As this is being written, COVID-19 has taken full hold in Australia and across the globe. Isolation is something the greater part of the world’s countries are experiencing, for many people, for the first time. However, isolation is something many business owners and people working from one ‘gig’ to the next experience on a daily basis. We often talk about sustainability only through the lens of materials and the physical aspects of life however, the social aspects of sustainability, health and well-being, are as critical, something COVID-19 has highlighted in an extraordinary manner.
The introduction and development of co-working spaces over recent years has enabled people in small businesses to connect in varying ways. These spaces provide a place to work, offering most of the ‘mod-cons’ you would expect to find in most corporate offices – different types of workspaces, meeting spaces, kitchens and chill out zones. Naturally, these provide the occupants of co-working spaces with increased opportunities for networking, support and collaboration.
Increasingly however these spaces are also providing valuable sources for increased well-being and health, that would be beyond the capabilities of most home offices.
Take for example The Wing, co-working spaces designed for women in the USA and now London. While exquisitely designed and decorated, the additional services and spaces these co-working spaces provide have been particularly developed with the needs of women in mind. Lactating rooms, childcare spaces and hair and beauty salons, not only provide women working for themselves with the resources they may find difficult or too expensive to access normally but perhaps most importantly provides the addition of emotional and empathetic support.
Back in Australia, co-working organisations such as UnitedCo. and Engine House are providing co-working spaces that not only tap into the networking needs of their users but include swathes of natural light, large open spaces, engaging social spaces and cosy nooks for taking some time out. Yoga rooms and gyms can provide much needed spaces for physical health.
Of course, we can’t have an article about co-working spaces without mentioning WeWork that now has 22 co-working spaces in four of the major cities in Australia. Their spaces for wellbeing can include games rooms, mother’s rooms, bike storage, showers, wellness rooms – lockable spaces that can be used for a nursing mother, for prayer, or meditation – as well as workspaces that can be dog friendly. All adding to the importance of looking after the health and wellbeing of their clients.
Working for yourself can be the dream of a lifetime, but it can also be isolating and stressful. Co-working spaces are providing ways for people in small businesses to come together, share, network and collaborate but also address critical sustainable issues of health and wellbeing that is perhaps only possible when we, as humans, come together.
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