Coworking empowers a lifestyle of diversity

Diversity is the product of community and collaboration blended together with openness. This is, after all, one of the key reasons people want to be part of a coworking environment. This allows them to diversify their vision and experience by collaborating with people from different backgrounds, interests, experiences, and thinking. By creating a community of experiences we try to bring together various perspectives and opinions of people who share a feeling of mutualism. 

Jelia

Jelia has always been looking for diverse experiences and new links. She has chosen Athens to be her new home and she recently joined our coworking community. Since it is one of our core values, we discussed why she is constantly seeking diversity both in her work but also in her lifestyle.

“We carry so many places within us and it’s through these places that we see everything new.”

Safe Passage Reunification

This is what it feels for Jelia when she travels to a new community and gets to meet new people. Coming from a diverse background herself, Jelia is originally from Senegal but she was born and raised in London. She is a lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers working remotely from Greece and she specializes in refugee law, human rights, and international criminal law. Working on a diverse range of issues in these areas, she provides legal assistance to unaccompanied child refugees seeking family reunification in Europe, and to victims of mass crimes seeking to access justice. Jelia joined Stone Soup in October and we had the chance to speak with her about her coworking experience in the diversity of Athens and the importance of inclusion in a community.

Travelling for diversity: Jelia’s background

Jelia studied Law and Spanish language at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She also studied in Barcelona for a year before pursuing a Master’s degree at UCL. After finishing her studies she worked abroad in different parts of the world from Argentina and Colombia to Cambodia. As a result, these travels truly enriched her vision of a world where diversity plays a core part. She first came to Greece in 2016, to work as a volunteer in the camp on Samos island. In 2018, she was able to come back to Greece for another volunteering stint, this time with Safe Passage. And that’s where her story with Athens begins.

Jelia at Stone Soup

Living in Athens: diversity seems familiar

Jelia has been living in Athens for two and a half years since then. For her, Athens is spatially diverse and is “becoming” culturally complex too. So, she loves the ecosystem of the center of the city because it is imperfect and not homogenous. Moreover, she enjoys the diversity of the urban small streets, the micro-neighborhoods, and the variety of independent coffee shops and small businesses. She also likes to cycle and walk in the area of “petroukaki”, which is the name she gave to the Petralona and Koukaki areas! In general, she highlighted the feelings of familiarity this imperfect environment creates in her. It reminds her of all the different cities she has lived in, like Buenos Aires. Driving in Greece is terrible like in Senegal too, she adds! Jelia notes that living in Athens has deepened her work because she is more directly exposed to migration. As a result, she can better understand the needs of the community she is trying to help.

Coworking in Athens: diversity in the workspace community

Jelia at Stone Soup

The choice of coworking in the diversity of Athens has offered her more work-life balance than London, she admits. The city doesn’t stress her out and meets her needs while she is trying to integrate. She decided to join a coworking space because she felt isolated and stressed working from home during the lockdown. She picked Stone Soup because the privacy she can have makes her feel settled. Now she laughs when she gets home and only has to say “Hi, flat!”. As a self-employed professional she needs both privacy and proximity to an everyday community. Her work and traveling experience add to her words about the elements she looks for in a workplace: “People always bring diversity and complexity and that enriches a community”. So, for Jelia, the coworking community should be a respectful place where people can express themselves without fear in these crazy times. She also works as a human rights consultant for the United Nations and NGOs. Her part-time work for the NGO All Survivors Project, which focuses on male survivors of sexual violence in war zones (gay, trans, non-binary), highlights the need for a safe space for everyone who challenges the norms.

Coworking for diversity in Stone Soup

The Stone Soup philosophy and Jelia’s work experience are based on the pursuit for inclusion and the expression of diversity. Here, Jelia adds, you can choose your friends because there are no office politics among the coworkers. Here, she gets to learn about tech and algorithms from Paulin and meet people who can be friends and not colleagues. She misses many things from pre-pandemic Athens though. But there is one thing she can’t wait to have once again: live concerts and drinks on the roof!

Jelia wears a mask

Why flexible workspace will emerge stronger from COVID-19

Stone Soup is taking part in the discussions about the future of coworking and has frequent conversations with coworking operators and community managers from around the world. It is a collective effort to tackle the best way we can the current crisis and emerge stronger. The fight we are up against needs a united front. 

The change will obviously happen

While things are slowly getting back to (the new) normal, one thing is for sure: Coworking as we know it will have to change to survive. Coworking spaces are known for their communal areas and shared amenities. However, keeping a coworking space safe in a post-coronavirus world will probably lead to more dividers for personal space and private offices. 

