Co-working and the Redefining of the Corporate Office

I can’t remember the first time I heard of or even saw a co-working space. The best I can remember the year was 2007 and I was working for a tech startup company and we were leasing 2 desks, a phone line, a mailbox, and a shelf in the fridge from a medical supply company in Fremont, California. I wasn’t really sure what the arrangement truly was since I was only working for the company and not running the company. But I remember talking to someone from the “other” company one day and getting a recommendation for perhaps the best Mexican cantina I’ve ever eat at. It was very cool. Here I was an independent contractor for the most part getting the benefits of a corporate environment along with the freedom of an entrepreneur. Little did I know I was not the only one taking advantage of this sort of situation. In fact, “the concept of co-working is credited to a software engineer named Brad Neuberg who in 2005 paid $300/month to rent space from a feminist collective in San Francisco. He used card tables as desks, and then put a notice on Craigslist inviting others to work alongside him at their respective professional goals. His goal is said to have been to find freedom and independence of working for himself along with the structure and community of working with others.” 1

Coworking 1

There are conflicting reports claiming nearly 1,000 co-working spaces across the United States to as many as 4,000 co-working spaces. The majority of the spaces are in urban or otherwise metropolitan areas and help small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups find a suitable space where they can focus and enjoy the perks of a larger office space. Coupled with the growing number of business people who need to be mobile to some degree as well as as independent contractors who choose a more nomadic life the trend has grown faster than anyone initially predicted. Companies like:

offer monthly rates (or memberships), the use of a conference room, high-speed Internet, hip decor, and even game rooms. But how can a co-working space benefit the life of a tiny houser or nomad?

According to Global Workplace Analytics some 25 million Americans telecommuted in 2012 alone. This is in addition to the 2.6% of American workers who consider their home their primary workplace. With those sort of numbers it is becoming a corporate tend to work at home to some degree. However, when your home is less than 300 sq.ft. or your home is in a different location each week it can be incredibly difficult to maintain a work/life balance. For those situation co-working can be the answer. The following 3 tips will help you – a tiny housers – determine how co-working can help you professionally.

Coworking 2

ACCOUNTABILITY

Working from home has its own set of unique problems. When you have to show up at a set time at a set office location it is much more difficult to procrastinate your workday by instead walking the dog a few extra minutes, going grocery shopping before the afternoon/evening crowds, going to the gym for a morning yoga class, etc. It is also perceived as unprofessional to arrive at the office in your pajamas. So by working in a co-work space you regain that sense of professional accountability which can help you succeed professionally.

NETWORKING

By sharing a space with other professionals you can again develop both professional and personal relationships that can help you do everything from locating a reliable babysitter for your toddler to getting tips on the discounts at your local office supply store. There is still much to be said for face-to-face contact and a good ‘ol fashioned handshake.

CREATIVITY

Sometimes keeping your mind sharp, your ideas fresh, and your work creative can be exceedingly difficult when you have only yourself to consult. In a co-working space though you can oftentimes turn to your cubie neighbor or your newfound friends from down the conference table. They can offer a second or third opinion, help inspire you, or even solve seemingly impossible situations for you.

Have you participate in a co-working environment? What was your experience? Would you do it again?

1 Urbanland
Telecommuting statistics

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

The Batch

by Bernie Harberts

A while back the Tiny House Blog posted some photos on a project my mule Polly and I were working on. The first was a tiny wagon that took me across the US from Canada to Mexico:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/pre-fab/mule-drawn-tiny-home/

Last time we communicated, I was working on the Batch: http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/bernies-shell-house-project/

Since then, mule Polly and I have traveled across Newfoundland (2012) in a homemade sheep herder wagon. Or was it a two-wheel cart pulling a Conestoga trailer? Who cares! It was funky, had a wood stove and let me boil down lots of cod liver oil. But I digress…

polly and wagon

My mule Polly pulling another one of my creations. This time – in 2012 – across Newfoundland.

We’re now spending some quality time in the Batch. Here are some photos of how that project worked out. Figured you might be interested.

