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

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]

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Becca - September 11, 2014 Reply

And it sounds like the best part is you can still retain your freedom as an independent contractor – by coming and going as you please!

Holly K. - September 11, 2014 Reply

This was a very interesting blog entry … I like the different angle. It’s nice to see pictures of tiny homes, but they don’t always help one understand the lifestyle. Keep up the good work.

    Andrew M. Odom - September 11, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Holly. I appreciate that. Your words mean a lot to me. I try to bring something different to the table each and every time.

Henry - September 11, 2014 Reply

I can date formal co-working spaces to the first half of the 1990’s. In towns near Washington, DC, a number of centers were established to provide cubicles, private offices, and conference rooms to teleworkers, business start-ups, and even business travelers with a one-time need for office facilities. I believe some of these centers had federal and state funding (Sen. Barbara Mukulski appeared at one center in Maryland for a photo op).

Employers viewed the then-new concept of telecommuting with much suspicion and were unlikely to approve teleworking from home. The formal office space made the decision less distasteful, and many federal agencies rented space for one or more days per week to provide formal office space for their telecommuting pioneers. At the time, I recall reading about a similar center in the New York metro area, where at least one large public accounting firm was experimenting with telecommuting.

In addition to personal workspace, the centers provided computers, office supplies and equipment, and and state-of-the art teleconferencing equipment and connection services. There was a very relaxed and social atmosphere at the center were I worked.

    Andrew M. Odom - September 11, 2014 Reply

    That is very cool. Thank you for lending that history Henry. So neat to hear from someone who remembers it when it wasn’t “hip” or so “trendy.”

Anne - September 11, 2014 Reply

I’m currently camped out at the co-working space in Appleton, WI (TheAvenueHQ). Even though I have a very nice home office it’s nice to get out and be with other tech-y freelancer types. And paying for the space puts a little extra motivation into making the best use of the space and getting work done! I definitely come up with more excuses to NOT do work when I’m at home. But, when the weather is crud (or I’m feeling like crud) I don’t have to call into anybody that I’m “not coming in for the day”.

Also, the big advantage over “working” in a library or cafe is that you can leave all your stuff at a workstation to go out for coffee or lunch and not worry about it walking off. Try that at a library.

david - September 11, 2014 Reply

I’d rather be in Black Rock

Rafael - September 11, 2014 Reply

ANDREW , very interesting post, I liked the part of the story as it emerged the term Coworking , but has remained as documented Brad Neuberg used the term ” coworking ” also I have very fond memories of a similar business that was in Dominican Republic for the year 1994 called ” My Studio ” in this business a membership fee is paid , the partners had a workspace that you could use several days a week , you arranged a fax number , business cards, several MB to store documents, a secretary who answered calls you kept your more message . Access to use the PCs , photocopier , snacks and especially a work environment .
I remember that place is nostalgic and now see that a concept so well done to the 90’s even with the term Coworking is now a success in the world.

I’m not claiming credit for “My Studio ” , but as they say out there , there is nothing new under the sun .

David B - September 11, 2014 Reply

I’d agree – they’ve had them here in Vancouver, Canada for longer as well. The original ones, you rented your own office space but shared internet, fax, and phone answering services. You also got shared things like conference rooms, etc. One and 2 person businesses loved them, especially if they were out of the office a lot.

Another variation was shared art spaces, often pretty open plan. Then the 2 kind of merged – shared offices spaces for creatives. Then more formal shared office spaces. At least thats what I observed developing here.

Main issue to me is they’re not cheap here. But if it makes you more productive and doesn’t add too much distraction it can good. I prefer working from home but you do REALLY have to balance that with an active social life, etc. The reverse can also happen that you’re always working – especially if you love your work.

Kevin - September 15, 2014 Reply

Just wanted to point out that none of the links in the article are working.

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