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A Mumpreneur’s Thoughts On Coworking and Coworkation

Mumpreneurs are like any other entrepreneur in the business world and they too have as much of a chance to make it big in the market as others. The concept of a chaotic mumpreneur who is interrupted by a crying baby during important calls and is surrounded with incomplete projects is history.

Today, mothers trying to hit the jackpot are taking a step ahead along with the rest of the working crowd. Furthermore, the introduction of coworking spaces has only enabled them to demarcate their work life from their personal life. In short, what were once baby steps have now turned to become giant leaps towards success.

We spoke to Gunjeet Parmar, computer scientist by education, and mumpreneur at Crafty hands by choice, about her coworking experience. Let us listen to what she has to say about her journey.

UnBoxed: What are the problems that you personally faced when you worked from home, coffee shops, or offices?

Gunjeet: It is definitely better to work at a coworking space than at home, in an office, or even a coffee shop, especially when you are a mother. I tried them all. For about 13 years, I worked in a corporate environment and after having a baby, I tried working from home. There were times I would visit restaurants that provided the facility to sit and work. However, I found the right balance between home and work only at a coworking space.

A blurred boundary between personal and professional environment, especially with children in the house is a biggest problem with working from home. This also includes not being able to enforce personal discipline just as someone with a regular job would do by getting dressed and starting his day at a specific time.

As far as going to coffee shops is concerned, even though free wi-fi is available, there will be a lot of chatter and other distractions. So, giving undivided attention to work becomes troublesome.

Another drawback of working in the coffee shop is that the seating is not ergonomic. Chairs in coffee shops are meant for lounging and not for long working hours. Additionally, the technical backup and quick access to office supplies like courier and print are unavailable.

In a typical corporate environment, there is a lack in the variety of people you get to interact with. Everyone is almost always talking about the same issues. On the top of that, you have deadlines and a crying baby at home.

This is where coworking comes in as a breeze. The space offers a mixed energy of various individuals hailing from diverse fields, thinking in different directions, and doing real work. So, it becomes extremely interesting.

UB: According to you, what are your essential requirements at a coworking space?

G: To work, I first need my tools. These days, a laptop serves most of the purpose and since I am a software professional, I carry my laptop everywhere. Besides that, I need a clean, peaceful, and safe environment. It has to be a space where I can get time to think and do my work with ease with easy access to basic amenities like snacks, internet, electricity, and restrooms. I guess that is about it.

UB: Have you heard about the term “Coworkation”? Please share your thoughts on it.

G: Coworkation, for me, is kind of an oxymoron. I am a firm believer in full vacations. I have children. So when I am away from home on vacation and I am working, I’d like to just work. But, if I am with my children I would be committed to having a good time with them and so I prefer not to work.

However, if I was single and just backpacking and travelling then I would probably cowork.  It is a good concept especially when you run out of money during a vacation as you can start working and earn some.

It is understandable why people would opt for coworkation but, considering my personal situation it will not work for me. My children would be disappointed in me. Also, the border that coworking is helping me establish between my work and family life would start blurring.

UB: Why did it click for you at UnBoxed? What caught your attention there?

G: I have been working at UnBoxed since the last  5 months. Prior to this, I checked out other similar facilities and even tried them for a day, but eventually I liked and chose what UnBoxed provided.

From a professional standpoint, UnBoxed gives me access to everything I need to work, but what really worked for me was their huge open spaces.

Here,  many prefer to sit on the floor. We all have access to one another, so there is a lot of interesting discussion happening and you get to know about what others are doing. This exposes us to different kinds of problems and compels us to come up with innovative solutions. The environment at UnBoxed is flexible and casual without unnecessary rules and regulations.

I find it a breeze to work there.

UB: What went wrong outside UnBoxed at other coworking spaces?

G: Like I mentioned, there were obviously space issues. You cannot work freely in a cramped space where others can peek over your work on and off.

Another reason why other places did not work for me was because their managers did not take the effort of introducing new people to the existing members on the floor, unlike UnBoxed. So, you are working with them not knowing what the person sitting next to you does for a living. The same thing applies to a corporate kind of coworking space. Nobody knows anybody. So, unless you are an extrovert and inclined to making connections yourself, there is no scope of any kind of business networking.