After spending 13 months traveling from Canada to Mexico in my 21 square foot wagon (2007 – 8), I decided to build something larger. Something more permanent, but still mobile. Low-maintenance was key. It had to be something that could repel southern weather – humidity, cold, rain, bugs. I count splitting wood, harnessing mules and writing among life’s pleasures, but not painting wood siding.

26 foot trailer

It’s one of the few things I purchased new. It set me back 2 grand. Here, the floor has been insulated. I built the Batch in my barn. In winter. I froze. Never again.

So I bought a steel trailer frame, drank some whiskey and ordered some tiny house study plans. Then I wadded them up and threw them out (the plans, that is). All the stuff I saw was too straight. Just iterations of the pointy roof thing.

sketch plan

The sketch that turned in to the Batch. It was part of a letter to friends. From this angle you can see how the roof is laid out.

You see, I’ve lived on boats and in wagons too long to put up with things too angular. Give me a barrel shaped roof. A bow top wagon top. Stuff I can build with roofing tin, two-by-fours, plywood and the curves of my imagination. A place where a man, a sailor, and a mule would be equally at home.

So I built it. It took about 3 months. I call it the Batch. A batch is a small structure early New Zealander bachelors lived in. Describes me close enough.

the batch

Morning sun. The lattice enclosure is for my winter garden. The sheet of plastic, found on the side of the road, forms a mini greenhouse for my cold weather greens. If you look in the distance, at the 9 o’clock position, you can see the tiny yellow wagon mule Polly and I traveled from Canada to Mexico with.

It’s moveable if not mobile. I’ve hauled the Batch over 1500 miles behind my ’92 diesel Dodge. Tows slow, but it’s still faster than my mule pulls many of my more recent homes.

Mostly, the Batch serves as office and spare bedroom. Sometimes Polly the mule joins me. Occasionally, Smoky the burro drops by. Not to sleep. Just to hang.

the batch interior

My writing desk and fold out bed. A futon serves as mattress. I built all the furniture. It’s like what you’d find on a boat, it’s all designed to fold away. The chair is a curb find and one day I’ll get around to repairing the white oak bottom.

See, you have to understand my life is governed by mules, boats and gypsy whims. That’s why you see mules in so many of my photos. Even ones of the batch. There’s mules on the porch – front and back. A burro, too. All seem at home with the Batch and its peregrinations. My creation travels almost as much as I do.

polly on the porch

Mule Polly and Smokey the burro hanging on the front porch. This is the porch with the spent casing pounded between the boards

In the summers I’ve hauled it to Oriental, NC. I do freelance writing work there. It’s here, in North Carolina’s Sailing Capital, that it weathered its first storm. I just tied the sucker down with anchor lines. Hurricane Irene passed over, huffed and puffed and flooded the town out. Caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. But my tiny tin mansion stayed put.

hurricane and the batch

The Batch in Oriental, NC, tied fore and aft in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Yes, the photo is fuzzy. Yes, Oriental flooded.

During winters the Batch lives on my farm in Western North Carolina. I heat it with wood and not much of a stove. One I bought from my buddy Kenny. The hinges are thin and brittle as potato chips. I tell you, that’s one cheap stove. Has to be if Kenny’s getting rid of it. My hero. The stove pipe runs through the window. Never overheats. It’s enough to keep the joint warm while I’m writing up whatever I’m working on.

the batch in the snow

Snowfall. From this low angle, you can see how the roofline angles away from the wall. This makes for an ever-changing shadow show.

Last Christmas, I threw a corporate party in the Batch. Hell of a lot more fun than the ones I suffered through in my coat and tie days. I think Polly and Smokey enjoyed it. Details are here: riverearth.com/news/party-in-the-batch

I won’t bore you or your readers with the technical details on how I built the Batch. What interests me more is the design process. I find detailed accounts of nailing boards together tedious. When you build by eye like me and every other garden variety savage, you measure with your heart, lengths of string and arm spans. Sort of like a bird that has access to power tools. Plans would be useless. CAD even worse. I’ve learned that. Get my drift?

the batch at home

Home for the winter. The Batch sends a plume of smoke over the shed, thorugh the chestnut tree and down the valley.

