For anyone who works from home, they know that the smallest distractions can become a big nuisance and affect productivity. Another downside of home-based work that’s not commonly realized: Isolation. It can zap focus, emotional stability and even networking skills – a prerequisite for most industries in the professional world.
Understanding the loneliness that comes along with working from home, entrepreneurs, small businesses even satellite locations of major corporations are increasingly moving their teams into co-working spaces – professional environments ideally suited for organizational structures that are flexible, as alternatives to traditional offices.
Negative issues surrounding home offices were recently demonstrated in an international study. According to a recent Canadian Business report, 37% of Canadian workers doing so from home say they experience loneliness and 65% say they miss networking with colleagues and fellow professionals.
And the need for flexible workspaces isn’t going anywhere, according to Forbes, noting that the rise in the number of entrepreneurs and small business owners is fueling a demand for a more flexible alternative to help redirect cash flow from costly leases to more critical business functions.
Many workers recall the mandate set forth by Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer, who nixed its flexible work from home policy in an effort to get workers to reconnect physically at a time when the company was flailing in red ink. While some may cringe at the thought of turning in their pajamas for a suit and tie, Mayer may have unwittingly been a harbinger of workplace trends to come.
For some workers set in their ways, doing business in a co-working space may take them out of their comfort zone, even though its networking capabilities aspect could ultimately result in a more productive environment. So how can you ease into networking comfortably while in a shared office environment? Here are three ways to get you started:
- Don’t go out of your way to sell yourself. Good connections in co-working spaces often happen naturally. Writers and tech entrepreneurs, for example, seated near each other often make good pairings. Rather than a hard (or soft) sell, try bartering work. Swapping services is likely to catch the ears of fellow co-workers and result in more business down the road.
- Be friendly and socialize. Strike up conversations and be conversational, writes Kate Swoboda in Entrepreneur Sometimes these people can be part of your client target market. Focus more on the conversation than on prospecting for the right moment to pitch your business. Try to remain positive and upbeat: you’ll always get more with honey than with vinegar.
- Knowledge is power. Sharing your knowledge can lead to future gains, particularly in co-working spaces where openness is encouraged. No one expects you to share trade secrets but helping out a co-worker more than likely will result in good karma coming your way in the form of knowledge you can use.
Even if your company has nothing in common with your co-working comrades, the potential for networking is always just around the corner desk. If you’re fun, personable and easy to talk to, you’ll be noticed and recommended to others.
As the trend gains traction, shared workspace continues to replace the office water cooler as a productive gathering spot for mobile professionals to network and stay socially connected with their colleagues.
Have you or your coworkers experienced professional networking opportunities in a shared work space? Leave a comment.