With this, we come to the end to our conversation with the mumpreneur, Gunjeet.

Coworking spaces surely are the next generation workspace for the self-starters and freelancers providing them with all essential facilities and amenities. But as in the case of Gunjeet, we can see not all coworking environments are conducive to everyone’s basic needs. So, what are your views on coworking spaces? Do share with us.

Why Do Coworking Spaces Work?

Today, a larger number of people are working for themselves more than ever. More and more are freelancing or opting to bootstrap their own venture. Whatever be their choice of work, what bothers them is the availability of a space they can work uninterrupted while still having fun.

Freelancers with projects that do not require them moving around usually opt for either coffee houses or their homes as their workplace, while startup owners with small teams rent offices. Both options prove unfeasible in the long run - if one is not  distraction-free, the other is not cost-effective.

So, what does a feasible option look like? Something like coworking spaces. According to DeskMag, in 2014, there were more than 110,000 people working in one of the 2,500 coworking spaces available worldwide. It was also seen that there was an increase in the number of coworking members by 245 people on an average on each work day.

Why coworking spaces are clicking for so many people? To answer this, we picked brains of a bunch of coworkers and the following are our findings.

Making Success Stories

FACT: If, as a freelancer or a small team, you are considering moving into a coworking space , then the good news is that entrepreneurs and freelancers exhibit a higher level of success when operating out of a coworking zone.  

The coworking concept was unheard of 5 years ago. Yet today, it is trending in the industry. Further, if the modern class is seeing this as a stepping stone for their business, this trend holds potential to become a norm in future.

Ishha Ajmera, Founder of White Crow Consulting, credits joining UnBoxed, a wonderful coworking space, for her success,

"I do not know how to quote in terms of numbers, but being at a coworking space has played an integral role in channelizing my energy into my core area of work. It's not expended into arranging tea or coffee or taking care of the electricity for my team. My energy is only focused on doing my work. So definitely I would say, that coworking has given me freedom and an increment of about 30% in my efficiency."

A recent study done at the the Global Coworking Unconference conference states the fact that 84% of people felt more engaged and motivated while 67% confessed an improved professional success at coworking spaces.

Creative Collaboration

Coworking spaces like UnBoxed, which are membership-based, accept anyonewho needs affordable work space. The members range from architects to web developers, entrepreneurs to freelancers, and even artists, all working in one big shared space.

"If you are sitting with a small group of people, doing the same kind of job everyday, you will never have interaction with other folks. There would be no synergy. However, if you talk to different individuals, you realise different kinds of problems and develop an innovative approach to their solutions.
The environment at UnBoxed Coworking is flexible and members are equally open, and the atmosphere is very conducive to my process of ideation. It's perfect!" exclaims Gunjeet Parmar, Entrepreneur, Crafty Hands.

Many feel the difference of work style right from the first day itself. Additionally, the chance to meet interesting people coming from different professions and backgrounds makes this concept all the more inviting.  

At a coworking space, people don’t have to match a company’s criteria and hence, they feel more relaxed and free to work in the way they find most suitable. Without holding anything back, they bring their entire selves with them.

Financial Feasibility

As we have established, these collaborative places are highly affordable financially.

"People should definitely opt for coworking spaces. If I consider the finances, unless I am a team of 10 and I need a separate cabin for private team discussions on an everyday basis, there is no point in renting an office", says Ishha.

Managing everything, from furniture to food  to the office infrastructure just for a team of 3 or 4 is not wise. At Coworking everything is taken care of- Most of the amenities are free and all you have to worry about is your work.

Pankaj, Founder of Payona, quotes:

"While looking for a workspace for my team, I was looking for a fully furnished place with a great ambiance. I discovered UnBoxed online and decided to check it out. I liked the place. It suited my team's preferences and I am quite happy with what I found here."

When coworking can make life so easy, then surely one should give it a try.

These are only some of the reasons why these spaces work for most startups and individuals.

