AN ODE TO 6 YEaRS OF COWORKiNG
I never really knew what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. I did well enough at school - no major concerns but nothing I particularly excelled at. With no stand-out area of success, it made sense to follow what I enjoyed and I really enjoyed art class. After years of toying with wanting to be a jockey, a stable hand, to train dogs…I went to Art School. I was lucky enough to do my Foundation Diploma at Leeds College of Art and my BA Degree in Graphic Design at Brighton University. The day before I headed South from North Yorkshire, I had an existential meltdown that I did in fact, want to be a vet.
Long story short, and probably a few large glasses of wine for my mother, I ended up going down to Brighton the next day and never looked back. When I finally left Art School 3 years later with my very expensive degree and began looking into the world of work, I realised I had enjoyed my time being solely creative, but I knew I was wrong about Graphic Design, and being a vet, and definitely about being a jockey…
The reality of being without a student loan was looming, a girl had to eat, pay rent, and this new phenomenon of paying council tax. I needed a job, any job. I went for an interview as a Front of House – through all the iterations of my plan for life, I’d always been good at a chat and a cuppa tea so I thought “that’ll do”. I walked through the doors of this bizarre hidden treasure of a space that could have been called ‘platf-nine-erm’ entirely unaware that I was about to discover loud and clear my truest nerdiest passion.
I became obsessed with my job, in the first instance because it was a similar culture to that I had known and loved at art school, a collaborative space, seeing a multitude of people doing different things, and then, the way it connected me to a city I already thought I liked a lot but didn’t know would embed itself in my heart. It created me a network of connections, springboarding me into a world of knowledge and understanding of coworking and community.
PLATF9RM was in its Start-Up Era – it was work hard, play hard. The small team I started with worked almost every hour under the sun and did a lot of playing under the hours of the stars. We were all guns blazing, lively and fun. Setting the groundwork for what would become a more established coworking community. The first of its kind in Brighton & Hove. It was still hard to describe what I did to most people, I covered a lot of areas of the business – both fun and exhausting – not that many people had heard of coworking and it wasn’t any of the easily summed up in a title but I was loving what I was doing.
3 years in, I boldly told Seb Royle (Founder & CEO) – “I am aiming to run this company”. He didn’t laugh me out of the room! All other ideas of potential careers are out of the window. I am in this industry, I want to be here, and it’s been really nice to feel like I’m pretty good at it.
This week, I’m celebrating 6 years at PLATF9RM, from that first Front Of House job to General Manager…I use Excel more than I’ve ever wanted to and I have dreams about Excel formulas more than I care to admit. I have been so lucky with where my career has taken me – I thought it’d be nice to share 6 important things I’ve learned and love about coworking:
There are some incredible Communities being built online and in person at the moment. I believe that we are finally investing in and acknowledging the importance of being around similar people. There are many different types of people, who look to join coworking communities.
Two of my favourite new member types to follow on their journey once they’ve joined PLATF9RM are those who may have just moved to the city or going slightly insane working from their home and are looking for friendship or like-minded people to work amongst and then those who don’t even know how beneficial coworking is going to be to their business.
Watching friendships grow, ideas and businesses thrive, and collaborators creating from the serendipity of sitting at the same table on the right day is the power and ultimate goal of coworking.
It’s truly not as simple as putting a few large desks and chairs in a room and expecting magic to happen. We’ve had Private Offices sign for space because they’re looking for that pre-fab buzz that the coworking community does so well, it’s hard to recreate in just one room.
Creating a community is a process. If the requirements for building a community is shared experience, a talking point and consistency – at PLATF9RM, I’ve watched the most effective moments not always being the intentional ones.
For us, that can often take the shape of our infamously temperamental hot water tap (to my Location Managers, this is still not a good enough reason to stop looking into how to fix it). When it’s intentional, it looks like good music, great coffee, engaging, insightful, topical events, healthy competition between members at a nostalgic sporting event, and listening carefully to what your members are looking for. People are buying into something bigger than a desk to work from, they want to be heard, and they want to see the impact of sharing their thoughts. It’s important to encourage people to get involved but accept that not everybody will want to.
If you’re familiar with coworking, the general setup is similar across the industry. If you’re not it can have the slight first day of school vibes. People look like they know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it. But, embrace that feeling and you’ll get out what you put in. Attend the events, chat to people in the kitchen, say hello to the dogs firstly and connect with their owners second. Without taking away from the serendipitous encounters, it’s worth remembering that there is potential and opportunity in all of the people you have conversations with.
The following is a non exclusive list of things that you’ll hear about every single day in some capacity and must be INVESTED WELL in:
– The right coffee
– The music
– The overall temperature of the office space
– The Wi-Fi & the technology
And for me personally, the one that members don’t necessarily know they consider a basic until they feel it missing is the team you hire to work the space. They are the most important people in the building, they are connectors, doers, creative problem solvers, conversationalists, brand ambassadors.
You remember building the perfect house on The Sims? They benefit from light, comfort, art/colour, greenery and plants. In real life, it’s harder to Ctrl+Shift+C Motherlode for endless budget but this is one place where function over fashion doesn’t work so well. Think wisely about your decoration, a strong theme and considered design will make your coworking space a beautiful and nice place for people to work, to think creatively, and be productive.
The bits that makes my heart go boom-boom-boom! We’re currently at 1000+ members, a lot of whom used to spend majority of their time going to London for work. Coworking Space retains talent in the city or town where there members live. Beyond those walls you can engage, support and partner with local independent brands, then you can partner, support and promote local, grassroot charities. You can build your purpose, collaborative outcomes and cheerleading into the fabric of your city and I think that’s just bloody lovely.
Tomorrow (9 August 2023) is Global Coworking Day…“Join a coworking space!” has become one of my most used sentences, not even “join PLATF9RM” – they are such valuable assets to our high streets and large un-rentable office spaces. I implore you on this day of coworking celebration to go looking for the right fit for you, the options are ENDLESS!