The Rise and Rise of the Independent professional sector: Coworking and independent professionals, a match made for each other.
Walking into a coworking space is like walking into possibilities. There is an indescribable vibe of innovation. Beautiful modern interiors are matched with forward thinking independent and creative minds. How else can you house people who are stepping out on their own, either as an SME or an independent professional? The exterior of the coworking environment seems to want to reflect the interior aspirations of those who are accessing it. The environment is made to be conducive to collaboration, communication and innovation. This is where independent professional can develop and they can also shop their wares.
Where did this space come from? Well, like the rise of the independent working, the advent of the coworking environment was dependent on the technology that surrounded it. The first inception of a coworking environment was what was called a Hackerspace. C-Base opened in Berlin in 1995. Techies met there dependant on the networks within and promoting virtual offices. In 1999 Brian deKoren coined the term “coworking”. The first coworking space in San Fran opened in 2001. This was the break through. It was technologically based and their core principles were based upon: community, openness, collaboration, accessibility and sustainability. This was all made possible by online platforms that could connect the working space, a virtual office for a new virtual workforce.
The importance of interconnectivity to the birth of both the coworking spaces and independent professionals makes them organically matching forces. Both rail against the concepts of the traditional workforce. Robert Propst’s cubical was popularized in the 1970’s he created it as a innovative work space initiative, but as the Wall Street Journal points out “the cubicle began to symbolize not independence and flexibility, as Propst had hoped, but transience, precariousness and the disposability of the American worker”. What the cubicle and the job in the big company initially were associated with (stability, autonomy, wealth and efficiency) during the 80’s and 90’s with mass lay off became their own anti-thesis. In many ways, independent professionals and coworking spaces are just returning to the roots the well-meaning cubical and the Henry Ford like working conditions. Both ideas have been misused and abused. Now many workers and coworking environments are taking back control.
Fundamentally both the coworking environment and the freelancing culture that is emerging are the result of a suspicion and distrust of the modern workforce model, an abuse of the spaces in which people work and the creation of the “us and them” culture that is pervasive in many companies. Coworking compliments the sensibilities of those brave enough to strike it out on their own and put themselves forward as good enough to solely sell their skill rather than their time. Both are small but important revolutions. Companies like Facebook and Google who have these types of coworking spaces simply get better, faster, more innovative results.
I sit at an identical desk to the CEO of my company. In an environment that allows me flexibility and that I know me for my work. It gives me the confidence to propose ideas and to see how my contributions genuinely effect the company. We have an open plan office and inside it I am accountable, involved and know the impact of my contribution. This isn’t the norm by any stretch of the imagination. However, if it can work here and it can work in Facebook I cannot understand how an environment like this one cannot hugely benefit any business.
Coworking and the technological independent professionals came from the world of interconnectivity. They work together because they are based in the same school of thought. Therefore, they work symbiotically. But if we accept that all freelancers are different, some will be more successful some will get by and some will fail therefore are all coworking spaces made equal?