Today businesses do not require the same level of infrastructure as they did in the past. This is the reason for increased number of independent workers and micro-businesses.

So are you still asking yourself  why coworking spaces work?

What Made A Travel Writer Open Up His Own Coworking Space

There are countless blogs and websites out there on the internet, which are dedicated to every imaginable approach to travel, and the most successful ones get paid to do what most of us spend months saving up for. While browsing through some of our favorite travel sites, we got in touch with one blogger who combined his love of the open road with coworking. If you are one of the lucky ones and travel is not only your passion, but also your main source of income, it is important to find a way to combine adventure with productivity. There are no guarantees when you are on the road, so finding a coworking space might be just the perfect solution.

Travel writer and founder of Nowhere Travel Stories, Porter Fox, spoke with Deskmag about his own experience traveling the world while using coworking spaces. In fact, Fox likes coworking so much he has recently launched his own space in New York City. 

As a travel writer, you have to embrace uncertainties while on the road. In many ways this can benefit one's writing. What are some of the challenges you face as a writer while on the road?

Porter Fox: I would say that uncertainty is one of the most exciting parts of travel. There are always challenges…where to sleep, where to eat, where to work. You get out of your world and into a foreign one. It is great for your writing because it's always easier to describe something foreign rather than something familiar. It is much easier to describe a place you've never been than the house you grew up in.

Before you set off on a trip, do you contact coworking spaces in your specific destination beforehand?

PF: I actually don't. I like to run into them as I go. I usually do so through friends, contacts, and strangers. Sometimes it is something informal; sometimes it's more structured. Predictability breeds tedium.

As a professional travel writer what does a coworking space give you that a coffee shop can't?

PF: People go to coworking spaces to get things done. It's always good to be around folks who are productive. In a coffee shop people can be catching, listening to music, anything… folks in a workspace are there in order to accomplish something. In the same way, if there are people in the space who are not working, they can also affect your productivity. The best scenario is to be around folks whose work you admire.

Do you have any specific examples of positive (or negative) experiences that you have had while coworking while traveling?

PF: I worked in one space with a wealthy guy who was in between jobs. He texted on his phone all day long, went out to a fancy lunch, came back and texted some more. His paintings were terrible, mostly because he never worked on them.  He sat right behind me and it was like a giant black hole sucking creativity out of me.

I would think that coworking might turn off some travel writers, because they might find it takes away from spontaneity. Do you agree with that?  

PF: Not really, because when you are a travel writer your work is walking around through the country. You simply need a place to sit down, be quiet and write at the end of the day. They say they you forget 80% of most detail within 48 hours so you need to get it down quickly...

Today, I think many find professional writing a daunting prospect. As things are changing drastically, I think people are afraid that journalism is no longer a lucrative field. Do you think that coworking can help aspiring bloggers and writers find a stable community, and ultimately succeed?  

PF: It helps because it's not just a coworking space, but also a collaborative space. Like-minded people are typically brought together there and you can benefit from that. I've worked for several folks that I shared space with it always goes very well.

Tell us bit about why you decided to open your own space?

PF: I've worked at coworking spaces in NYC for almost 15 years. I had a lot of ideas while I was working there so I decided to design exactly what I wanted. Outdoor workspace, garden plots, flex project space, kitchen/living room, event/teaching space, large communal area, wood-burning stove. It's going great... 

The interview was first published on Deskmag.

What I learnt from spending my Sabbatical at a coworking space

I spent 2 weeks of my Sabbatical to work on a few passion projects and to creatively recharge at one of the most unlikely places: a coworking space in the company of startups. What happened next was a series of discoveries and minor epiphanies.

A working vacation.

I confess I was greatly inspired by a Fast Co. article about why film director Joss Whedon followed up one of the biggest blockbusters ever The Avengers, with a low budget Shakespeare film, and why he needed a “Creative Shift” instead of a vacation.

While I didn’t write a sequel to the Avengers or create Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I had spent a decade at Ogilvy Singapore. Work had been exciting as well as challenging, given the technology disruptions that were happening globally at lightning speed. There was hardly a moment to pause and reflect.

