A sense of community increases productivity. Working in isolation tends to drain energy, brain activity and productivity.
The world of work is evolving. Modern office design is quite different than it was in the early ’90s when I entered the workforce and large offices with walled off cubicles were the norm. We were tethered to our desks by our landline phones, there were lines of people waiting to use copy machines and the fax machines printed a steady stream of correspondences. I recall having a microwave size amber screened dummy terminal as my first work computer.
Wow. have times changed.
As I sit here writing about the world of work I am typing on a super-slim laptop untethered and wirelessly connected to high speed internet. Sitting next to me is my mobile smartphone which keeps me connected to clients, colleagues, friends, family and prospects.
I could be anywhere. In fact, I worked just as productively recently from a patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Panama. I had the same capabilities there that I do wherever I work thanks to technology.
After 20 plus years of working in cube farms and even a dingy basement for a tech startup, I find my current work environment to be the most flexible and rewarding. My company, Groove Management, is a virtual organization.
I worked from home for a couple of years leading my consulting firm and I was productive, but I was missing something. Community. I believe that we are most productive when we are surrounded by other productive people.
Last year I was looking for conference meeting space to host client events in Charlotte when a friend asked me if I had checked out the Advent Coworking space. I visited the next day and found an eclectic work environment with a positive vibe. The space is one large open room with large work tables, cool artwork, a table covered in Legos, a ping pong table, mellow mood music, comfy couches, two private telephone closets, a patio, a conference room, a podcast studio, a large meeting space and gender-neutral bathrooms.
While the physical space is great, what makes Advent and the other Charlotte coworking spaces special are the people.
What I missed and craved while working from home was community. Each day I work at Advent, I choose to sit at a different table which brings me a new perspective and an opportunity to meet and interact with different people. I bring my laptop and phone which provides me with everything I need to be productive.
The founders, Ryan Mitchell and Kevin Guriunas have done a great job of creating a culture for their space. There is a fish bowl of rubber duckies with a note that says that if you want to work in peace and not be disturbed, place a rubber duckie next to you to tell others to “quack off”. There are also small signs with conversation starters like “I’m looking to brainstorm,” and “I have good news, ask me about it,” that you can put next to you.
And it’s not just Advent. Workers and entrepreneurs are finding this community in coworking spaces all over Charlotte, like C3 Lab, HQ Charlotte at Packard Place, Industry Coworking, Hygge, Level Office, The Launch Factory, alt-biz and Coterie.
Community and culture go hand in hand in the workplace. While in graduate school studying organizational development at American University, I took a required class called Community Time. It involved an unstructured 90 minutes in which the class sat in a circle. There was no agenda and no teacher. In a world filled with structure, deadlines, competition and deliverables, we were required to sit together in a circle for a free flowing conversation. It taught me so much about human behavior and group dynamics. I have been applying the learnings from that class to teams and team dynamics ever since.
Working in a co-working space has provided me with a new community of friends and business contacts, and has motivated me to grow my business. Forbes published an article titled “Why You Should Surround Yourself With Productive People For Success,” which highlights the fact that productivity is contagious. I have found that the routine of commuting to the coworking office sets me in the right frame of mind to be productive and get more accomplished.
My recommendation: Explore the times when you are most productive, most creative and most engaged. There are probably some common themes and your work environment most likely has great influence. Coworking filled a missing void for me and boosted my productivity.
The modern workplace is designed to foster community and collaboration. If you work in isolation, try shifting your work environment. It will most likely lead you to be more productive and happier at work.