Over the last week or so I’ve had a number of people come up to me and ask where I stood on the coworking debate. There’s a lot of discussion going on in the coworking world over “authentic” and “non-authentic” coworking. As with any new trend, which coworking certainly is, there will come investors seeking to capitalize and make their dough, and that’s precisely what’s happening. The thing about coworking though, is that the philosophy of the movement has nothing to do with profitability.
According to coworking.com, coworking is a global community of people dedicated to the values of Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability in their workplaces. So what’s to become of our beloved movement when big investors step in and–forgive the language–dick around? In accordance with the movement to which I feel so strongly committed, I figured I’d just go ahead and be transparent about my thoughts on the matter.
Honestly, I’m not worried about it. I believe this community–and that’s what we are–emerged out of a need people felt to bring face-to-face connections into our oh-so-digital world. I believe that is the strongest incentive to join a coworking space. Sure, the perks and pretty office are great, but not great enough to shell out a few hundred bucks a month when you could just as easily be working from home or coffee shop without the extra fees. What I’m paying for is a sense of community, a sense of humanity in the space where I spend the majority of my time.
No single person or company can create a community. What they can create is a platform upon which a community can be built. That’s something we put a lot of thought into when designing GPCW–we created different areas with different purposes and we left plenty of open space–our goal was not to fit as many bodies into the space as we possibly could, but to create a space that felt valuable and conducive to both individual work and community building. That’s a hard balance to establish.
As far as I can tell, these “for-profit” types are not coming in with the same motives. Each coworking space I’ve been to has it’s own vibe and people need/want different things from the space in which they work. I believe that true coworkers will stick to true coworking spaces, and those who don’t feel a need for community in their workspace will seek out the appropriate space for them. I think at the core the two kinds of spaces, though they may look the same at first glance, are really two different animals, and the people working there will pick up on that.