A couple of months ago, Jackson West described his day at the Hat Factory, a new co-working facility in San Francisco. ABC News recently did a story, video here, about the co-working phenomenon sweeping the country. Business Week gave the concept similar coverage. So-called “lonely” freelancers looking to “go to work” in a space where initially the only thing you have in common with your co-workers is the space itself. If working out of your home drives you stir crazy and you’re beginning to loathe the constant smell of coffee, is co-working the answer?
As ABC points out in their piece, there are some who like the hustle & bustle of a coffee shop, thankyouverymuch. The white noise of background conversation mixed with the whirr of the cappuccino machine can be oddly comforting while working through a problem. At a coffee shop, your only commitment is in what you consume. Stay an hour, stay an afternoon. No obligation to get your money’s worth on your time, especially if you commit to a monthly rate at a co-working facility.
When you visit your favorite coffee shop time and time again, you do begin to build some sense of community. The baristas get to know your preferences, you get to know the other regulars. Some find they are more creative when they’re working right in the middle of everything, rather than in an office environment where everyone around them is usually, well, working.
Despite the fact that you are “going to work,” co-working is all about the community. No need to create a virtual social network of people working towards similar goals to help keep you going through your solo day, you can have the real thing. No cubicles here. Instead, co-working locations are set up for community and collaboration with open spaces, bookshelves and meeting spots. Stuck on the best way to phrase a sentence, configure a website or address a sticky client issue? Odds are better that a fellow Co-Worker will give you the support and motivation you need than that soccer mom who just ordered a half caf nonfat grande mocha. Most co-working facilities also give you access to the standard tools of the trade such as office supplies, phone line (often at extra cost) and a printer. All you need to bring is your laptop, money for the daily or monthly rental rate and your desire to work surrounded by living, breathing and talking humans. Each facility has its own culture, social calendar and pricing structure. Some may only be looking for folks in certain industries, so check around.
If you’re interested in learning more about co-working, the best place to start is the wiki here. Locations are popping up in major cities around the world.