A new book about Coworking, Coworking Spaces, and Coworkers.
A new book about Coworking, Coworking Spaces, and Coworkers.
January 4 is “I Am A Mentor” Day recognizing and encouraging mentoring in your community.
I’m proud to be a mentor, and I’m very proud of all the mentors in our community schools and programs.
The month of January is US National Mentoring Month, to celebrate mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives.
I strongly encourage everyone who can to be a mentor. It doesn’t take much time, and the payback is unbelievable.
Find your local opportunites here.
The spring of 2018 saw the publication of “What is Coworking?” In the first year, this website and blog was launched to promote the book, with two dozen posts along with 150 some tweets (@whatiscoworking), and a book launch event.
In October, I did a Pecha Kucha talk, on the topic of “Coworking as Participatory Theater” (a topic discussed in the book.)
The website, blog, twitter, and other media have shown fully tens of visits (and some of those are almost certainly robots).
More important, sales of the book are also in the tens.
(If you tried to buy the book on line and had problems, please, please tell me what happened so I can try to fix it. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org .)
Let’s all join together, resolving to buy the book.
Click here to find purchase info.
Looking back, she gives herself credit for a lot of predictions coming true in 2018. As is often the case, her predictions were generally accurate, though not necessarily in detail. For example, WeWork continued to grow, but a lot of the growth is taking the form of diversifying into other businesses. It’s debatable whether these businesses are “coworking” or not. And, by the way, WeWork is experiencing debt problems, so its growth will almost certainly be followed by contraction.
Anyway, Elam’s 2019 predictions are not all that different than 2018. I.e., more of the same. Her headlines are:
“Real Estate” is “the sleeping giant” that has awakened to the concept of on-demand workspaces. It’s pretty obvious that big real estate operations will want to get a big slice of coworking. How well this will work out, is less than clear. (And Elam’s comments are rather Delphic, something about “as the power shifts from the owner to the tenant”.)
“Differentiation” and “Consolidation” are an interesting pair. Big money is building large workplaces and buying up (or killing off) other operations, consolidating ownership. At the same time, Elam correctly notes that a key to coworking success is “niche spaces”. From the point of view of the real estate industry, a “niche” is a matter of clever branding. My own view is that this is the heart and soul of community coworking, and there really are nothing except niches. How you can consolidate and also be authentically community oriented is the great contradiction for Elam’s industrial trends.
Another “sleeping giant” is the design industry, which she notes is showing greater interest in coworking spaces. This goes hand in hand with the entry of big money, of course, and an uncharitable observer might say that designers are simply marketing the same old stuff to a newly trendy market.
Elam has been advocating “Wellness” for quite a while. Here she totally understands that wellness is not really about design (sure, natural light is great, etc.), but more about people. This isn’t limited to coworking, of course, but a thriving coworking community is likely to foster the kind of “CheckYoMate” action that she advocates. (I’ll comment that gigantic, corporate workplaces, and even fancy “luxury” workplaces are generally not so great for this kind of wellness. Low cost, local community workplaces are going to be a lot healthier.)
Elam is Delphic about coworking nomenclature. She has taken a strong stand on this in the past, but in this forum takes the co-opting of the term “coworking” by designers and real estate as a sign of victory for coworking, “an indication of a huge shift and a new emergence in the market where the power shifts to the tenant.” I don’t know who is the “tenant” here, or what this supposed power shift might be.
Finally, Elam points out that there is a minor boom in “tools”, mainly for operating a coworking space. This is a trend I predicted a long time ago, based on my observation that there are a lot of common tasks that could easily be automated. But, putting my software developer hat back on, I’ll say that this looks like an area where it will be hard to make much money off the software. So I’d be very surprised if this area grows very much.
Finally, Elam boasts a “bombshell” prediction: “Coworking will replace the office.”
I’m sure it looks this way from the perspective of the real estate industry (where Elam now sits), but it’s kind of obviously wrong.
