freelancers and anyone that needs somewhere to work, meet, train, coach, hold an event, you name it.  We've discovered some amazing spaces across the North East and are now looking beyond the region - mainly because our customers have asked us to!

On our travels we've discovered that spaces that accommodate occasional or regular co-working for people who work from home or that run small businesses, are few and far between, and in the North East of England in 2010 they were non-existent.  With little exception, the option is to work from home or take on an office.  There's no in-between.

Space on Tap's Colleagues on Tap co-working days have therefore served to fill this gap short-term, through setting up 'pop-up offices' across the region to provide opportunities for co-working through one day events.  We plan to continue to run the programme of events from Autumn 2011, and have undertaken some research with 40 of our Colleagues on Tap co-workers that we'll be publishing on this site soon.

Overall, though, what we've learned is that there is a demand for co-working, albeit latent (people have just accepted that it's either the house or an office lease and most have opted for the former).  We also have evidence that it's genuinely the co-worker community that makes co-working work for freelancers, home-based and small businesses, not the space, but without the space it's difficult to make the community happen.

This isn't 'chicken and egg' though.  Our Colleagues on Tap initiative will continue, both to provide value to co-workers on the day of each event, but also to help people to recognise how co-working can actually help them to run their businesses better, and therefore help them to grow.  This in turn will increase demand for co-working space and our quest is to make sure that space is available, UK-wide.  We'll be licensing Colleagues on Tap for national roll-out over the next couple of months.  If you'd like to find out more get in touch.

It's fantastic to see progress already being made on the space front too.  We've had a part to play in the emergence and development of a couple of co-working spaces already in the North East of England (search for 'co-working' in the Space on Tap Perfect Places Directory), and with our support  we know that more will follow.  We've also recently delivered on a commission to demonstrate both actual and latent demand for co-working spaces for a local authority in the North East, and will be telling you more about our findings over the coming weeks.

What we've also recognised, is that there's a need to pull together in one place the information we're passing on, the great resources and information that already exists (mainly outside of the UK) and the discoveries we make on our journey.  We also want to identify the gaps - so we can go off and fill them!  That's why we've created this blog.

So, welcome to Co-working UK - we hope it proves to be a useful resource, and that we can look back in a couple of years and measure the distance travelled as we fulfil our aim of helping home-based businesses to grow through stimulating and supporting the development of co-working and co-working spaces across the UK.  If you'd like to follow us on our journey opt to follow our blog.