Your creative process may vary but mine works like this. Doodle on receipts. Write your friends a letter. Send ‘em a sketch of your notion. Drink some whiskey. Smoke your pipe. At least that’s what I do. Napping is good for inspiration. Smart phones aren’t. First thing you should do when tackling a project like this is stomp on your iPhone. All they do is connect you to ideas that have already been built. So you end up cloning what’s been done before. Maybe that doesn’t bother you. It does me.

Polly and Bernie

Bernie Harberts and mule Polly

Then there are the false starts. The Batch looks nothing like what it what I started out to build. I’d spent a month building straight walls and roof beams like you see on many tiny homes. A loft too. Then I realized I was just copying what lots of other folks have already done. In a fit of discontent, I ripped the whole thing apart. I stopped going on the internet. Holed up in the barn where I was building and started from scratch.

The second time I got it right.

polly in the batch

Mule Polly dropping by for a gam.

Creation is a sloppy business. Messy. Frustrating. Lonely. Often isolating. Leads to bloody fingers. But that’s the only way I know of creating something that doesn’t match up to what everyone else is building, eating, blogging, tweeting, following or trending. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it stinks. But it’s yours. Straight from your brain an guts – including the parts that went off the rails but the better moments, too.

I didn’t use much more than a circular saw, hammer, drill, jointer, square and hand plane to build the Batch. Of course string and pencils. Plenty of those.

Much of my materials were scavenged or surplus. The metal roof and siding came from the Tarheel State’s Cowboy Capital – Love Valley, North Carolina. Odd lots and end runs. The type of stuff where, halfway through the pile, the sheets go from Hunter Green to Mentos Green. Damn. That’ll teach you to spread the sheets out before you screw them down. Life’s funny that way. Then again, it’s mule resistant. I’ve replaced enough chewed boards to value metal siding even if it doesn’t quite match.

Anyway, I think my mule is colorblind so it really doesn’t matter, does it?

the porch and polly

Mule Polly on the back porch. The shingled section serves as storage area. It covers the front of the trailer, just aft the hitch. It also serves as a wedge against the wind at highway speeds.

The locust boards for the front porch came from an old house. While I was prying it up, I discovered loads of spent 22 rifle shells wedged between the boards. Where the last resident used to shoot at the ground hog that was undermining his barn. When I installed the locust boards on the Batch, I wedged some of those casing back between the porch boards. Just to make the ground hog nervous.

The poison pine (pressure treated) for the breeze way came from the local building center. Okay, so I didn’t recycle everything.

The southern yellow pine used to hold up the ceiling panels were old flooring from the same carcass of a house that donated the locust. The roof’s insulated with 6 inches of that white foam. Looks like the same stuff they make white foams cups out of at church fundraisers. Mine came out of a building that was being torn down. Windows and doors came from the Habitat House.

Out front, when I’m not hauling this thing down the highway, I’ve planted a small garden. It’s never suffered from groundhogs though occasionally a mule wanders in.

And that’s the Batch. A curvy affair to make a sailor man smile and a mule want to jump aboard.

For more on the Batch, homemade travel and folks met along the way, visit RiverEarth.com.

Copyright 2013 Bernie Harberts

Osmosis Day Spa Caboose

For this Christmas Eve, I thought I would do a post on a couple of classic, red cabooses that have been made into the offices of the beautiful Osmosis Day Spa in Freestone, California. Osmosis is located in the tiny hamlet between Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay and features a Japanese-style retreat with bonsai, bamboo and Buddha. The spa offers massages, mud baths and their signature cedar enzyme bath.

caboose-osmosis5

Each of the recycled train cabooses are located in the backyard of the spa and hold storage areas and computer equipment. They are also nice places for the staff to hang out and have lunch. Over 25 years, the garden has grown up around each caboose, making them look as if they’ve sprouted out of the ground.

The Osmosis Spa is one of the greenest spas in the world. The spa recycles water from its own wetlands and uses the water for local irrigation. The spa is a founding member of the Green Spa Network and uses sustainable practices in its business.

caboose-osmosis4

caboose-osmosis3

caboose-osmosis2

caboose-osmosis

Photos by Christina Nellemann

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]