By Adrienne Harvey, GiryaGirl.com
Having created my own jobs since 1999, I’ve always had the option to work from home or from a space that is my own (such as the warehouse I rented for my first company that I largely ran solo). Being an only child allows me to work comfortably in near isolation for longer periods than most folks. But, I realized that by only “on the road” or at home, I was missing out on opportunities for socialization—and for expanded creativity and business development. Since joining Perch Coworking in Carrboro, I’ve gotten even more satisfaction from my work and my workday. I’ve also expanded my business with new clients, collaborations and creative new product offerings. Below are five suggestions I have for how you can make the most of your coworking experience.
- Choose the right coworking space.
I’ve had mixed experiences with coworking in the past, but what’s made a huge difference is finding the right coworking space. Learn what’s important to you and make sure that your coworking space has these same priorities before signing on. Most coworking spaces offer a free half or whole day for you to get a feel for the space. Absolutely take them up on this offer. It was important for me to find a coworking space where people were actually coming to do work—serious work. Many of the people at Perch are writing code, developing apps, working remotely for various large corporations. There are also several other entrepreneurs and consultants like myself. While I do value social interaction in an office setting, I didn’t want the main focus to be on socialization. And I wanted to be around people doing real work—not just hanging out for coffee and/or trying to recruit me into an MLM!
What do you want at your workplace? What are you missing by working at home? Here’s my list of priorities as an example:
- A quiet focused work area
- FAST internet so I could have the option of doing live video calls
- “Phone Booths” for sound isolation
- Opportunities for social activities, group lunchtime
- Plenty of coffee
- Professional meeting space
- A place other than home to work – change of scenery
- Easy no-stress parking
- Show Up.
This one might sound obvious, but it needs to be stated anyway. Once I joined Perch, I committed to challenging myself to keep more regular “office hours”. While I can work whenever I want (which usually means I work all the time, because I love what I do), I decided to show up during regular office hours so that I can make the most of my membership. All of the special activities like lunch and learns, career coaching with Denise Corey, yoga, mindfulness, lunch outings, etc. take place during regular office hours. Similarly, I made sure to schedule in time to attend some of the purely social events like an occasional retro gaming night. Special events like these are fun, but also helped me get to know the strengths and interests of others at the space… which leads me right into the next subject…
I was thrilled to learn how smart, connected, and talented many of my fellow coworkers are, and collaboration nearly began to happen on its own. I couldn’t help but think of many ways that we could help each other. Right away, as I struggled to define “what I do” (the short answer is I do too many things, mostly which can fall under the banner of marketing consulting and implementation), I started gaining clients right from the space itself. Just from conversations, we began connecting and sharing ideas. It all began to snowball as I helped more and more people. Another member’s business group comes in for regular meetings and I suddenly found myself with speaking engagements. The material I gathered to create those presentations is now being repurposed and expanded into online courses…built on an online learning platform (Ruzuku) founded by another member right here in the space.
Another member, Liz Harden MPH, is a health educator, yoga and mindfulness instructor, and sleep coach. After attending a number of her very workplace appropriate yoga and mindfulness sessions,I had to reach out to collaborate. We’re in the midst of creating a special workplace-specific movement and mindfulness program that will combine both of our areas of expertise and we’re building it on that same online learning platform. This is just one example of the many collaborations coming from my coworking experience in the past few months and I can only imagine that it’s going to get bigger from here.
- Schedule It In
When you see an activity at your coworking space that you’re interested in, be sure to add it to your calendar. While this sounds obvious, for an introvert who has been their own boss for now over 20 years, I have to remind myself to add social and special interest items to the calendar. Before, I would really only give priority to billable sessions with clients, customers and students, but the interactions and networking that are naturally happening at these social events has been priceless. When I see the Perch events calendar updates, I add events of interest to my master calendar right away, and I would encourage you to do the same at your coworking space.
- Take Full Advantage Of The Space
Having been a scrappy entrepreneur now for two decades, I don’t just see a conference room for meetings, I see a place where I can record videos (that high ceiling really helps my collapsible backdrop), have celebrations with my small team, and connect with new friends. Likewise the soundproof phone booths have been perfect for recording video voiceovers, Skype interview calls, webinars and more. When the space is underutilized on weekends, I sometimes schedule a few hours in the conference room for an intense strategy session where I place stacks of papers all over that huge conference table and plan out the next several months. Then of course there’s also the fact that we have a snap-on ping pong set that makes that conference table way too fun…
I hope that I’ve inspired you to make the most of your coworking experience. While I started a little concerned that I’d get “peopled out” being somewhat of an introvert, I’ve found that being part of a community of smart, talented, fun, and creative people has stimulated my imagination and has increased my earnings and efficiency BIG TIME.