Coworking: A key to cultivating positive culture
A global phenomenon
Coworking is a global phenomenon that’s also taking off here in Madison, and it’s something I strongly support. In fact, I credit coworking with the success of my freelance career and my ability to start Ten Forward Consulting. We’ve found some of our crew at Madworks Coworking as well as clients, partners, and other referrals.
Last month, coworking was a panel topic at Madison’s inaugural CultureCon. As the director and co-founder of Madworks, I shared on that panel about why coworking matters so much to the culture and economic health of our city.
What is coworking
Coworking is all the good things about having an office, with less of the bad (like office politics). It’s a place for people to work who might otherwise be parking their laptops at a coffee shop or doing remote work from their couch at home.
Coworking spaces are home to freelancers and remote workers, startups and established businesses, even local branches of multinational corporations. Every coworking space will have its own vibe. At Madworks, we’re a true mix of freelancers, small businesses and telecommuters. Ten Forward Consulting is an anchor tenant, with 14 of the 45 or so members. Most of us are in the tech industry and we like to help each other whenever we can.
Cowork, because working from home isn’t for everyone
Staying at home all day to work — even if you have a home office — isn’t always ideal. It can be lonely and distracting. For many, coffee shops provide that missing human element and an excuse to leave the demands of keeping house.
But if you've spent time working at coffee shops, you know there are challenges to getting work done. You have to find a table and maybe fight for an outlet. The Wi-Fi might be slow and not secure enough for the work being done, the baristas and customers loud.
Renting a dedicated office ties you down to a lease that’s a year or longer. Add in the cost of furnishings and utilities, and that’s a significant expense, especially for a new business or a solopreneur.
Coworking is more than shared office space
Coworking provides more than just a space to get things done with blazing fast internet and a flexible month-to-month lease, however.
It provides a community of like-minded people—they’re driven, usually entrepreneurial, looking to get out of the house, interested in networking. They can rally behind you when you need extra support. They can commiserate when you have to deal with that client who is never satisfied and excels at scope creep. (Have you tried venting about a client to someone at Starbucks? It rarely turns out well.)
At Madworks, as at many other coworking spaces, we have an interview process to be sure people are on the same page and will be good members of the community. We want members to feel comfortable where they work, to know their time and space are valued.
We have some rules that keep our community running smoothly, such as the headphones rule. If someone is wearing both headphones, consider that a closed office door and let them work. Just one headphone means they’re free to chat, maybe even help you troubleshoot a line of code or a tricky client situation.
Coworking promotes positive company culture
A positive culture attracts better workers. When your business is just getting started, you need to decide what kind of culture you want to instill from day one. This can be hard to do when it’s just you and one or two other people.
A coworking space can help bolster your company culture. It’s easier to get a crew together for a game night or to hang out at happy hour when there are forty others around.
Borrow culture from those around you: it works.
How to choose a coworking space
If you’re a small business, a freelancer, an entrepreneur, a telecommuter or work for a start-up, give coworking a try. Most spaces offer a free trial. Find a coworking space where you feel comfortable and productive. Every space and coworking community is different.
Consider the hours open, the cost, the look and feel of the space, kitchen access, parking, proximity to home or clientele, networking and fun events, and the other industries represented by the members.
As more people enter into this gig economy and companies become more comfortable with remote workers, there’s no limit to the amount of coworking spaces there could (should!) be in Madison.
Want the full scoop on coworking in Madison? Here’s the video to the hour-long panel discussion led by TJ Blitz (Cresa), with panelists Gregory S. Fort (100State), Eugenia Podestá (Synergy Madison), Chandra Miller Fienen (Starting Block) and me, Brian Samson (Madworks).