Coworking in a better space

Guest post by Marc van Sittert, Better member

With the phenomenon of coworking prompting a consistent doubling of available, geared coworking spaces across the globe each year over the last decade, there is nowadays lots of valid commentary and information around the issue. Facts and figures, however, can only do so much justice to what is always a rather loose association of users of coworking facilities. While the obvious parallel can be drawn between the rise of freelancing as a career path (freelancing grew 38% in the UK in 2016, and not due to a shrinking economy either, as over 80% of respondents had chosen to exit formal employment), coworking as a concept has far deeper roots and greater value than current freelancing trends indicate.

It was Steven R. Covey who said that the synergy of interdependence is an unknown and potentially huge benefit of right living. Taken down to the minutiae, every time you step into a coworking space, you’re faced with an unknown potential that is a wonderful, mysterious gift to the gregarious. It’s as though coworking spaces have arisen as the logical answer to humanity’s inevitable disillusionment with the rote factory production that sparked the Industrial Revolution all those years ago and changed the world as we know it. Not only do coworking spaces adopt a point of departure that both assumes and fosters professional integrity, competence, enjoyment and trust, they also enable something synergistic, something wonderful.

Interestingly, it was Covey who pointed to how the most important things seem never to get done, what he called Quadrant 2 activities. Coworking is precisely such a framework, just the space, to enable this life balance we all deserve and make us all, in his words, highly effective people. It reaches deeper than any other employment format – whether one “coworks” alongside a thousand colleagues a day or not in a formal employment setting – as it evokes the massively empowering and soul-warming human need to choose our environment, to choose our association, especially in the name of work. Far from the inevitable allegiance (read: ownership) that Company X demands of its employees as they file into that giant temple to its success every day, coworking is almost delirious in its meeting of the human need for unfettered, autonomous choice. Far from a melodramatic, pop-psychological observation, returning to the facts and figures, the last point is demonstrably true as cowork is, wonderfully, on the rise. And, since coworking spaces need to make money too, they are rising on the field where capital plays. They just play nicer! Free of the politics, status and tinselly considerations of a formal employment space, coworking portals shine bright into the cosmos.

Coworking does away with all of the negatives and enables all of the positives. When you put it that way – put it like that, look at it and realize it’s true – it can surely only be the slow, fearful wind-down of traditional models that inhibits the entire world rushing into their nearest coworking venue.

A glimpse of the ill-defined wonder and latent, huge productivity of coworking is probably best intimated by looking at two divergent outlets’ comments on the issue. Very much like religion and science are often saying the same thing and pointing to the same reality, but with different words, in these two snippets a similar theme is apparent.

In an article for Entrepreneur¹, author Ann Smarty lists six benefits to the business world of coworking spaces. On another site, the Coworking Handbook² lists 26 reasons why coworking is legitimately great, with the 27th being happiness. While one is a nod from formal employment and the other an unashamed “how-to” manual for the liberated mind, both point to the same growing, enjoyable and productive reality. Coworking is starting to be valued even by formal business, though business isn’t geared for the far looser, standalone freelancer’s space a typical coworking environment is.

It is interesting to note that the term “coworking” is credited as the invention of San Francisco resident Brad Neuberg, circa 2005, and in that city coworking spaces have proliferated ever that since. Looking for a model that encompassed both the outright freelance insistence on freedom of choice as well as the communality and equipped space of formal employment, recognizing as he did that in that marriage a sinless child would be born, Neuberg first brought the concept into sight of official recognition. If coworking was a dotcom, considering it’s explosive growth over just more than a decade, it would be a Silicon Valley blue chip by now, worth billions.

What will you find when entering a coworking space? Nothing! Everything! Who knows? And that’s the magic of it, the variable, the unknown, and the ultimate value. You may sit alone some days, pondering in the quiet of the place. You may need earmuffs on other days as it’s so busy. You may find yourself holding the floor at times, regaling dozens of strange faces. And you will very surely glean snippets from others in both suits and dungarees that could change your world forever. Simply because no one can cap the potential of the synergistic choice in you, coworking becomes another, different, amazing planet. That, is the thing. To try to overly define the magical essence inherent in sharing a diversified, voluntary workspace it is to have it elude you. To experience it, is to open yourself to the possibility of the greatest “work” of your human life.

Coworking holds a promise that’s hard to define yet, once known, mighty hard to live without.

¹ https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287882

² https://www.coworkinghandbook.com/advantages-benefits-coworking-list/

 

 

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So you want to learn to code?

Programming is a skill much in demand and lucrative. Do you want to add it to your freelance toolkit?

There are many sites out there that will teach you to code, but which do you pick? Exactly which languages and tools do you need to know? How do you get started? And what is the work really like? Will programming work for you?

Freelance software developer, Andrew Backhouse, unveils the mysteries and guides you towards your bright new future in this morning workshop.

  • Who: Those with no or limited programming experience who want to explore this as a new line of work
  • Cost: R500 (R400 for members of Better)
  • Time: 9:30am – 1:00pm
  • Dates: Thursday 10th August

Booking and prepayment essential. Call 011 327 6098 or email create@better.joburg.

Find our EFT details here.

Making a creative space in a practical life with Gail Schimmel

The question that I am most often asked is how I manage to make space to be a writer when I have a day-career as a lawyer and am a hands-on mom.

The answer lies in a new way of thinking about our lives – gone are the days of each person only being allowed one job or role. The new catch phrase is “portfolio living” and the idea is that each of us has several portfolios. Gone are the days when we have to choose one expertise – there is nothing to stop one person being an expert in two, often unrelated, things.

