At a cosy hall somewhere in Lagos, young men and women sit over their laptops at fancy desks and get themselves busy. Right in the hall are facilities that befit the work that goes on here; water dispensers and air conditioners in strategic corners, books lining rows of shelves by the side, and internet available for use. Everyone appears to be busy and the ambience seems altogether calm.
The hall depicted above is not the office of one company but of several. Welcome to the 21st century where the definition of the office is fast evolving. As a reaction to the realities of the modern work culture, co-working has emerged as one of the developing business practices of today. Wikipedia defines co-working as a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. It involves people working together in spaces on different projects, often far away from their clients or employers. The co-workers often pay subscription to make use of the space. It is a form of remote work that is an alternative to working from home.
The Emergence of Co-working
The co-working movement started in San-Francisco in 2005 and rapidly spread across the United States, and from there, to Europe. As the world evolves and adopts technology like the PC, the internet, and mobile phones, so also the manner of doing business changes. Competition has increased in the traditional industries, forcing out many entities that had hitherto felt secure while bringing in new players. Moreover, the modern world creates opportunities like never before. In the 21st century, what matters is not the job, but the client.
The co-working Culture in Nigeria
Co-working spaces have spread to Nigeria and are increasing in number. Technology magazine, Techpoint listed at least 33 of them in Lagos alone. Tope Apoola, a Microbiology graduate started LitCaf, a small, snug, literary-oriented working space in Yaba, Lagos six years ago when the idea was still strange to many in Lagos. Today, his literary hub attracts several clients ranging from students to entrepreneurs. At the Litcaf, you can work with your PC, connect to the internet, watch cable TV, drink coffee, read books, and attend literary events.
A stone’s throw from the Litcaf is the bigger, well-funded Co-Creation Hub; probably the largest co-working space in Nigeria presently. The CC Hub, which is managed by a group of innovative youths embracing entrepreneurship, attracts substantial investment, including considerable support from Facebook. In 2017, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was in the hub as part of his visit to Nigeria. The CC Hub is a cocoon for hatching start-ups leveraging on the internet to reach their market, including BudgIt, Autobox, Mamalette, and Kiakia Gas.
People who share co-working spaces are not working for the same organizations or clients but often share similar attributes or similar interests. For many, it is not only about the physical place, but about establishing a community. For those who love literature and art, Litcaf, Terracuture in Victoria Island, and Stranger in Lekki are ideal work hangouts. These co-working spaces organize literary/ art events, attract literature lovers, and make literary books available to users. Some Co-working spaces are more interested in developing entrepreneurship and business. They include Venia Business Hub in Lekki, Capital Square in Ikoyi, Leadspace in Ikeja, and A1 Spaces in Lagos Island. Venia Business Hub organizes regular business conferences and liaises with corporate organizations to facilitate training for aspiring entrepreneurs. Cr8 Space in Victoria Island is well known as a meeting place for stakeholders in the Fintech sector while Deskyard in Lekki, Fastlaunch in Maryland, and Co-work in Lekki help connect aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Why do People Use Co-Working Spaces?
Lanre, a Graduate of Mining Engineering, creates whiteboard animation videos for clients on Freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr, and gets paid in dollars. Three years ago, he graduated from the University with a honours result but with no idea what to do with it. Jobless, and penniless, he got introduced to the freelancing platforms and quickly learnt how to create whiteboard videos useful for people in other countries. A few years ago, the smartest guys were the ones that got the good jobs and earn good salary. Today, the smartest guys are the ones making money without getting a job.
For Lanre and many others like him, going to the Co-working space gives them access to facilities that enhance their working capacity. In Nigeria, electricity supply and internet connectivity are not readily available. Aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers can find what they lack at home in these centres rather than having to install their own facilities at a higher cost. They also go to the nearest co-working space to interact with other people with similar goals. They are able to feel like they are working from an office without having to go rent an office space. Some hubs in Lagos even offer business address as part of their services.
All around the world, the growth of co-working has been linked to the rise of telecommuting. The realities of climate change, population explosion and decentralization of businesses made it necessary for people to work from outside their office space. Some companies therefore, have allowed workers to work from remote locations, connecting to their teams via the internet. This saves cost on welfare for the company and reduces stress for the workers.
Looking into the Future
According to an article on huffingtonpost.com, “The word co-working won’t be a word in the future, it will probably just be the way we work.”
As the nature of business changes, the nature of work also changes, and people don’t stay long in a company any more. It is said that most people today stay on a job at most, for 4.4 years. The idea behind co-working is autonomy and more people continue to seek autonomy and the ability to define their personal objectives. In Nigeria, the constraints of getting to work and the push for work-life balance will make co-working more attractive in the future. In Lagos, the population concentration has led to heavy traffic on the road, making the journey from work house to work very difficult. We might just all be telecommuting instead of going to the main office in the nearest future.