The increased setting up and use of co-working spaces is sweeping all across the world. Though the trend is still relatively new especially on the African continent, there is already some activity to that end. In this article, I discuss how co-working spaces can be a panacea in this ailing economy, plus other important related information. By the end of this article, you should have understood the basics of co-working spaces. As you will see co-working spaces offer great advantages to both those who set them up and those who use them.
What Are Co-Working Spaces?
A co-working space is, in essence, shared office space or in simple terms, it is a working space where people either working independently, as teams or in collaboration can share the space. When someone creates such a space they want to provide a conducive shared working environment fully furnished with the necessary equipment you would normally find in an office. So the approaches are quite basic; you can purchase or lease a place that is conveniently located. You then turn it into a co-working space and you add more related services as the business grows. The working principle is that no one using a co-working space pays for it like someone in a lease or rental agreement. The concept is anyone can come, pay and use the facility any time for a particular period e.g. some hours or a day. Time slots will also depend on the services being sought and the demand for the services. For example, if you are offering services for the use of boardroom facilities and there is a high demand for them then time slots can become shorter.
Let us delve into why co-working spaces are key to addressing some challenges in this Zimbabwean economy. These are advantages that co-working spaces bring but they are in essence ways in which co-working spaces can create value in an ailing economy like Zimbabwe.
This is obvious and stems from the fact that diverse individuals operating in diverse fields get to meet at co-working spaces. You must understand that in a co-working space there is lots of teamwork and collaboration amongst those who know each other and more importantly complete strangers. Such mingling will lead to conversations that can result in business partnerships that can unlock value for the economy. This is extremely important because networking is one of the biggest ingredients for the birth or growth of businesses.
Amenities – Business Opportunities
From looking at some established co-working spaces in other parts of the world, I discovered that amenities are central to making a co-working space sought-after. When looking at amenities I am referring to things like kitchens, onsite accommodation, leisure services (e.g. bars, movie houses) and so on. These are important because they spice up the co-working space environment to make it feel so free and casual. When someone builds or provides a co-working space they can offer such amenities themselves if they have the funds. If not, they can invite those who have the funds to set up the amenities and offer them in partnership with the co-working space owner. Just looking at this you can see that lots of business opportunities and employment can be created through this.
Reducing Business Overhead Costs
This is one of the biggest reasons why co-working spaces are needed especially now. In this ailing economy, the cost of doing business has shot up through the roof. Some of the things that lead to this are office space and office equipment. However, through the use of a co-working space, you eliminate the burden of having to experience office space and office equipment bills. Think of it this way, when you want you or your employees to do something they just go to the nearest co-working space when needs be. You will not need office supplies, paying for cleaning services or employing people for that. Things like insurance, security services for an office location will no longer be your concern. So it is quite apparent that overhead costs can be significantly reduced through the use of co-working spaces instead of full-time offices.
Improving Worker Morale
Already I have given an indication of how casual a co-working space can be. I have also talked about the collaboration and networking aspect. All these create flexibility and doing things at your own pace in a relaxed environment devoid of office politics and bureaucracies that often characterise full-time offices. When all this and more are put together, it contributes to the overall well-being of workers because they will be doing their work without stress and pressure. Ultimately this creates a more productive and fulfilled workforce.
More Disposable Time
Remember from what I said earlier that one can be at a co-working space for just a short period of time (depending on what they want to do). Once they are done they can go on to do other things. This is a plus for workers because they would not need to be stuck in an office all-day at times without even doing anything productive. Thus one ends up getting more time to pursue other activities to generate more income. This is particularly important these days because a salary is usually not enough. Interestingly, the fact that one pays for a time slot makes them fully utilise it thus making them more productive. This is catalysed by the incentive of having more time to use for them once they are done with their work commitments.
There is so much I can discuss on co-working spaces but I have just touched on key giveaways. In Zimbabwe, there are some already offering co-working spaces e.g. Harare Business Forum, Tech Hub, Impact Hub and Tech Village. You can check out their services in article I wrote some time back. I would encourage people to start co-working space businesses and entrepreneurs to consider using co-working spaces to reduce their overheads.