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The virtual co-working space – a better fit for senior entrepreneurs?

Co-working spaces first began to appear around 2005 and became popular as innovative spaces where the self-employed and aspiring entrepreneurs could have a professional business address and find a community of creative thinkers to support their startups or accelerate the growth of their businesses. The co-working space, which originally sought to provide physical connection with others in similar circumstances, has now gone virtual, accelerated by Covid-19.

The virtual space is seemingly in opposition to the physical, but advanced iterations include virtual floorplans and meeting rooms, avatars for your co-workers that enable you to track where they are in the virtual plan and see what they are working on. They use a range of technologies including ZOOM and Slack channels to explore ideas together or for workshops or simply for a coffee catch up.

When we’re not in lockdown, co-working spaces are considered innovative because they expose people to different ways of working in architecturally inspiring, open-plan spaces designed to encourage and support collaboration, thinking and innovation. They have evolved from being entrepreneur focused to now attracting a broad range of self-employed people from consultants to contractors and freelancers.

But while co-working spaces promote themselves as places for a diverse range of people, a quick on-line search shows spaces full of bright young 20 and 30 somethings. Indeed, the research suggests mature-age entrepreneurs often don’t feel welcome in these spaces and seek the support of like-minded people who are at similar stage of life. For this reason, the new trend towards virtual working spaces might be more attractive to them because they are not limited geographically and therefore may attract a more age-diverse global membership. Being able to easily connect and work with other creative minds around the globe can give virtual spaces the edge in terms of more quickly accelerating business development and opportunities through access to a broader range of skills, knowledge and networks

While virtual co-working spaces offer many of the same opportunities to work and learn together, there is a downside.  It is harder to sustain engagement and a sense of community.  This highlights the importance human beings place on the need for physical connection and closeness.  Sometimes, the computer screen just doesn’t do it for us, making it much easier to lose connection in the virtual world. This means that those offering virtual spaces have to work harder to make the space feel ‘human’ by actively cultivating a sense of belonging regardless of age.

Co-working environments, whether physical or virtual, offer support not only through collaboration and access to a range of resources, but also through transacting services between and among businesses in the same space. So, co-working spaces can be an environment where you promote your services to one another and in turn you are supported financially by one another.  At War on Wasted Talent we want to support this activity by offering members access to our new Marketplace (coming soon) to promote their businesses to one another.  We hope that this may evolve over time into a kind of virtual co-working space where mentoring, networking and advice can take place and where mature-aged entrepreneurs, consultants and freelances can feel at home. We will keep you informed about a launch date in the near future.

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