Despite this tangible setback, industry professionals believe that in the long run, the coronavirus outbreak will not hamper appetites for “real-estate-as-a-service” models. In contrast, the belief is that the recovery from the crisis could serve to drive up demand for flexible office space.

Local or Global: Who has better chances to survive?

Each country has what we call a Local Champion: a homegrown player which competes with the international incumbents in each country. The local players are in a better position to handle local inquiries and manage their financial stability according to CEO of FlySpaces, Mario Berta.

Can we foresee the future using industry data?

The future of coworking

The answer is no, unfortunately.  Most economic forecasts, for the most part, are just guessing.

The problem is, there is very little data to go on. That’s because we are experiencing a black swan event. The term was popularised by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book, The Black Swan: “The Impact of the Highly Improbable”. It talks about very low probability events that have an extremely high impact if they occur, like the CoronaVirus. So basically we’re in uncharted waters. There is no historical data to make forecasts, as we haven’t experienced anything like this. There are too many unknowns.

Exploring new behaviors

What we can do to draw some conclusions is to observe and understand 4 emerging behaviors of companies and individuals.

  • Companies are investing in remote work infrastructure and learning how to do it. Remote work is an example of a trend that has been amplified by the CoronaVirus crisis. The growth of remote work is teaching companies that it’s easier to integrate independent workers into their teams.
  • Companies will increasingly take advantage of the flexible terms of a coworking space rather than taking on long-term leases. The need for flexible terms will continue, perhaps even more rapidly. If anything, this crisis highlights why flexibility is valuable for companies.
  • These behaviors are also happening on a personal level, as people have been seeking to reduce commitments and ownerships. There has also been a steady rise in independent work, with more freelancers and independent contractors.
  • Similar to the “first time online shoppers” via e-commerce platforms, the crisis will generate a new number of tenants that will experience flexible office space and its benefits for the first time. Those tenants will most likely prefer flexible spaces over their permanent office in the future.

The pandemic is amplifying these trends and making them more powerful than they were before. The good news is that all of these trends – the reduction in long term commitments, the rise of independent work, and the desire for more flexibility and agility – will eventually push more people into a flexible workspace.

#3 reasons why flexible workspace should emerge stronger

 

Reason No. 1: The Need for Flexible Leases 

Once the lockdown period ends, companies will lay more emphasis on cost optimization. Especially if the recovery is slow and halting, companies will probably look for options that will allow them to easily exit if they are forced to send employees home once more.

They will be seeking alternatives to traditional long-term office leases and there is an undeniable market demand for flexibility and enhanced tenant experience, which we expect to continue beyond the near-term negative economic impact of COVID-19.

flexible office lease

Reason No. 2: Remote Workers Have to Work Somewhere

Many people are now just becoming comfortable with remote work for the first time and figuring out ways to make it efficient. That could mean more employees and employers become comfortable with it. But that doesn’t mean all those remote workers will work at home forever. After a couple of months of lockdown and working from a home environment – with distractions, not enough usable workspace, or reliable Internet access – our guess is that people will be eager to work from somewhere else.

Shared workspaces, nearer to a home location, may actually be the ideal solution for many in the future months. They will give workers a flexible workspace to work and have the essential social contact lockdown has robbed from so many, yet affording non-crowded, quiet and easy to use facilities.

Reason No. 3: Community is Key to Recovery

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers will need social networks and local connections more than ever to regain their footing. Community strength will be essential in helping people reconnect, build new networks, and support each other.

Coworking was an idea that was founded on community, however, it had become an industry driven by real estate. A race to monopolize the industry created workspaces that required ‘as many bums on seats as possible’. Community became an afterthought. Stone Soup was created in order to bring community back to coworking. Employing generous workspace and large, flexible work areas to encourage a sense of calm. We believe that human beings should work side-by-side, not on top of one another.

 

Lockdown & Remote Work: How to Adjust to Working From Home.

COVID-19 lockdown has forced the majority of the workforce worldwide to work from home. Lyda Michopoulou is a freelancer and a member of Stone Soup coworking space. She has worked remotely since January of 2017, and she has long experience in distributed work. One could argue that being a remote worker, Lyda would have an advantage over other workers who were abruptly forced to change their routines. But let’s see to what extent this is true. 

Lyda will help us answer the question, whether working from home is the same as working remotely. She will also share her own experience.

Stone Soup Coworking Member

Adopting a work from home routine and how is that different?

