No matter who you are, where you’re reading this from, and what you do, it’s probably safe to assume this year has been a challenging one. I know it has been for me!
As 2020 is slowly coming to an end, it’s time to reflect, look at 2021 with both pragmatism and hope, and perhaps dare to dream.
Speaking of which, I have some great news: if you are a coworking member, a space operator, or a community manager, odds are that you will thrive in 2021 and beyond. Here’s why.
You’ve been working remotely for years.
Whether you’re comfortable with traveling the world for work or you’ve been working from home for years, you’ve probably already gotten used to the challenges (and advantages!) or working remotely.
As a remote worker, you’ve likely made the shift from ‘work’ as a physical place (and building your life around your job’s restrictions), to ‘work’ as an activity and perhaps even a satisfying experience that fits well into your life. As the pandemic subsides, many companies and their employees will re-evaluate their options and decide to keep their remote work setup, go back to the office, or mix it up and go with a “hybrid” model. No matter what, you’ve already seen it all and are probably ahead of the curve.
You’ve been honing the right skills and behaviors.
Over the last six years, I’ve been using coworking spaces, meeting like-minded members and space operators at industry conferences, part-time digital nomading, and running a coworking space/innovation hub.
Throughout these experiences, I’ve noticed a few qualities that tend to define the typical member of this “bubble” of ours: driven, flexible, entrepreneurial (even when not an entrepreneur per se), innovative, connected, resourceful, resilient. And perhaps, most importantly, a quality the Finnish call ‘sisu’ – the psychological strength that allows you to overcome extraordinary challenges. The willingness to act even when the reward seems out of reach. The determination and bravery that has already, very likely, played a key role in your career multiple times.
These also happen to be the aspects that make someone prepared to take on the changes and challenges we’ve seen in 2020, and turn them into opportunities.
You’ve been running and/or working with innovative companies
The best way to ensure you won’t lose your job is to create your job, which is so closely related to the skills highlighted above.
The world in 2020 is what academics have been calling for years a “VUCA world” (which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity; it describes the situation of constant, unpredictable change). Running a business or even a freelancing practice always requires operating within uncertainty. And this is one of those pivotal moments in history where already being able to operate in that kind of environment sets you massively ahead.
As leaders or members of startups and SMBs, continuously pivoting and evolving is our modus operandi. Startups often fail, gain from failure by learning from it, and become successful with the next iteration or idea.
In his 2012 book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes this as: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors.”
These are companies that encourage “intrapreneurship,” or smaller distances to power. In these companies, the culture is more colloquial, and leaders have to earn authority and trust. Moreover, there are established hierarchies, where you have specialists ultimately in charge of a specific area/task rather than acting as a decision-maker for everything. In today’s world, smart organizations no longer manage everyone the same way, but focus on enabling change and growth.
Traditional ‘command and control’ organizations are the least equipped to weather the current global crisis, as they are too reliant on a tiny proportion of staff to solve their problems. They don’t encourage creative input from people throughout their organizations.
Like people, companies don’t win just by robotic execution. They have to have fresh ideas. They have to innovate to stay in business. Your people can help unearth your organization’s next big idea.
I speak from personal experience here leading our broader ecosystem at Livit International, where we run a four-story coworking and innovation hub in Bali. While this crisis is certainly affecting us, we’re growing in new ways as an organization. We’ve always offered other services beyond coworking (from consultancy on how to grow remote capable-teams, recruitment services, acceleration retreats, finance and legal for startups, to education and training).
But in this climate, our work has changed. Our team has risen to the challenge by being flexible, open to new possibilities and ways of working, and moving swiftly to create and take advantage of new opportunities.
And last but not least, you’ve made purpose and meaning an integral part of your work.
The trend towards more purpose-driven jobs and companies was well underway before Covid-19, with millennials in particular known for prioritizing purpose over paychecks. The pandemic has only accelerated this intentional way of establishing a meaningful career.
A headline from Fast Company recently read: “In the wake of the pandemic and the protests, purpose is suddenly a superpower.” The article predicts that companies that have purpose built into their bottom line are the most likely to remain standing.
More than 70 years ago, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl argued that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of meaning.
The coworking world has frequently paved the way in that regard more than other industries, putting community, innovation, positive impact, and change at the heart of what we do.
A purposeful life is a life worth living, and I’m personally thrilled to see more people and organizations recalibrating this way. Now, how do we make sure we’ll thrive?
Keep at it. You’re already ahead. But also:
Cultivate those skills that will become even more relevant in the future.
Don’t invest in “left side of the brain” or algorithmic types of skills. If a task implies following a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion, it’ll be among the first to be automated. Focus on the “right side of the brain” or heuristic kind of work — interesting, challenging, creative; the kind of task that requires you to find a solution yourself.
Upgrade. Become a learning worker rather than a knowledge worker.
Knowledge “expires” and becomes obsolete so fast these days; lifelong learning is therefore the future. The ability to learn, unlearn, and re-learn is the literacy of our time. The pandemic itself has massively shifted the way we live, shop, think, and socialize, and those who quickly capitalize on these changes will thrive.
Be smart about the industries and challenges you take on.
Spend time studying and anticipating trends. Learn about antifragility. Be strategic about your choices (e.g. if you go into publishing, be the company that turns boring traditional content into beautiful apps. Or be the company outsourcing it!)
Take charge and shape the future.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” (a very wise quote attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker, interestingly enough). Why not? You’re part of a small minority of people who are best positioned to do that. The next big idea might already be somewhere in a draft, journal, or note on one of your gadgets.
Post-pandemic, we are looking at shifting priorities within more mobile, lean, flexible, and inspiring work environments. Sound familiar? That’s because you and I have been doing these things for years, and we should step up and help create what comes next.
The future of work belongs to people very much resembling the typical coworking space member. Let’s make the best of it.
To reimagining life, work, and to a meaningful 2021!