Working Away From the Office

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This morning I came across a 2005 conversation with Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink) about his work habits -- how he writes from various locations around the world, eschewing the traditional home office. I came across this while tapping away on my laptop at a local brewpub -- just one of many nerds working through projects at our neighborhood watering-hole. I can relate to Gladwell's "rotating" schedule, as later in the day I'm likely to move to a coffee shop and then a comfy chair back home (hello, tax deduction!). Here's a bit from Gladwell's interview:

"I refer to my writing as 'rotating'. I always say 'I'm going to rotate' because I have a series of spots that I rotate."

There's one in the lower East Side. "The waiters are all Australian and they play The Smiths all day long which I find so fabulous. I always go there on the weekends. Then there are restaurants in Little Italy that I go to. I often go to these places in the middle of the afternoon, when they'll let me linger."

As many freelancers go beyond "Working From Home," they're seeking social spaces in which to work together. Thus the phenomenon of Coworking arises: it's the notion that people work better in social settings, even if there isn't much socialization going on. Somehow, just having people together in the same space seems to help -- or at least it feels like it helps.

The New York Times ran a piece on Coworking in February, entitled They're Working on Their Own, Just Side by Side. It introduces the notion of formal Coworking coops in which people actually set up an office space and rent desk space by the hour, day, week, or month. Here's a clip:

Coworking sites are up and running from Argentina to Australia and many places in between, although a wiki site on coworking shows that most are in the United States. While some have grown-up-sounding names, most seem connected somewhere between the communalism of the 1960s and the whimsy of the dot-com days of the '90s, like the Hive Cooperative in Denver, Office Nomads in Seattle, Nutopia Workspace in Lower Manhattan and Independents Hall in Philadelphia.

The coworkers, armed with Wi-Fi laptops and cellphones, are in some ways offering a techie twist on the age-old practice of artists or writers teaming up to rent studio space.

Most coworkers say they were drawn to the spaces for the same reasons that inspired Mr. Neuberg: they like working independently, but they are less effective when sitting home alone.

Whether you go to the trouble of paying for space or simply find a group of friends, Coworking is an exciting idea -- at least for people like me who are trying to get work done in a world filled with awesome distractions (TiVo, anyone?). If you don't know about your local group, check out the Coworking Wiki that describes local Coworking setups around the world. Or you can do what I did -- call up your freelancer friends and invite them to hang out at your place, or some mutually agreeable coffeehouse/bar/library/street corner while doing work. In my brief experience with the practice, Coworking has made me feel more productive -- somehow, having other people in the room makes me focus on working and conquer procrastination. Or at least I feel like it does.

Any _floss readers out there care to share your Coworking stories, or tales of getting work done away from the office?

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May 8, 2008 - 1:21pm
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