- Jun 13 2014
If you’ve ever set foot in a Starbucks you’ve likely witnessed the hordes of laptop-toting freelancers scattered about. Whether you knew it or not, you were in their office, overhearing their meetings. In 2010 the coffee powerhouse began offering free unlimited Wi-Fi to encourage guests to stay longer – creating an enticing “office” for homeless workers. After all, with more than 42 million independent workers in the US alone, that’s a lot of coffee to sell. However, as the movement evolves, freelancers seek more than a comfy place to plug in their laptops.
To meet the increasing demands of start-up companies, burgeoning small businesses, independent writers and a slew of other entrepreneurial types, companies are cropping up with spaces specifically designed to create the ideal workplace for coworkers. Companies such as Smart Work Centers attract clientele with fully equipped offices, complete with extras such as childcare services and meeting rooms. On top of the state of the art facilities, coworking spaces allow independent workers to rub elbows with peers and like-minded colleagues or even competitors.
Coworking pairs the freedom that comes with the freelancing lifestyle with the sense of community one has while working in an office setting. The convenient locations and flexible work environment also increases job satisfaction and improves the work-life balance through less stressful working conditions and reduced commute times.
With these benefits in mind, SNCF Transilien, a branch of France’s national railway company, launched a pilot program to improve the quality of life of its workers by allowing its suburban employees, who generally face long commutes, to work at train stations closer to their homes twice a week. Similarly, the city of Amsterdam became one of the first organizations to use the Smart Work facilities in Holland for its own employees. With a network of more than 100 locations throughout the country, work is no further than a 15-minute bike ride.
Studies show that employers benefit from coworking as well. Not only can companies reduce operational expenses, but the collaborative environment enhances overall effectiveness, efficiency and the sharing of knowledge – a clear plus for businesses.
In fact, when experts quantified the financial gain of Amsterdam’s coworking program, research revealed that employees will gain 20 days per year due to increased productivity – an impressive potential benefit for a city with more than 21,000 employees.
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