Many people experience extraordinary frustration because they want to be more creative, but they can’t figure out how to make a creative space in their practical lives. They know that they don’t want to throw up their careers and become a starving artist, so they give up on their creativity all together.

Join me for a fun morning where we explore how to make a creative space in your practical life – and what your creative space might be. Interactive, creative and lots of fun.

 

Gail Schimmel is the author of three novels – Marriage Vows (2008), Whatever Happened to the Cowley Twins (2013) and The Park (2017). She has also written a children’s book (Claude & Millie, writing as Gail van Onselen) and a text book on advertising law. Gail’s short story was runner up in the 2016 Short Sharp Stories award. She runs her own consultancy as a lawyer specialising in advertising law. Gail lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two children.

 

Date: Weekday morning, 9:30 to 12:30 am, enquire for the next dates

Cost: R550, including refreshments and all materials (R450 for members of Better). EFT details

The workshop is limited to twelve participants for maximum impact

Booking essential! Contact Patience on 011 327 6098 or patience@better.joburg.

Planning your freelance career

There is a lot to like about freelance work: being your own boss, control of your time, chosing your customers. But making the transition to freelance work is difficult and scary.

If you have been thinking about it, or have made some steps towards freelance work, but are not sure whether to commit fully, here is an opportunity for you to think it through.

The course is very hands-on, working through exercises. We work with small groups so that there is time to listen to each person’s story and discuss specific strategies and solutions for you.

 

The workshop runs over three evenings, discussing:

Session 1: Where are you now?

In this first session we assess where you are, your skills, opportunities and challenges and why you want to freelance. We also look at the kind of person you are and how suited you might be to a freelance life.

Session 2: Where you want to be?

In our second session we get creative, and you imagine your perfect freelance life. How much time will go into work? How much money do you want to make? What will your working day look like? We also take a sober look at what might be feasible in the next year or so.

Session 3: How will you get there?

In our final session we discuss strategies for making the transition. What needs to be in place before you can make the move? Whose buy-in do you need? We look at strategies that have worked for other freelancers and discuss what might work for you. Then you craft a plan and map out the steps you need to take.

 

Does it help?

Donna Chiang had this to say after attending:

“Please could you pass on my thanks to Judy and Andrew for hosting such a wonderful workshop? I really enjoyed it and felt that I could propel myself in a practical and inspired manner towards the things that I enjoy doing. And make an income doing so.

We spoke about things that were so relevant to me and they gave such practical tips to apply in my current situation and things to think about when I’m eventually where I am where I want to be. The 3 days spread over the 3 weeks, helped solidify my learnings.”

 

Judy has a background in business strategy as well as experience of freelance work and Andrew is a long-time freelancer. This workshop shares what they have learned and the resources they have collected in their freelance journeys.

  • Who: Those contemplating freelance work or in the process of making the transition
  • Cost: To attend all three evenings R400 (R300 for members of Better)
    or to attend one evening R150 (R120 for members of Better).
  • Time: 6.00pm to 7.30pm,
  • Dates: Tuesday 1st, 8th and 15th August

Maximum 6 places. Booking and prepayment essential. E-mail Candy at  patience@better.joburg or call 011 327 6098.

Find our EFT details here.

 

 

Introducing Patience, Better’s magic fairy

 

We’d like to introduce the Better community to Patience Phiri, who joined Better at the start of February. Technically, she’s our receptionist, but we like to think of her as the magic fairy that makes your wishes come true.

Patience popped among hundreds of applicants by writing an awesome cover letter in which she described herself as “down to earth, fun, caring and calm”. She loves “reading, writing, deco, gardening, art, cooking, calmness, fresh breeze, positivity, humans and making this world a better place in any way that I can”, which is exactly the kind of excellent human we wanted here.

Patience has already started to bring order to our lives. She is a whizz at administrative tasks, which is great for Andrew and Judy, since they are not. She also learns quickly and can now wield a staple gun as well as her magic wand, but you’ll have to visit Better to learn what she was doing with that!

Pop along and meet Patience. Better is open from 9am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, or join us for one of our events.

Looking for a Better job?

Update: Applications for this position are now closed. Thanks to all who responded.

We’re hiring! Please point anyone at this ad who you think would make a great first impression for Better.

Better Receptionist

Are you able to bring people together, put them at their ease and make them feel loved and cared for? Do you want to work in a relaxed happy space, for between 20 and 40 hours a week, surrounded by creative people?

Better is (soon to be) a shared space for artists, writers, crafters and other creative people. We are looking for a receptionist to greet people, make them happy, manage memberships, sell items from our kiosk, arrange events, and keep the place organised. Please explore this blog to learn more about Better.

What we want from you:

  • A sunny, outgoing disposition
  • An ability to work well with people
  • A good memory for names and faces
  • The ability to connect and introduce people
  • A good telephone manner
  • Great organisational skills
  • Computer skills – spreadsheets, word processor, e-mail

And optionally (nice, but not essential):

  • Any retail experience
  • Events organising experience

We can offer R50 per hour, with a bonus each month that the company exceeds monthly targets. Starting date will be 01 October 2016 (if all goes to plan).

To apply, send a CV and a cover letter saying why you would like to work for Better to: better.joburg@gmail.com. Please put “Better Receptionist” in the subject line and apply before 21 August 2016.

We will only contact short-listed candidates. If we don’t find the right person, we won’t appoint anyone.