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Workplace Democracy – The emergence of a community of independent workers

By Mark Dowds


Much conversation has started to arise around new workspaces and coworking environments that are popping up in cities all over the world. For some these new workspaces have been simply viewed as a different style of office where people hot desk and drop-in when they need a place to work. For many of us in the midst of this however it is much more a needed expression of our philosophy and beliefs about work and community.


Work in its basic form can be viewed as something someone does that brings them dignity while making a contribution to the world in which they live. In recent days there are many people who have been emotionally checking out as work has emerged as something you do to keep shareholders or bosses happy. The concept of passion, mission, and uniqueness of contribution has unfortunately for some corporations dropped off the radar or has become something low on the list of priorities. This is one of the reasons why many people today are considering venturing out on their own to discover how they can do great work while still having the option of having a choice into how they do what they do and who they surround themselves with.


As more people have gone independent and are working outside of the corporation another issue has arisen which is one of isolation and loneliness. It is not unusual for the independent worker to find themselves cooped up in their loft, basement, or bedroom only to long to another place to work outside of home. Many of the coffee shops have found themselves being the new daily residence for independent workers who sometimes buy a coffee and muffin to justify setting up shop with their laptop for the day. This has caused its own issues for some who need to be on the phone and away from noise or for some costly internet access that the coffee shop owner has no financial gain from. This is one of the reasons for the emergence of coworking facilities.


A coworking facility can be an office where someone has some additional space they need to rent out or it can be something that is uniquely designed with the independent or new start-up in mind. These new spaces typically try to bring a quieter space than the coffee shop with a good wireless signal. Some have additional services like phones, printers, and meeting rooms. The benefit of these places is that the independent worker not only gets a creative place to work when they need it but can also find themselves in conversations with folks of a similar mind and lifestyle. In my own experience of this great things happen when lots of people like this start hanging out together. Ideas and resources are shared and sometimes new adhoc groups are formed where various people work together to make each other a success. These small communities allow the independent worker to have more choice in their life while still having the option of trusted people to talk to and brainstorm with. At worst, there is still someone to chat with over lunch or coffee on a break.


So the term independent community may not be such a paradox after all, it may be simply a third way of working that suits the needs of those of us who like to live in hope of finding a more holistic lifestyle that brings dignity back to work in the midst of an engaged community.


Mark Dowds is the co-founder of which builds branded independent communities such as , , , and a coworking environment in Toronto, Canada.


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Text Box: April, 2007
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