First, there was the office. Then, thanks to the Internet, we had the home office. And now, thanks to freelancers and telecommuters who are tired of working in isolation – and who are spending too much time folding the laundry, stroking the cat or staring absently into space while contemplating lunch – we have coworking hubs.
According to Wikipedia, coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.
People who work outside traditional office jobs enjoy a certain amount of freedom. They don’t have to bump into their boss in the corridor, they can go out for a coffee whenever they feel like it and they can work in their pyjamas. However, they do complain about the lack of community. To counteract this, coworking is emerging as a trend. By sharing work space, people not only avoid isolation, but enjoy collaboration with others.
Coworking spaces are popping up in cities all over the world and according to CoWorking News there are nearly 30 hubs in Germany.
One of these is the betahaus in Kreuzberg, Berlin, described on its website as ‘a platform which meets the requirements of independent creative professionals and knowledge workers, and expands their opportunities. In a mixture of relaxed coffee house atmosphere and concentrated working environment we create room between work and privacy in which innovation and creativity is fostered.’
Betahaus offers WLAN, fixed and flexible workstations, meeting rooms, a telephone room and the betahaus café. Since their opening in April 2009, they have had more than 120 freelance professionals working there. These range from graphic designers, programmers, photographers, architects, designers and startups, to a concert artists’ agency, accountants, academics, lawyers, non-governmental organisations, translators, video artists, journalists and bloggers. Its owners see it as an ‘incubation platform for network, innovation and production’.
Coworking at work?
According to Mike Bracken, technical director of development at The Guardian in the UK, companies that are courageous enough can build a social network like the ones emerging at coworking hubs in their own buildings. ‘You have rip out the offices,’ he says, ‘and let people sit where they want.’ The Guardian did this and in doing so, integrated people into natural groups that fell outside the departmental functions.
By lowering physical and hierarchical barriers in this way, Mike says companies attract talent. ‘Talent begets talent. Let your talent drive your product and then let them tell the story.’
I have a hub of two, sharing an office with my husband, who telecommutes for an American company. Sometimes I write at the library and I have spent large chunks of the last three years writing in Heidelberg’s coffee shops. However, it would be great to work in a place where I could network. Heidelberg has one coworking space, open on Fridays only. It is based on the Jelly concept that first took off in New York, where people cowork and network in each other’s homes or coffee shops. I may have to give it a try.
Do you telecommute or freelance? Have you tried a coworking hub and if so, how did it work out?