Working From Home? Get Out Once and a While...
April 23rd, 2008
A common reply to the announcement that you work from home is: “Wow, that’s the life. Rolling out of bed and working.” But a number people that do work from home around the world seem to find something missing with the lack of an office. A common sentiment is the need for community offered by coworkers. There’s the absence of having somebody to chat with at the water cooler about new work ideas or somebody to grab lunch with. And a productive work space is another concern. Having a television five feet away from your desk can be a distraction for some.
In response, home-workers from the Czech Republic to Chicago have increasingly been forming a new type of work collective called “coworking.” And New York City – where about 1-in-25 workers stay at home – has a plethora of its own coworking events and locations. They range from meetings in people’s homes and in cafes, businesses that open up their offices for coworking events, and dedicated coworking office spaces where one can rent a space for a given period of time.
“We didn’t miss the office politics. We didn’t want to work from an office. But we did want to have other people around us working on creative things,” Amit Gupta, cofounder of the Jelly coworking event, told NPR last year. The Jelly events in Manhattan – Jelly has spawned events all over the world – are often held in the apartment Gupta lived in.
(Click here to watch a Current TV documentary on Jelly.)
The conversations that go on there have led to some collaborative Web projects; most recently CommandShift3, which allows users to rate Web sites.
Still, the atmosphere can be a bit disruptive at times. “If I have a lump of work to power through, I’m probably better off not coming here,” Joshua Keay, co-founder of Insanely Great Tees, told Wired.
And the Wi-Fi can be spotty, which was this writer’s experience with the Manhattan Jelly. Also, if you need a desk, then it may not be for you – unless you show up early to claim a spot at a table.
The comedy Web site NewsGroper opened up its office space in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn for others to come work at recently. At this event, there was plenty of Wi-Fi, desks, and big, bright windows. Greg Galant, founder of NewsGroper, decided it was a good idea after attending one of the Jelly events.
“Having just the same people in the office all the time can lead to group think,” he says.
But these events are sporadic, and Tony Bacigalupo, along with others, is working on opening a permanent coworking space in Manhattan. “The location-independent worker needs places to go to do their work, where they can show up when they want and meet new people and friends,” says Bacigalupo, who lives in the apartment where the original Jelly is held.
This project, called New Work City, aims to open its doors by June and is still looking for interested coworkers. The space is offering four membership types, ranging from full-time, where $500 gets a coworker a private desk with high speed internet and other benefits, to $20 daily drop-ins. As of the latest count, 55 people have filled out membership applications.
In Williamsburg, the Change You Want To See arts-activist collective opens their space up for an established coworking office during the day. The modern styled office sits around 20 people at a large desk, has a wall sized frosted glass window, and offers free Wi-Fi and coffee or tea. While you can drop in for a day with a suggested $20 donation, a seat can be rented for $200 a month. They also throw a Jelly on the last Friday of every month.
“This ‘coworking’ office and event-space encourages the cross-pollination of cultural producers. It’s a great place to meet like-minded folks and to get things done,” says Noel Hidalgo, who does organizing for the space. “We are addressing the needs of our changing work force.”
Indeed, most of those working from home are freelancing. “Assuming that someone is not tele-working for a bank; they are usually working on projects,” says Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union. She points out that these workers are no longer provided vacation time, health care, or accounting services by their employer.
Coworking certainly doesn’t solve any of this, but she still is very impressed with the “organically grown” coworking community. “People have to have really strong networks and people that work from home will tell you they make a huge effort to get out of the house.”By Mike Muller on April 23, 2008, 8:05 am
In category: Community Development, Demographics, Economy, Tech, nextNY | 4 Comments »