Co-working, a solution for leaders and teams

Leaders are starting to rethink how we do work in the long term. They reacted quickly at the start of 2020, and now start reimagining how things will be long term. In the forthcoming LeaderX podcast, I chatted to Hamish Gill of F8Creates and co-founder of The Kiln Co-Working space about the hidden benefits of remote working, and not from home. Working away from the home office has been a genuine relief in the last few weeks for me. I imagine it will have a positive impact on so many others too, as winter approaches,

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You know what, I am not afraid to admit that I have been lonely these past few weeks. During lockdown, everyone had a different, yet shared experience. We connected more to share our experiences, help us to process the madness we found ourselves living in. We were in shock, and helped everyone through by connecting over social media, video calls, virtual pub quizzes, and I even continued to run scouts via zoom.

Everyone became experts in running virtual meetings and the phrase zoom fatigue entered our language. But we got through it, together.

And then my kids went back to education and the house felt vey empty. Where I had craved for peace and quiet during lockdown, now I craved real human interaction during my core working hours. I missed having my team around me to bounce ideas off, or seeing clients in person, where the spontaneous conversations and discussions wake me up and inspire me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am really quite skilled at working from home. I have been doing it for many years now. But peppered amongst my home days, were client visits, workshops, trips and busyness. Now the reality set in, that this sole working was how things were going to be for along time.

And as the weather cooled, autumn came and the dark nights set in, the claustrophobia magnified the feeling of seclusion even more.

So, I made a decision. One day per week I would work somewhere else. A coffee shop, a co-working space, a friends dining table – anywhere to change the environment, the energy and the people around me. It worked. My mood, creativity and productivity increased. I need people around me, not all of the time, but some of the time. I am a social creature – we all are.

So, talking to Hamish about his drive and inspiration to set up a coworking space in my city made me feel more normal. He had exactly the same experience as me, 6 or 7 years ago and looked around for a solution – only to find there wasn’t one. SO he and a group of likeminded small business owners embarked on a journey to create the KILN, a co working space, initially for other creatives to become more creative, but now a space for any home worker who wants to be with other people.

We chatted a lot about the concept and the journey, but I now want to reflect on the reality and experience of the kiln users, so you might find a way to introduce more co working in your organisation.

“It's quite nice to be able to work where you want, when you want to work rather than having to work because nine to five.”

The solution

The trend towards the martini moments, working anytime, anyplace, anywhere, was already picking up pace, especially in organisations where #leaderx was challenging the status quo. The younger GenXers and older millennials are now in positions of influence and are introducing more flexibility, freedom and agility into the way we work. COVID-19 has accelerated the thinking through necessity and the world has changed forever. No longer can leaders justify 100% onsite working as the norm. There is simply no real business case for pulling everyone into one space, day after day.

But what everyone has noticed, is the need and desire for social interaction is critical for us all to perform at our best, share problems, collaborate around ideas and solutions, and to help, support, guide and teach each other.

One answer is to create team or project times in the office. Perhaps it’ll be 1 day per week or month, where everyone gets together and just hangs out in a more informal environment, yet still with the outcomes and purpose in mind. It is used in conjunction with online collaborative tools, video meetings, collaborative whiteboards, and productive to do list activities. On site working is just part of the mix, not the go to way of working.

So that means leaders need to stop recreating the office style of working in the home, and adopt new ways of collaborating, problem solving and getting stuff done. It’s a complete redesign and rethink that is needed. And here is the thing, you don’t have to do it alone. Like in my chat with Emma and Harriet at HSM, the best way to find the answers is to ask your people. Don’t assume everyone’s enjoying the format that you have implemented. It might work for you, but it might be really counter productive for others. So ask your people, how can I help you to work better, smarter and to still feel engaged and a sense of belonging?

And perhaps the co working spaces are part of the solution. As Hamish found

“we've got it as a good example of somebody who's just started working with us, just started using the space. She's previously up and down from London all the time, and she's been with us two weeks. Even though she comes in and spends all life in front of the computer, quite a lot of it on zoom calls, she said that her mental health has dramatically improved. She's getting out houses and away from other distractions. She's meeting people she's not met before in a work environment, where people are work minded. And it's just good for people. I think it's good for people to be around people.

Giving your people a budget to work from a coffee shop, book a desk at a co working space or meet others in the same area is really beneficial. Of course you might need to renew your GDPR policy to make sure they aren’t leaving their laptop open with sensitive data, or disposing of reports in a secure way, or perhaps remind people about what conversations should be done in private, but people are generally more reasonable and savvy than you give them credit for.

But once you have that policy and process sorted, liberate your people to work in a way that will deliver the best result. Don’t dictate. Don’t enforce. Free people.

It will have such an impact on

  • Trust
  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Mental wellbeing.

There really are only upsides.

Of course, it takes a different kind of leadership. You will need to develop yourself. Most of what you learned in onsite office management will need to be adjusted or adapted. But if you invest in your own development, you really are future proofing your skills and the organisation.

You can find out more about self-development in the Myself section of the LeaderX book or get in touch to work with me.