Lyda considers herself lucky as she didn’t struggle much during this transition. Her life as a freelancer requires her to travel around Europe and work from different countries. One of Lyda’s consulting gigs is to an American startup in the travel industry called NextVacay. She is working on US time, following a specific time frame and specific online tools. For that reason, the processes and dynamics within the organization haven’t changed much with the lockdown. 

Because of the corona crisis, Lyda is telecommuting from home and she spends most of her time hosting or participating in online meetings. This has decreased her actual working time and disrupted her usual working routine from Stone Soup.

Lyda had a functional working routine for herself, allowing her to work from anywhere as long as the WiFi connection was strong.

Fast WiFi

 

However, working from home is completely different from working from “anywhere in the world”. Social distancing, the new norm that has been given to all of us, is hardly a gift. Being able to keep a working pace, your motivation high and your productivity under control can be compromised especially when you are forced to work without a suitable working environment. 
It is quite easy to fall into traps such as working all day long, without proper breaks or even realizing that your working time is up and you should relax. Lyda sees the value of participating in virtual coworking spaces such as Stone Soup’s and Digital Nomad Girls’ Inner Circle, in finding a sense of belonging and support. 

Online Meetups

How to do your best during the COVID-19 era?

Instead of isolating yourself at home binge watching TV-series and movies, you have the opportunity to do something to better your skills and develop yourself. You can host or join online meetings with friends (networking), figure out how to support others with the skills you already possess or participate in activities that are valuable for the community.

During the previous weekend, Lyda participated in an online hackathon, called: “Hack the Crisis Austria”. She mentored a team who was tackling a challenge: “How can we support the mental health of people”. Lyda has only positive feedback to give about it. It made her more eager to participate in a bigger scale and even think about organizing something similar in Greece.

Stone Soup Coworking Member

Shaping the future of remote work after coronavirus

The corona crisis has unprecedentedly escalated the need to work remotely. The situation might be temporary but it pushes the gears of change and those won’t come back. Companies keeping previously a negative pose to the idea, are forced tο consider continuing with remote work after the lockdown.

Having a global network of contacts, Lyda has heard discussions about the struggles of friends and partners and has acquired some interesting insights. Many companies don’t understand how to use the online world to better support their work. There was no time for guidelines and transitioning. A new culture and priorities need to be set on the go. And of course, this changes the balances and threatens the up to now acquired stability. Companies and teams are being troubled by basic aspects of functionality such as what would be the best way, time, frequency, and means to conduct online meetings.

The discussion moved from online meetings to how people handle the grief that comes with being locked inside their houses. Lyda’s perspective of the situation was altered due to an article on Harvard Business Review. If individuals and companies go through the stages of grief we will be ready to accept what lies ahead and work with that.

After the lockdown is over a changed situation and land of opportunities for digital nomads and remote work is to be expected. The ground will be paved for the companies to keep workers distributed. And they would most probably like to shape their businesses in a way they could cope with similar future situations.

Creative Innovation

COVID-19 and coworking in Athens

Are coworking spaces closed because of COVID-19?

Numerous countries around the world are in the beginning stages of managing their own outbreaks, in each country the situation is very different and governments make their own decisions about how they can deal with the virus best. In Greece, it’s been a week since most companies and organizations were instructed to conduct their businesses remotely.
It’s crucial that we all follow our country’s respective measures and instructions for our health and protection. Even if Stone Soup is not directly obligated to stay closed, we have taken all precautionary measures and since March 12th we are not accepting any new members. As all coworking spaces are based on the social interaction of their members, we have recommended to our members to work from home as much as possible.

Stone Soup coworking community

This abrupt lockdown and necessity to work from home, is disruptive and apart from having to recalibrate your tasks and your own workspace, you may also face difficulty to concentrate and a feeling of solitude. This is why coworking space operators are exploring how we could work together online and keep the human interaction alive. 

To keep the community of Stone Soup active we boost our communication on online channels like Slack. Feel free to visit the #westaytogether channel to get webinar invitations, to share things to do, to arrange video calls, to share yoga videos or to start a group for people to enjoy online video games together, and many more ideas. COVID-19 virus shouldn’t put the coworking spirit in Athens down!

Stay tuned ’cause from Monday 23rd and on, we will start our Virtual Coworking (VC) sessions. At 10:30 we are going online and we want to see familiar faces and hear familiar sounds, while we all focus on our tasks. If you can’t do without this passive ambience of an office space full of people getting work done, join us! Let’s cowork virtually in Athens, and lets – under these peculiar circumstances- try to minimize the side-effects of COVID-19 and all negative thoughts.

You will get the rest details about Stone Soup’s VC operation through Slack by the end of the day!