It’s easier to build a culture when everyone is working towards a common goal. That’s what happens in any organisation. At any workplace, people make friends, develop intellectual bonds and have encouraging conversations as they work towards their own and their company’s growth.
What happens in a marketplace where you have people from diverse businesses, professions working together under the same roof? The startup ecosystem in the country has led to the growth in the number of individual contributors, freelancers and small and medium enterprises.
Before the concept of co-working or collaborative workspaces came to life, most small enterprises, professionals and freelancers used to work in solitude from home or from cafes. Now they co-exist in a single efficient workspace.
There are some obvious benefits that come with a co-working space – basic amenities, such as high- speed Internet, printers, scanners, cafeterias, etc. without having to invest in setting up an office space from scratch.
Despite various infrastructural and financial benefits, there are certain other softer aspects that one needs to keep in mind, while opting for a collaborative workspace. It is not just about flexible working and affordable prices but about an environment that inspires people to work, while building synergies with other companies and people around.
Pranav Bhatia, founder, Stirring Minds, co-working spaces in Delhi and Gurgaon, shares, “Apart from the usual benefits what co-working space offer is an environment where like-minded people come together to help each other for mutual support and benefit.” It’s a great psychological support – which is absent while working alone.
Prerna Khindri, a PR professional who works out from a co-working space in Delhi, shares, “I haven’t really felt lonely despite being the only one from my company till now. This is because I have always had other people working around me, and they have been approachable for anything I need to discuss with them.”
At co-working spaces people make barter transactions to help each other out in their businesses. This way startups get easy access to various services, and people who have earlier worked in corporate setups also don’t miss their office environment.
Bhatia says, “We encourage people to disturb each other or in other words, to interact more, asking each other for barter. We create games, activities and zones where people can connect with each other on an informal basis. We have a foosball table, a funky café and bunk beds for people working overtime, to provide them an enabling environment.”
“It's still a challenge to map mindsets and synergies, both for someone looking for a co-working space and also for someone who’s managing one.”
A majority of co-working spaces also provide incubation to start-ups connecting them with other enterprises that grew from being mere start-ups to larger entities in the same segment. “We connect beginners from the segment, to the companies that have grown to a certain level for mentoring them. It’s like a business institute leveraging an alumni network,” says Bhatia.
From individuals like Khindri, to freelancers, to teams ranging from two-three people up to 45–50 people, co-working spaces are catering to various needs and preferences offering partitioned workstations, to open seating, café tables, cabins, meeting rooms and even closed areas for 3–30 people. However, to bring together individuals from different backgrounds and businesses, it is still a challenge to map mindsets and synergies, both for someone looking for a co-working space and also for someone who’s managing one.
Bhatia shares, “For instance, if criminal lawyers approach us, they themselves find that the other people around may not understand what they are doing and neither would they know anything about what others are doing, which is why they don’t see much incentive in renting the place. On the other hand, when it comes to designers or finance professionals, who may easily collaborate with other businesses, we let them see the mutual benefit in working with such people around and also offer them lucrative packages. We do this in an endeavour to make the workplace more collaborative and mutually beneficial for all.”
This is how most co-working communities ensure that businesses find all the elements they need to thrive — from graphic designing to digital marketing, finance, web development, etc. Such spaces also provide a community environment by organising common sessions and events for everyone. Stirring Minds, has in the past organised cookery events bringing together people to cook and eat, barbeque dinners and other such engaging events.
Mayank Garg, co-founder and executive director, Haqdarshak, a social enterprise comprising a 25- member team, shares that his space requirements keep changing with four to five members working from Delhi and two to three part-time workers coming and going depending on his requirements. Therefore, a co-working setup is much more feasible for such changing needs. “In addition, we get to interact with other organisations working in different streams in the shared workspace. We can leverage their skills when needed, as every startup needs to build a website, and requires accounting or compliance services,” says Garg.
Co-working spaces today come in various sizes, designs and price packages. With costs ranging from six to nine thousand a seat for full-time rentals, the part-time plans also come in different offerings based on shift timings and the seating preferred. For instance, Stirring Minds has a part-time plan that offers a workstation for eight days in a month, where they have hot-desks available on a first-come-first-serve basis. It does not have a lease either. Instead, it works like the membership of a club. “It’s not like a landlord–tenant relationship but more like a club where all members pay a subscription fee, and abide by certain house rules,” says Bhatia.
With co-working space owners taking initiatives to create and sustain an enabling environment, most companies starting afresh or those expanding to a new city, are seeing co-working as the most viable option. Even workers or individuals seem to have no qualms about working from a shared workspace instead of an owned one. The new-age millennials have especially imbibed the co-working culture well, making it a lucrative option for even larger companies to avail for small, scattered teams.