New working environments

Frequently nowadays one can see someone opening a laptop in a Starbucks and working away, apparently oblivious to the other people there. This is part of a new trend, “co-working,” working on some task that normally takes place in an office, but now can be somewhere else.

More and more coffee shops, snack bars, and lounges provide electric outlets for a computer to be plugged in while having something to eat or drink.

Co-working means collaborating with an individual you have not been associated with in the usual office setting. Working environments have become altogether new.

Something fairly recent is the choice between relocating to a non-office spot, or trudging off to a regular office, where your boss is keeping an eye on you, putting up with an office bore telling you about his weekend, or being distracted by a loud telephone conversation.

The concept of co-working is flexible, but it does mean working somewhere not in the usual office setting. For many of us it continues to be startling to see someone in a coffee shop plunk down a computer into an electric outlet, and working assiduously, completely ignoring the surroundings.

This trend began not long ago, according to Emergent Research, a California organization, but it suddenly has seemed to take off. Thus, at the present time there are a number of co-workers’ facilities. All this is fueled by several things, such as greater reliance on computers and e-mails, more women and freelancers in the workforce, and the continuing desire for anonymity. Other factors too are the willingness of companies to permit employees to have flexible working arrangements, and, of course, the rising costs of office space.

Some co-working spaces are specially designed to incorporate facilities within company offices. That probably is an outgrowth of the open-office arrangements that unfortunately have become trendy. Inside some small private companies in Toronto are desks to spare, useful for co-working.

Advertising and creative workers appear to like the idea of bringing in a new group from outside to work together on some specific project. Architects may come to be logical candidates as they find that co-working in a unit could spawn original thinking. Co-working can introduce new people to each other and lead to new opportunities for collaboration.

For those who disdain the old-style working atmosphere, co-working may be a pleasant change. There may be all kinds of variations on co-working, and if more accept this innovation it could provide a refreshing change for many.


Bruce Whitestone