There have been debates recently about “proworkers” vs “coworkers” in the coworking world. It appeared in some panel discussions during the Coworking Europe Conference in Lisbon this year, and it left several coworking players in a kind of doubt.
We don’t like this concept of proworkers. Let us explain why.
A “proworker” would be a kind of coworker that allegedly just wants to “get his work done”. He is described as somebody often coming from the corporate world. Some people have been urging coworking spaces to address this new audience. Well, to be honest, we don’t really get it… First, what does it even mean to be a proworker? Does it mean that coworkers are just not “professional” – that they’re like silly kids doing insignificant stuff, who don’t need any kind of professional facilities? Does it mean that coworking spaces don’t offer real, “pro” infrastructure (whatever that might be)?
Let me tell you one thing: coworkers are very professional people. They’ve created their own job they’ve defined their own career. They did not ask anyone the permission to do so, they didn’t wait in line for it. And believe us, it’s not an easy thing to do. Certainly not something you do if you’re not professional.
Coworkers – whether they are entrepreneurs, freelancers or remote workers – have to build their own reputation, network and skills without the institutional support of a traditional company. They have to be good at many different things at the same time. At every moment, they have to be autonomous, self-reliable and creative. Those surely are the most important skills in most industries right now. So, with these skills and abilities alone, making a difference between the two sounds absurd…
And to say that “they just want to get their work done” creates a ridiculously limited vision of work. Work is everywhere and in everything you do. The value of coworking relies on its ability to bring serendipity and opportunities to people, even if you might not be able to tell exactly what it’ll bring you. Coworking is pushing a door, connecting to ecosystems and seeing what you’ll get out of it. It’s not just about getting things done.
Just getting your work done can happen in almost any place. Your home, a café, a library, a business center… Connecting to a community, belonging to an ecosystem and building a network based on true relations and not just transactions is a kind of work that will end up being very valuable to yourself and your business.
The simple thought of a bunch of people aggregating in a space, getting their work done on a super fast WiFi and top notch equipment and then going back home just freaks me out. That’s not our vision of work for the future – not even close. That’s a sad adaptation of old fashioned work canned in a slightly different box.
That being said, if the debate is about increasing the level of service and offering always better equipment to your community, it is obviously a good thing to do… But there is no debate about it: if you start targeting traditional white collars that don’t give a sh** about your community and you’ll soon lose what coworking is all about. Most of all, you’ll end up doing again something that have been tried for a long time and already failed: third places that are clones of traditional office, but just closer to your house. Talk about a revolution…
Coworking, fablabs, makerspaces should stay true to what made them what they are: communities. And yes, improving your infrastructure and starting to attract new people BECAUSE of your communities is obviously a good thing. But this concept of pro-workers sound like a load of nonsense. If you can’t see some passion shining through the eyes of a coworker, he’ll probably make a rather poor coworker.
That’s our view. What do you think?