當Small Office/Home Office已成往事...Here comes "Coworking"

May 21, 2007


幾年前開始大為盛行、至今也仍方興未艾的SOHO(Small Office/Home Office)風潮

在紐約這個租金提升速度永遠高過所得的城市...一直是個十分理想的工作形態

尤其是對於telecommuters及freelancers來說

只要有網路連結...家中的餐廳隨時可以變成舒適的辦公室

這麼一來又有什麼理由要花錢去另外租一個辦公空間呢?



不過這樣的想法...正面臨巨大的挑戰



人畢竟不是anti-social的生物...長期待在一個相對封閉的工作環境實在有點逆天而行

加上原本以為在家中工作會因為外界的干擾較少而工作效率較高

後來卻發現待在家中工作反而更難以專心

你可能會因為看到洗碗槽中堆積如山的碗筷而忍不住放下手中工作先去洗碗

也可能會因為看到地板上的污漬而想要第一時間拿拖把來把它清乾淨

更可能會看到一旁正在看著你發呆的寵物...無法拒絕他誠懇的眼神而決定和他玩起丟球遊戲...



更別提連週末都覺得自己被困在辦公室中無法逃離的悲哀了



這時...一種新的工作形態誕生了...



Coworking...



以下這篇刊登於今日(2007年5月21日)New York Post @work專欄的文章

Creating a Wireless Hub

Arising Number of "Coworking" Spaces Bring Freelancers and Other Solo Workers Together


試圖向讀者介紹這個已經在紐約頗具規模的工作模式





Creating a Wireless Hub

Arising Number of "Coworking" Spaces Bring Freelancers and Other Solo Workers Together



By KIERA BUTLER

Published : May 21, 2007 / New York Post




When Elliot Winard moved to New York City from San Francisco last year, he kept his job in Silicon Valley. As a software engineer, he spent most of his workday at his computer, so telecommuting was no problem. And at first, working from his Morningside Heights apartment seemed like an ideal arrangement.



"I was super-productive, because I didn't have any of the office stuff disturbing me," he says. "I could spend all my time on my work."



But as the months wore on, the novelty of working at home faded, and Winard, 31, became more and more unfocused.



"Distractions ranged from cleaning the house to playing with the cat to talking on the phone," he says. "And it was hard to set up borders between work time and play time. I started feeling guilty about not working all the time."



Then an acquaintance told Winard about "coworking." The idea was simple: A bunch of people - telecommuters, freelancers and anyone else who doesn't report to work every day - share an office space instead of working alone.



After a little research, Winard found Coworking Brooklyn, a group that meets in a Williamsburg gallery and events space called The Change You Want To See. He hit it off with the other workers, and found he could get more done there than at home. He started coming in two days a week; then after a month, his employer agreed to pay the $200 monthly fee so he could work at Coworking Brooklyn full-time.



Winard had come to the same conclusion some others have started to arrive at in a free-agent era when working outside a traditional office is increasingly common. While the freedom of such an arrangement holds an undeniable appeal, the downside is the lack of any work community. The coworking solution: Build your own.



"Coworking" is a relatively new term - it was coined a few years ago by Brad Neuberg, a 31-year-old open-source programmer in San Francisco.



"I was working for a start-up, and I really wanted to go into business, but I was afraid I would miss the community and structure of a workplace," he says.



So he founded a shared office space in a women's art center, and since then he's become something of a coworking evangelist, encouraging people to start spaces and managing a wiki page (coworking.pbwiki.com) with its own blog, links to coworking spaces all over the world, and instructions on how to start your own space.



As Neuberg acknowledges, the concept of sharing office space isn't new. But coworking is more than just sharing space, he says.



"It's very specifically about creating a community," says Neuberg. "It's like the difference between a coffee shop and a restaurant. At a restaurant, you're there in your own little space; you may have a friend with you, but you're not there to meet people. People at coffee shops are a little more social."



The Coworking New York City wiki (nyc.coworking.info) links to three spaces that are up and running - Coworking Brooklyn and 3rdward in Williamsburg and Jelly in Manhattan - and several more that are in the works. Among the latter is Café Bricolage, a café-cum-coworking space which will serve as an "incubator for start-ups." While it's not up and running yet, it already has its own Web site, blog, and Google group, where interested parties are debating the best ways to get the space off the ground.



Socializing is such a part of coworking culture that some spaces rely on parties and shows to pay the bills. In the first several months 3rdward was open, the organizers kept the space afloat with money they earned from hosting parties.



3rdward isn't just geared toward people who need desk space - musicians, dancers, sculptors, and steel fabricators use the space, as well. Among the many amenities are a metal shop, a wood shop, a photo studio, a dance space, a digital media lab and a gallery space.



Founder Jason Goodman, 28, says interaction among the space's 200-some members happens naturally.



"People are always bouncing ideas off each other," he says. "They're talking in the hallways. We have a lounge that we're turning into a bar. We have a yard with picnic tables. People start giving each other work, like 'Hey I'm too busy right now, want to take this job?'"



Another local coworking group, Jelly, takes place every few weeks in a Garment District apartment. Amit Gupta, 27, who founded Jelly about a year ago, would occasionally work from home with his roommate. They began inviting friends over to work, and they found it was fun.



"It was sort of like a work party," he says.



He began to advertise on his blog, and now draws 10-15 people for sessions, which run from roughly 9 to 6, with a break for a group lunch.



"We have a lot of technology people, but also a lot of others," says Gupta, who runs an online photography newsletter. "We've had writers, someone from public radio in Sweden, and once a tea sommelier came and brewed tea for everyone."



Cocktails & connections



Coworking Brooklyn doesn't have the trappings of a conventional office - there's no receptionist, no water cooler, no humming copiers or fax machines. The room is dominated by two old couches and a large table, where, on most days, four or five people sit with laptops. A dog and a cat wander between the working room and the adjoining art gallery, and an erudite collection of books, from Nabokov to Jung, fills the bookshelves lining the walls. Music is on all day (but if a particular song gets on your nerves, no one minds if you change it).



"We deliberately set it up so that we're all sitting around the table," says Beka Economopoulos, 32, an online organizer for Greenpeace who founded the collective with her friend Noel Hidalgo, 29, seven months ago. "It's collaborative in some ways, even though we're not working on the same projects."



The pair recruited interested workers by posting on the coworking list serve, and word spread quickly. When they had enough people, the two founders agreed on rates - just enough to cover the monthly rent on the space.



"It's not for profit," says Economopoulos, 32. "We get a return on our investment that's not financial."



Right now, Coworking Brooklyn is just about breaking even. When summer comes and they have to pay for air conditioning, adding another coworker will probably be necessary, she says.



So far, things have gone smoothly, with no disputes about song selection or people yelling on their cellphones. When an issue needs to be discussed, there are no formal meetings or votes.



"We all go out for beers once in a while and just talk about stuff," says Economopoulos. "There's also a monthly happy hour. Happy hours are turning into really great networking events."



After several months, Winard gives Coworking Brooklyn a thumbs-up. He likes the informal feel of the place, but he likes even better that he and his fellow coworkers share ideas and resources.



"I'm interested in what the other people do, and we definitely all help each other," he says.



Which is just as Economopoulos and Hidalgo intended it.



"It's impossible to go through life with blinders on in New York City," says Economopoulos. "You have to figure out how to live with millions of other people. That's what coworking is about."









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