Alex Ahom shares the starting point of Shhared coworking space in Hamburg, Germany when he and his wife moved there from London. He divulges the reason for their move was to grow their skill set and to experience different things.
Alex was not able to transfer with Apple, so as a result he was jobless and started meeting people in the freelance community — entrepreneurs, solo entrepreneurs, and creatives. Alex says that he’s always been interested in the way people work and what they get out of it. And, he got tired of hearing from people that they are drained, depressed, stressed and unhappy with their work.
It was then he realized that there’s not a lot of people that’s trying to change that, and he needs to do something about it. Not being able to speak German, made it impossible for him to find a job so it was then he started building this community.
As everything has a start, it will eventually end.
Alex had to close his coworking space just before the pandemic began — in the late months of 2019. There are different reasons as to why a coworking space has to close its doors but for Alex, it was simply what needed to be done.
“If you put everything into something, put 100% into it. If you fail, or if you learn, or if it doesn’t work the way you want it to, you can hold your head up high because you know you’ve tried everything.”
Alex said this to his kids when he realized that he had to close his coworking space. It had come to the point of realization that a new test was coming and a certain amount of peace came with knowing he did everything that he could.
He says that closing wasn’t that difficult as he was proud of what he had achieved, what he’d learned and all the people and businesses that he served. That he was happy with what he learned, done, and closing the doors didn’t change that.
The Future of Work and Traditional Work Setting
Although the world is slowly opening again with the mandatory vaccinations on some parts of the globe, Covid undeniably paved the way for the new normal of working. And a lot of people are saying that Covid has accelerated the future of work by a decade. How does Alex feel about that?
“The old normal wasn’t working for many people. And this is just another possible solution. We have to embrace that and learn from what we’ve learned in the last year or so and keep on adapting.”
Alex says that Covid has thrust us into change and added to that, most people are unwillingly made to work from home. Covid has proven that remote working can work and it does work. Of course, it’s not perfect but it does prove that the normal work setting can change.
With the new normal setting in, there are still companies or businesses that wish to go back to the traditional work setting but Alex says that culture plays a big role in it. Even with the emergence of companies that have a flexible, transparent and curious work culture, there’s more traditional companies that are not ready to step into the next chapter. And that fear of the unknown and fear of losing control is a big part of not wanting to let go of that traditional work culture.
Alex furthermore says that sometimes there is a need to trust your people, and you need to engage with them in a different way.
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Alex now manages his own consultancy and the subject of diversity and inclusion are one of these work cultures that needs to be addressed. He recalls one of his clients asking him to teach them how to be more racially inclusive. It was only after a company function that they identified that they had these blind spots, discrimination and prejudices against some of their colleagues or friends, and decided to make work of that.
In addition, the effect of George Floyd’s murder was felt on everyone. The Black Lives Movement went bigger than before, and Alex, being a member of the black community, expressed that this has been affecting them deeply for a long time. George Floyd isn’t the first to be murdered and unfortunately not the last as well.
This has been a catalyst for the motivation of most people to do better. To finally address the issues of diversity and inclusion, and not just in the workplace. He adds that this just doesn’t apply solely to race, this issue also extends to inequality in the sense that not everyone who works from home is on the same boat so to say.
“We all have biases. We all have thoughts that are unconscious, that we don’t necessarily control, but they’re there. In some ways to protect us, but what we need to do is check ourselves before we record ourselves.”
Discrimination and exclusion comes down to having these unconscious biases. Biases that can start from something as small as having similar interests, liking the same music and spills into larger things. This can happen in the hiring process too.
There are many kinds of conscious and unconscious bias. What Alex encourages everyone to do is try to change those unconscious thoughts and beliefs into conscious behaviours and conscious thinking, only then everyone can move away from making judgments and steer away from those biases.
Act and Change the World
Alex believes that while these conversations are uncomfortable, it is important to have them to make people realize the gap and the distance between a lot of groups. And that we have to have empathy, that this “us vs them” situation can be eradicated.
These biases, prejudice, discrimination and exclusion can be eradicated granted that we all face it together. We all have to be a part of that conversation. That “all the burden of change cannot be on the one or two black people that people know. You can’t expect the black person in the office to lead the anti-racism push.” We have to push the narrative of speaking to people different to us and hearing their life stories, so we can understand and be part of the solution.
Speak to your family, friends and colleagues or coworkers. Listen to their stories and check these biases.