With the threat from automation ever increasing, the need to find a new way to work increases as well – and job-sharing, the introduction of universal basic income and a shorter working week are some of the proposed modes of change. Could your coworking space be the perfect model for implementing radical changes – and for creating a future in which work is a more collaborative, flexible and rewarding activity?
The way we work is changing
Undoubtedly the most significant change in recent years has been a move away a job market characterised by careers for life and fixed, contractual hours. In its place, we’ve seen the rise of what many call the ‘gig economy’, in which more workers operate as independent contractors and are paid on a gig-by-gig basis.
This style of working has both its advantages and disadvantages, suiting some roles more than it does others. For many freelancers, a gig economy will probably sound like yesterday’s news – but the rapid growth of major gig-based employers like Uber and Deliveroo has led to fears of a job market characterised by increasingly precarious employment and an ever more nomadic working lifestyle.
The most pressing concern for the gig economy, however, is its ability to withstand impending future changes – most notably, automation. Work is well underway on developing safe and efficient driverless cars, but where would such a development leave the countless people employed as delivery drivers or bus and taxi drivers? And in an era in which robots and AI algorithms can perform tasks as complex as making sushi, carrying out medical diagnoses and responding to customer complaints, is any job safe from this trend?
It’s unlikely that we’ll be returning to old models of work, but we need a more secure and sustainable one than is offered by the fair weather working conditions of the gig economy – and coworking could offer the perfect framework.
Is coworking the solution?
Coworking offers workers more control over their working lives and a greater sense of personal security – the casualization of the job market, but without the accompanying precarity, and chosen by the workers themselves instead of being the only option available to them. This mixture of flexibility and security that these spaces offer make them an ideal underpinning structure to protect workers if the need arises to trial radical solutions such as a shorter working week or universal basic income.
In fact, not only could coworking offer more security to workers, it could actually lead to a more productive, prosperous and rewarding worklife for them. The benefits of coworking are numerous – research by the Harvard Business Review found that coworkers were more likely to view their projects as meaningful and fulfilling, while their sociable atmosphere is the perfect antidote to the long hours and stressful conditions of less flexible office space – which have been shown to be detrimental to the mental health and productivity of staff. There’s a reason that even a globe-spanning corporation like Microsoft has chosen to move 75% of its marketing and sales staff into coworkingspaces.
Automation has the potential to create enormous upheavals in our lives, but there is no reason that these changes cannot be navigated, and even benefited from. Instead of attempting to halt the development of new technologies, we should instead prioritise refocusing the job market and establishing new models for our working lives. Radical new ideas such as job-sharing, universal basic income or reorganising the working week may, or may not, be the solutions of the future – but it’s important to find out, and coworking offers a vision of how we can achieve that.