After completing several high-profile campaigns and pitches, I decided that I needed a little time off. My wife, who’s also my creative conscience, suggested I take a vacation. However we both quickly realized I didn’t have to go back to one of my favorite cities, Tokyo to visit the Maraikan (Japan’s Museum of Emerging Science and Technology) or that I desired more Ramen. I needed a working vacation. I needed to “Creatively Refocus”.

My choice of a ‘holiday destination’ was a local coworking space. Apart from the practical reason of needing a desk to work off — I couldn’t attempt this at home as I was pretty sure I would’ve been distracted by my 2 year-old toddler — I also wanted to spend my limited 2 weeks with a sense of urgency and discipline which a sun-and-beach environment would most likely hinder. I deliberately chose The Working Capitol (TWC) as it housed some notable as well as up-and-coming startups in the region. My ‘itinerary’ included my passion projects and getting to know the startup community and their stories. I was all fired up to embark on this adventure.

My first day at TWC was filled with fresh faces in a whole new space. I noticed quickly how everyone had a real energy to them. They were single-minded and frighteningly focused. I was determined to meet all of them. Oh, did I mention that they were all very well dressed?

The entire space felt like a school campus. People mingled at common and break out areas, sharing stories and lunch. No one was hiding in cubicle hell. Often I heard the words “I’m excited, let’s do this”. Every startup here wants to change the world. They are both the employer and employee with great passion for what they were doing. Guys and girls stood in corridors with earphones and sounded absolutely convincing with their business pitches.

What I saw and heard had me worried and envious at the same time — yes, I did a lot of eavesdropping. I wanted to know their motivation and see what I could learn from them.

From discovery to realisation.

One of the startups I met was Photomoolah, a branded photo content service.Photomoolah match brands and photographers to create custom imagery in response to briefs. I found out that one of our Fortune 500 clients worked with them and would be speaking at an upcoming Photomoolah event. This got me thinking: if our clients are now working directly with content creators, how do advertising agencies maintain their competitive edge?

That same afternoon I met one of Singapore’s top photographers (he declined to be named for this post) for lunch. With competition like Photomoolah and average joes with a keen eye and affordable camera equipment, he’s feeling the heat and even had to give up his studio space recently. He then told me about a recent photoshoot where the client was making changes over his shoulder. He had glanced over to the creatives from the agency (not Ogilvy fortunately) and they simply shrugged! What’s going on here? What is the worth of agencies if we have lost our unique creative vision and our right to fiercely defend it? Is this why some clients now bypass agencies because we no longer brought value to the table?

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” — David Ogilvy

Drawing a parallel lesson in my own work.

I’d admit to have fallen over the wayside recently. I had accepted that the solution to selling emotional ideas to a client was to have safe, objective conversations with them. But if we stopped for a moment to believe that our art and commerce could be analysed with cool detachment, we would never provoke any response. At the end of the day a lot of our art is based on intuition. A lot of music is like that, it’s about ‘gut feeling’ — yes, data analysts in our agency might just roll their eyes at that term.

We must then think and operate like startups. We need to keep up and get down to doing things. We need all creatives to understand technology, platforms, media, trends, data, and how to generate ideas. We need to pick up cameras to shoot videos ourselves, use software to string the stories together and get our hands dirty. Do WHATEVER it takes to materialise and sell an idea.

Could agencies start sharing in a shared economy?

If you think about it, coworking spaces are occupied by various startups with varying agendas and ambitions. Just like advertising agencies with our business units, disciplines and client cells. The biggest difference perhaps is how everyone here gets together to leverage each other’s expertise and connections to pursue a shared goal of becoming successful. I heard one startup asking another for help in data analysis. It wasn’t commercial, it was trade bartering.

Could advertising agencies benefit from this culture of shared economy? Would this community be open to agencies bartering both our services for opportunities for great work?

Big inspiration from a Genie.

Crowdfunding is fast becoming a route for startups to raise funds, and Djenee’s (a resident at TWC and pronounced “Genie”) recent record-breaking equity crowdfunding in Asia had me quite excited to meet them. Investor interest in Djenee comes hot on the heels of Magic, a similar service based in the US, which recently raised money at a US$40million valuation just after six months of operations.

