Over the past few years co-working office spaces have grown in popularity with a range of opportunities, flexibility and locations for the likes of Freelancers, self-employed and remote workers to utilise.
One of the main things that can be a challenge for self-employed and freelancers is the isolation and sometimes loneliness experienced in working alone and predominantly in your own home.
For many freelancing and self-employment offers independence, flexibility and work/life balance. Many freelancers also attribute self-employment as a way of managing their mental and physical health ( for example working round anxiety/bipolar or a health condition). However, this does not take away from what a business owner described perfectly as the "Feast and Famine"of Freelancing, that eb and flow of work/income/deadlines brings with it naturally highs and lows. The buzz of a new client or a great testimonial, the loneliness of a slow month and outstanding invoices?
Using co-working spaces can be a great way to get a change of scene, connect with other freelancers and build a community that breaks some of that isolation you may experience. And whilst it's not for everyone you may find that the change of setting reaps new networks for your business through connections with other business owners.
A few perks of Co-Working spaces:
Flexible offers of space around your working patterns.
A chance to build connections and network with other businesses ( could even result in income)
Pay As You Go options mean you get an opportunity to use a range of locations within your own budget- great if you mainly work from home and just need a change of scene.
Coffee - ok so they probably serve a lot of other drinks too but many of these co-working spaces now host great local independent coffee hubs where you can enjoy a well deserved break.
Space to learn - many of these venues have embraced the idea of community and host a number of events from workshops & educational talks to Yoga or socials.
Finding the right space for you.
Remember you have to have the right working environment for you. My recommendation would be explore a few spaces and find out which one suits your vibe.
Likewise this is a chance to find your tribe too. Many of these co-working spaces will advertise the names of their more permanent residents to give you a flavour of the types of business's using the space. To get a sense of who you can connect with on a day to day you are best visiting and introducing yourself.
Make sure that the environment is right for working when you visit these places remember this has got to be a space that is a genuine workable space for you and not just be a place for distractions.... after all the likelihood is you may have left the comfort of a dressing gown, your pet, the friendly background chat of Netflicks at home! A few quick things to consider:
Noise - while you want people to be friendly you probably aren't in need of any other distractions so ensure that your freelance companions are respectful in their work zones and noise level.
Space _ is there actually space to do what you need to do? Is there scope to move around for a break and not become locked in to your laptop?
Confidentiality _ If you need to have a confidential conversation or work on something sensitive can you do this- this may come in the form of meeting rooms or break out spaces for members?
Comfort - Is it comfortable - test chairs, tables, bean bags while you are there as well as temperature and facilities.
Limits to Loneliness
Simply being in a space with other people doesn't mean that you stop being lonely or isolated. In fact many of my clients who freelance report feeling equally alone in a group of people.
Remember that the types of interactions that you exchange with people is ultimately what will contribute to your happiness and success and reduce your sense of loneliness and isolation ( even if right now you feel pretty anxious about making those connections).
Transient, meaningless conversations may leave you feeling cold whilst interactions with innovators, people who can listen, share and respectfully want to know and understand you and your business will reap benefits for your mind as well as your growth.
Taking Helpguide.orgs 6 key to mental health diagram I have expanded some of the aspects of social interaction for you to consider ways we can engage in Meaningful Interactions These provide in depth connections to reduce that feeling of being alone. Use the list on the left hand side to consider your key sources of these connections who/how/where/how often? Which aspects of these meaningful interactions do you want more of?
If you are looking for local co-working inspiration Ryan Gibson writes a great little summary of his favourite co-working spaces in Leeds Here