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Summary:

Coworking is a workplace trend that Web Worker Daily has been following closely of late and one which seems to be experiencing an emerging global acceptance – indeed, myself and Aliza Sherman here at WWD have directly (though separately) been involved in developing coworking spaces and […]

Coworking is a workplace trend that Web Worker Daily has been following closely of late and one which seems to be experiencing an emerging global acceptance – indeed, myself and Aliza Sherman here at WWD have directly (though separately) been involved in developing coworking spaces and communities.

A confluence of technology, culture, a faltering global economy and fuel costs are helping this fringe working pattern move closer to the mainstream. So here’s a roundup of recent developments in coworking…

Will the Recession Drive Coworking Demand?
The global coworking mailing list has been discussing the impact of recent global turbulence in the economy and its implications for coworking. Commenters have concluded that freelancers and the demand for coworking will rise as the economy shrinks and people decide to take their careers into their own hands. Others go on to discuss that hotdesking isn’t enough, but a powerful and helpful support network of other coworkers is desirable. Interestingly, some predict that coworking spaces will see the arrival of non-digital workers, from realtors to financial professionals.

Holy Coworking!
Jerusalem recently saw the launch of it’s first coworking community, backed by PresenTense, an organisation seeking to energize grassroots Jewish innovators.

FlyTheCoop: A Coworking Co-operative in Manchester
Manchester
in the UK hosts one of the country’s thriving digital communities and a number of enterprising individuals have come together in the past to host coworking days sponsored by public bodies at various venues. Now, the nascent coworking community is close to securing its own premises and is promoting collective ownership of the economic risks and rewards by offering all residents the chance to invest in a cooperative structure – called FlyTheCoop. The venture’s ownership structure  was no doubt inspired by the presence of Manchester’s Co-operative Group, the world’s largest consumer owned business.

Corporate Coworking in London
We’ve previously written about companies like Timbuk2 making spare desks available to coworkers as a means of bringing external creativity and influence into their corporate culture. Last week, Sun Microsystems’ Startup Essentials program announced a collaboration with London-based Huddle to offer free hotdesks to members of its program.

Decline of the American Commute?
A recently published study from the US Department of Transportation, shows that between August 2007 and August 2008, Americans drove fifteen billion fewer miles. An astonishing statistic implying a rise in telecommuting, but also signaling that the development of public transport alternatives – funded by gas taxes – may be under threat.

Coworking resides at an interesting nexus of technology commerce, politics and civic development. Though increasingly mainstream in the technology sector, its remains a concept which many find baffling to grasp outside the creative and digital industries – here’s where all of us involved in using or operating coworking communities and spaces need to think more broadly about the applicability of this lifestyle beyond our immediate horizons.

  1. hmmm… perhaps you could explain exactly how a decline in commuting miles implies a rise in telecommuting?

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  2. Hi Dave – some workers may be choosing to telecommute as a result of the higher gas prices we’ve seen over the previous couple years. I have no data for a correlation, but its likely a significant percentage might be choosing alternative work patterns.

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  3. Imran,

    Commuting miles would be a small portion of the reduced mileage in the US. While telecommuting has become more accepted in the States, as this site has cataloged to a degree, it’s still a small part of the workforce.

    Most of the reduced mileage is from people reducing “discretionary” driving. People have reduced by consolidating trips as much as possible, not taking a drive as entertainment (yes, people still take Sunday drives, etc…) and other non-work related driving.

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  4. I worked at a coworking space called the Hat Factory in San Francisco a while back and really enjoyed it. It was so cool how we all sat around a big table in total silence working away – and then, out of the blue, conversations erupted – discussing this and that – learning from each other and about each others projects.

    My big problem was that it was a one hour drive for me. So I actually ended up commuting like crazy – and only went in about 3 times a week. And sometimes I got there when no one else was around – so I drove 2 hours to be just as alone as I was at home.

    But I can definitely recommend it. And your writing about it has gotten me to think about doing it again. Thanks!

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  5. Thanks Chris – understood :)

    As I said, I have no data other than the DoT’s absolute figures. Even a small part of the 15bn figure that’s been influenced by teleworkers is of interest…weak signals are sometimes useful indicators of interesting trends.

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  6. No November 3, 2008 coworking roundup would be complete without noting today’s opening-for-business of New Work City, Manhattan’s first coworking community. Several coworking catalysts and space operators from around the country joined founder Tony Bacigalupo, his family, friends, members, and prospects for a launch party Saturday night at the space.

    I, too, am skeptical that the decline in mileage is linked to a growth in telecommuting, other than as a second-order relationship. And while taxes on auto fuel may be a signficant element in funding for alternative transportation infrastructure/capital spending, remember that they are more commonly a percentage of dollars rather than gallons, and keep in mind that while people may be driving less, burning fewer gallons, the higher prices that triggered that behavior means that spending (and therefore revenue from gas taxes) remains high.

    Raines Cohen, Coworking Coach
    fresh from a tour of Independents’ Hall here in Philadelphia today.

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  7. Well done and congratulations Raines! Do drop me a line – perhaps we can cover the story of how New Work City came about and your plans for the future :)

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  8. Imran,

    I had nothing to do with New Work City’s launch, other than moral support, encouragement, saying a few words, and smuggling in some rare varietal Berkeley super-dark chocolate. All congrats should go to Tony and crew.

    Raines Cohen, Coworking Coach

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  9. Raines: Thanks for the kind words!
    Imran: Thanks! Would love to chat at some point!

    Regarding coworking as a way of reducing miles driven, we have to look at the long term. Right now, there are, at most, a handful of coworking spaces in a given city (and, in most cases, no more than one). So, currently, it’s a little bit of an oxymoron. In opening New Work City, I started commuting today for the first time in years.

    But what we are seeing are the first outposts in a fundamentally new way of thinking about the workplace.

    Okay, I actually ended up writing a huge comment, so I copied it into a blog post. Check out the rest here: http://tonybgoode.tumblr.com/post/57836152/coworking-will-help-with-gas-carbon-money

    Good discussion!

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  10. [...] ReadWriteWeb has a Coworking Roundup… explaining what Coworking is all about … basicly, people who could work at home but would [...]

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