It’s interesting how digital concierge services like Djenee could change how we get stuff done on smart devices. Think of it as Spotify meets Uber: on-demand requests fulfilled by an army of “Genies” in a UI free experience through your Apple Watch.

Now imagine Djenee working with brands hoping to create a live-response CRM programme. Or for a campaign, rebrand Djenee to become a brand’s mascot on your wrist, transforming an otherwise faceless service into a human to human experience. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s go back to the start(up).

It’s been an amazing 2 weeks. When you’ve worked in the same place for a long time, being in a different environment and meeting diverse folks make you recall why you started in this business eons ago. The ambition, hunger and courage these startups possess all come flooding back to you.

With my work-cation is over, I return with renewed focus and energy to 2 big upcoming new business pitches and a baby girl coming in October.

Oh, what about that personal passion project I spent 2 weeks on at TWC? Stay tuned my friends. :)

This article was first published at Medium.com and crafted by Melvyn Lim, the Executive Creative Director at OgilvyOne, Singapore. Follow Melvyn on Medium and Twitter to read more.

Why Coworking Makes Sense - Tangible and Intangible Benefits

Do you remember how, a few years from now, the Indian metropolitan crowd faced and resisted the concept of shared cabs?

This concept involved sharing your taxi with other passengers, usually strangers, who were headed in the same direction. Initially, travelling with strangers was not a welcome experience. It meant stepping out of one’s comfort zone. So, if someone owned a car, he/ she would prefer using it over a shared cab.

After all, having to step outside of one’s comfort zone is a scary thing. Just as Neale Donald Walsch once said,

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Some early adopters stepped outside of their comfort zone to catch glimpse of life into shared cabs, and through word of mouth, this concept started selling like hot cakes. Today, it doesn’t make sense to people to hire individual cabs or buy a second one for occasional needs.

Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to rent a complete office if you happen to have a team of only five or even smaller and are just starting up. Further, what if you are a one-man-army or freelancing? Why rent an office or work at home when you can share an office and pay just for your workstation?

Cowork, that’s your answer. A fairly new concept of shared working spaces with independent individual activities going on. Like the shared cabs, you don't need to worry about the directions, getting the tank filled, or pumping the air in tyres or even drive. All you have to do is ride till your destination arrives. Similarly, in a coworking space you do not have to worry a bit about maintenance, electricity, or anything else. You have to arrive at your workstation and just work.

These coworking spaces are different from a typical office environment, and are generally shared by individuals coming from different organizations and professions. These professionals and individuals are mostly strangers to each other, initially, and pay a small fee for the facilities received at these shared spaces.

Coworking Spaces - Do we really need them?

One of the many factors that has led to the sprouting of coworking spaces is the multitude of youth populating the modern workplace. The workplace is more connected than it has ever been before. Employers too, have given ear to this connectivity and heightened amount of human interaction, and have recognized that these factors can actually help foster productivity and innovation.

Let’s talk Benefits

An increasing number of social media groups, WhatsApp groups, cafe meetings, startup meets and conferences, greater use of collaboration options like Slack, Asana, Trello, and such indicate how offices are moving out of the four walls and occupying spaces in places where people want to work at their own comfort and still not lose their motivation.

Trends like these have led us to believe that people are no longer interested in working with a small in-house teams or hiding behind tiny cubicles anymore, nor do they like anything coming in the way of their work, be it commuting or taking care of their offices. Simultaneously, they have an increasing urge to build new social connections with like-minded individuals.

Let us go ahead and see how a coworking space can serve this new breed of workaholic generation.

Freelancing Freely

Perhaps, some of us, as freelancers, are utterly productive and focused to be able to get up every morning and go into the work mode even while staying at home. Yet, the truth is that a majority of freelancers find the idea of working from home a challenging and unconducive way of getting things done. While at home, our mind tends to divert towards many other things, like the laundry, maybe the baby, the cooking, the cleaning, the nagging mothers, and so much more.

