Can Co-working work?

The New York Times recently ran an article about the new trend of “co-working”. Co-working is when a group of people who all work remotely or from home come together to share an office space. Often the people in these co-working arrangements are not in the same line of work or even the same broader industry. The arrangement is instead based on compatible hours and working styles.

In a lot of ways co-working can be an ideal situation for somebody working remotely. Working from home has always had the notable advantage of avoiding long commutes and stepping back from office conflicts but it also has some significant downsides, particularly for those who thrive on human contact. Co-working allows people to have some social interaction in their day as well as creating a routine which can increase efficiency.

It has the added benefit of allowing a remote employee to separate worklife from family life which is sometimes hard to do when working from home. When a remote employee has an office to go to he is less likely to be distracted by the pile of laundry or by the dog sniffing around for a midday walk. He is also less likely to let his work migrate into his homelife which can create the feeling that he can never get away.

In a way co-working is an ideal situation for anybody because it allows the employee so much more control over his work environment. Instead of having to sit next to somebody because they happen to perform the same job function, an employee can choose to sit next to somebody who is similarly chatty or quiet or who likes to take breaks at similar times of day.

Such arrangements can also be beneficial to companies who have remote employees by necessity. Instead of having to provide each employee with a scanner, a printer and whatever other equipment he requires to perform his job, employers can share these costs across the people in the shared office.

The drawbacks, apart from the possibility of personality clashes which happen in any workplace, center mainly on confidentiality. Certain professions require a high degree of confidentiality and other people in a co-working arrangement will not have signed the company’s confidentiality statements. People who work in the same industry may enjoy bouncing ideas off one another but there is a fine line between collaborating and sharing company secrets.

What do you think about the trend of co-working in shared office space? Do you think it would work in your industry?

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