If you find yourself as a newly independent worker – such as a consultant, a freelancer, or even someone with a corporate job that now has no dedicated office space for you – you might be wondering if it “gets any better” than working at home. Alone.

When we started The Docking Station in 2010, we had journeyed out on our own, as well, and we found ourselves wondering the same thing.

As solopreneurs starting our businesses, we wanted to work independently, but not alone. We wanted some of the amenities offered by our former corporate offices, but not the typical isolated office suites that were on the market at the time. We wanted a community of like-minded professionals in a creative setting with driven professionals who were there to work; not like the local coffee shop where socializing seemed top priority. The tagline for The Docking Station –work independently, not alone– neatly captured this philosophy then, and still does today.

A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces. That title alone is intriguing, but it begs a couple of questions. First, what does it mean to thrive? Second, how can coworking spaces enable independent professionals or small companies to thrive?

Thriving is defined as the psychological state in which individuals experience both a sense of vitality and learning, according to the researchers who published the study behind the HBR article. This is interesting, as those are some of the same feelings we’ve heard coworking members express when at The Docking Station. What we hear most is how people here are engaged and learning.

So, then how does coworking enable independent professionals or small companies to thrive? There are a couple of key components that add to the benefits of vitality and learning.

Control and autonomy– Part of the reason people choose to become independent professionals is to have more control over their livelihoods, their time, their work, and their future. However, one cannot just have control and autonomy without structure and discipline.

We have all had those days, usually working from home, when mid-afternoon rolls around and we are frustrated with what we have not yet accomplished and wonder what we have done with the day. On the other hand, knowledge professionals in coworking spaces find that hard-working independents just like them can be both inspirational and instructional (we’re back to vitality and learning already…) in everything from growing their business to sharing effective productivity practices like time blocking.

Community, connections, and consistency– Being an independent professional can initially be a daunting experience. There are so many things to do and learn as you become the CEO of you. But if you are trapped in your own home office every day, you are largely on your own when it comes to personal growth. More than that, humans are wired to connect with one another. Even us introverts need interaction.

The need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water, according to Professor Matthew Lieberman author of  “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.” Human beings suffer when our social bonds are threatened or severed – something we’re learning more about in this period of COVID where burnout is reportedly at an all-time high with knowledge workers, according to recent studies.

Coworking is not about just having an office or shared space to go to. That is great, and it is certainly a legitimate reason to work from a coworking space or even become a member. But, coworking is really about making a choice to invest in yourself, your business, and your career so that you can truly thrive in your business, keep learning, and make life-long connections with other like-minded professionals who will support your personal and business growth.

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