What's it like to work in a coworking office? Don't ask the Boston Globe, because apparently not all of their writers have ever visited one. Here, the Globe’s Janelle Nanos worries about a potential coworking culture clash with “millennials in hoodies.” I get it; it’s a funny line. But the reality is that the coworking demographic is so much broader than Gen Y Zuckerberg wannabes.
On the other hand, there are some people taking the time to parse what is behind the coworking boom. I was at the beach this weekend and read my copy of the Solo City Report, a joint research project from the Knight Foundation and the Solo Project. Yes, that’s the kind of thing I read on the beach; when I finished it, I read the latest issue of Foreign Policy.
I digress. “In 2007, there were 75 coworking spaces worldwide,” the Solo City Report tells us. “In 2015, there were 7,800.” They go on to describe the trends in the economy and the labor force that are driving the coworking boom. Hint: it’s not a generational thing.
Best of all, they give a lot of advice to cities on how they can better support “soloists” – the freelancers and nano-businesses that are becoming more of a factor, or a more visible factor, in our urban, regional and national economies. It’s worth a read.
My first official experience with coworking was in 2010 and it turned out to be a test of whether I could survive in a coworking environment.
I was on deadline on my first day and expected to work into the night. I figured getting out of the home office would be good for productivity, so I joined Worbar Boston and hunkered down. Lo and behold, an AmeriCorps program was scheduled to host an alumni holiday party in the space that evening. A few of us still working after 5pm dutifully filed into a conference room to keep working. That’s us in the photo; just outside the door where the photographer was standing was where the AmeriCorps alums setup their impromptu bar.
Then, at 7pm, we had to move again, because another group had reserved the room for a conference call with colleagues in Asia. So I relocated into the open kitchen where noise from the party was omnipresent.
Here’s the thing: I had no problem focusing and I hit my deadline by about 9 or 10, roughly when I had expected. It was a coworking trial by fire to see if I could concentrate in a distracting environment that was pretty much the opposite of my home office. (I would call that an outlier in terms of distractions, in my years of coworking since then.) Turns out it worked fine for me. Oh, and the AmeriCorps group welcomed me to join them for a celebratory round when I was done.
I've been coworking since 2010. which has taught me a few things about making it work. I have a lot left to learn.