OK, I guess if you define “office” narrowly, and by “replace” you mean, “make workers provide their own office space”, then, sure. A lot of companies will Uberize their desk workers, making everyone BYO. (This will include the inevitable “mandatory optional” requirement to rent your desk from a specific coworking space. Not coworking so much as charging workers for their desk.)
But if you take “office” to mean “workplace”, then obviously there will have to be a lot of workspaces that are not “coworking” in any meaningful sense. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: there are broad swaths of workers and work that are not suited to coworking for one reason or another. E.g., Work processes involving atoms rather than bits (think fabrication or lab work), work that involves human interactions (think medical services), work that is proprietary or otherwise highly secured (trade secrets? Record keeping?), or businesses that need a branded space.
Furthermore, I’ll point out the related fact that the number of Freelance and independent workers is small and not growing. So it is far from clear how much coworking will grow.
I have tremendous respect for Sensei Elam, but I think this “bombshell” will surely fizzle.
Sensei Tyra Seldon discusses a new report from Commercial Café which surveys the cost of freelancing in various cities. The basic idea is to calculate the base cost of renting an apartment and an office, and take a national average $38 hour charging, estimate how many hours per week is needed in different cities. (The logic here is that freelancers can live anywhere, while charging national rates. Your mileage may differ.)
The results are not particularly surprising, in line with what we already know of relative costs of living. But the “hours per week” metric is revealing: the most expensive locations require 100 hours per week or more (at the nominal $38/hour) to just get by . Personally, I don’t think that’s feasible.
Sensei Seldon points out that this kind of calculation is an economic driver for “co-living” arrangements . Or, I’d say, moving out of the city.
I don’t have precise statistics at hand, but a back of the envelope calculation indicates that even the cheapest major city are more expensive than living in a small town or small city. Assuming you can really charge NYC or Bay Area rates while living in a small city, my calculations say you can get the best space in town (with a yard for pets, kids, and a garden!) at about 25-30 hours per week.
It may not be as “exciting” as the big city, in all the unnamable ways that people like living in major urbs. But there is an affordable opportunity. And if you have connections to family and/or a major University, then this can be a quality lifestyle.
So, to the degree that Freelancing actually lets you actually live out here in the hinterland, and still have a good career, then it is a very interesting New Way of Work indeed.
Child care for working parents is a hard problem for everyone, so it isn’t surprising that many coworking spaces do not tackle the problem. But I’m glad to see that more and more are doing so.
This month, Sensei Cat Johnson interviewed Shazia Mustafa of Third Door coworking in the UK. Open since 2015, this is reported to be “The World’s First Coworking Space With Full Childcare” .
One reason why this is very hard is that it is really two different businesses, and you need to get both right. My general rule of thumb is to focus on being good at one thing, but that’s not an option n this case.
Mustafa reports that they designed the space from the start as “childcare with a place to work”. She comments that, “I don’t know if having a coworking space then slotting in the nursery is going to work as effectively”. I tend to agree that the childcare part is harder, and the workspace part is a lot more flexible–there are lots of ways to get the workspace right, so it is more likely that you can adapt to the childcare.
She also notes that working parents often can benefit from some psychological boost. (Moms and dads both have challenges, though not always identical or symmetric ones.) It is interesting to think of this kind of childcare+work community as an especially potent way to help both work and childrearing.
It’s hard to know if Third Door really was the first, but it certainly won’t be the last. New ones crop up every day (E.g., here, here). And locally to me, Moose International has opened an exciting new space with childcare+coworking(+food+fitness).
I would see this trend as possible a step toward a more general multi-generational, life+work spaces, and there are more of them every day. I also find some indigenous themed Canadian spaces interesting, because they include space for elders.
It seems to me that there would be advantages to having elders and kids and workers in the community. (Don’t you think having some aunties and uncles would be a real good thing?) Basically, a whole village.
Now there’s a mountain to climb.