This is the reason why we see many freelancers flocking their surrounding coffee houses. But, that too does not save them from distraction as the guilt of taking up a seat for too long catches up on them. So, where can a freelancer go? A coworking office!

At a coworking space, all you get is focus. You can give undivided attention to your projects and not worry about a thing in the world. Having a workstation in a coworking environment is a luxury at a price of a penny. You have the comfort and flexibility of your work and work hours while enjoying the focus a regular workplace offers. Plus, no guilty feelings of occupying the seat for far too long.

And as a bundle deal, you get to expand your connections, learn from others, and bag more freelance projects.

Concentration, Collaboration, Creation

The problem with many individuals of the the new working generation today is that they want to work. However, to find a place where one can concentrate without being distracted, and execute what has been planned is a pain. This same crowd finds ‘working from home’ an isolating experience and their visit to the coffee shops, a distraction. Coworking space offers them the best of both worlds.

The best place to work is one where people are motivated and dedicated towards their work and believe in collaboration as a tool to amplify each other’s strengths. That is where coworking comes into picture.

In a coworking space, you are constantly surrounded by passionate, self-motivated individuals, which positively affects your motivation towards your work. According to a recent study,  coworking spaces have increased by 400 percent in the last two years because they provide community and collaboration which is a much emphasized aspect of working by the upcoming, forward thinking entrepreneurs.

Source:  fundable.com

Source: fundable.com

Real Life Social Networking

A great coworking space engages with its surrounding audience and external community. This space is not renowned because of the pre-existence of  some desks or free wi-fi. Coworking spaces are thriving communities of talented and self-confident people who come not only to work, but also to create real connections that can help them personally as well as professionally. The atmosphere is welcoming, interesting, and beneficial to one, because of the chance to be able to connect and meet with fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Coworking spaces attract myriad members from diversified backgrounds and industries and so, they promote innovation. According to Martin Ruef, a sociologist at Princeton, it was discovered that people who widened their list of contacts from small groups of familiar acquaintances to larger, more loosely-connected networks of people turned far more innovative than their counterparts.

And imagine going on a vacation with your small team of three. How fun would it be if you could team up with other teams, board a big bus and enjoy a hearty gang of guitarists, singers, dancers, card wizards, trekkers, chefs and photographers?! Cost sharing and happiness multiplying - doesn’t that sound fun?

Budget - “Wise”

On a serious note, coworking spaces ease the process of starting a business. Usually when a company is just at its doorstep, it has to focus on many factors like having to hire a workplace, maintaining the employee payroll, cost of facilities, and many more financial expenses which can rip your energies apart in directions that may not be beneficial for the business initially.

Moreover, if you are a startup and the head count of the employees is below five, then hiring a workplace would just be a waste of precious resources. In such cases, coworking spaces allow the opportunity to save up financially, taking into consideration the minimal fee a team has to pay in comparison to the cost of an individual office. Additionally, you get access to enough workspace and other added facilities such as the internet, snacks, drinks, and a lot more.

Again, not just because of the free amenities, the clear benefits of the space is the wealth of human resources present in that space. After all, as a founder of a company that is just at its grassroot level, what would your preference be?

Today, if we can use the  simplified and well devised web tools, a beautiful collaboration can be attained. This way, no one would require to book office spaces or rent residential apartments or work in garage while they are at a premature stage of their business.

Final thoughts

As the saying by Gordie Howe goes -

You’ve got to love what you are doing. If you love it, you can overcome any handicap or the soreness, or all the aches and pain, and continue to play for a long time.

Enjoyment of our daily working culture can have a positive impact on work ethics, well‐being, and productivity. Coworking might be the buzz in India today, but it's sure a buzz for good.

The concept promises more than just the resources and a place to do business. It is a community, and a growing community at that. This is the future of how businesses are going to be carried out. Entrepreneur, startup, or freelancer - no matter who you are, coworking space is the perfect match for you.

Don't forget to tell us what you feel about this new concept in your comments below.

Till then enjoy the following infographic summarizing all the tangible and intangible benefits of choosing a oworking space over other arrangements. Have a look and make up your mind!