A coworking space is a communal office space where freelancers, remote workers and small businesses can base themselves. These people would typically work from home, as the cost of dedicated office space or premises is out of reach. Working from home for long periods can be lonely, especially if you are working by yourself and are not in communication with team members all day. Coworking spaces are shared by many members, which keeps the cost down and affordable, whilst giving solo workers a community to be part of.

Who uses a co-working space?

You will usually find a variety of different small businesses and freelancers in a co-working space, along with employed workers who live in a different place to their employer and work remotely. There are also coworking spaces for specific disciplines like tech startups or artists.

At the coworking space I am a member of, Rabble Studio, there are a mix of people from different disciplines and backgrounds. No two days are the same, as different combinations of members come in on different days. There are small pockets of members who do the same thing, which is handy for bouncing around ideas and collaboration.

How coworking spaces work

There will be variation between coworking spaces but generally there are a few different ways of getting involved. Some coworking spaces require you to join as a member. This is to help foster the community, so everyone has a chance to meet every member and it's not a revolving door of different faces. There are a variety of different membership options you can pick from, ranging from coming in a couple of times a week with your laptop to studios for small businesses with 2-3 staff.

Other spaces work slightly differently, in that you can book for the day and rock up to hot desk. These spaces are good for meeting lots of different people and attending as frequently or infrequently as you need.

However you join and attend, you will likely find lots of desks arranged in different configurations, with various people working at them. Most coworking spaces look to improve the typical office environment rather than emulate it, so expect nice interior design, good coffee and comfortable places to work and break out.

The problem coworking spaces solve

Working from home can be great, but not everyone has the space for a home office. And even if you do, working from home for prolonged periods can feel lonely. I know that when I am working from home full time, I feel quite disconnected from the rest of the world. Driving into work and listening to music, getting a coffee on your walk and generally having a reason to get dressed, up and out helps me stay motivated and feeling happy.

In normal non-lockdown times I split my time between home and the coworking studio, depending on what work I have on. If I need to concentrate and work in silence, I'll get my head down at home. On other days I go into the coworking space and work from there, catching up with the other members who are in. There are various social events on which I try and attend and in-between we have a Slack community, which helps to stay connected wherever you are (and has been so helpful during the pandemic).

Members pass work between themselves and frequently recommend each other to contacts. I have lost count of the number of things I've ran past other members to get their thoughts on and we all share resources, recommendations and tips. The social events are a lot of fun, at Rabble we have pot luck lunches, talks, workshops, pub quizzes and after work drinks. Whilst the pandemic has certainly changed things, having the Rabble community to talk to (and play Among Us with) has helped me stay semi sane. The pandemic has presented unique challenges for business owners so sharing information around what help is available has been super helpful.

Lots of coworking spaces allow dogs, so there is often a four legged coworker wondering around. And it's really useful to have a proper physical address and meeting room access, for when clients need to come in.

Coworking as an introvert

Before joining a coworking space, I had a preconception that they would be of most benefit to extroverted people. I loved working from home for a long time and didn't understand people who told me they would be crawling up the walls if they had to try it. However after having my daughter, I felt so out of the loop work wise and really wanted to feel in 'work mode', having spent a year off. I toured local coworking space Rabble and decided to join as a full time member with a dedicated desk.

I was slightly petrified but everyone in a coworking space had their first day once and will usually go out of their way to make you feel welcome. You quickly work out that you have a lot in common with the other members and there is a good mix of different personalities. Before you know it, you're not the new one and you're helping a new member get settled in.

The joy of a coworking space is that it's not mandatory to be there, so you don't really get anyone who isn't enthusiastic about it. All members want to help foster a great working environment and contribute in different ways. There certainly isn't a requirement to be a really outgoing, loud, confident person in order to fit in. And even as an introvert, I vastly prefer my work life now that I can split my time between being home alone and working at the studio with others. It's the best of both worlds.

Give coworking a try

Everyone has something to offer and their own unique perspective. We have extroverts and introverts, members from down the road and those who have come from the other side of the world, salsa dancers and Dungeon Masters (the D&D kind as opposed to the other kind ... As far as I know anyway), shy people, chatty people, members who are just starting out in their careers and others who own businesses with lots of staff.

Joining a coworking space –especially after a year on maternity– meant I had to really put myself outside of my comfort zone. But I'm so glad I did, I've made some great friends and it has really helped shape my business idea from a rough concept into something more tangible.