Kidful Cubicles

What is Coworking? It’s gonna’ be kidful.

I have long said that supporting working parents is one of the mountains we have to climb, for all workspaces, but especially for coworking spaces.

In my view, the gold standard will be a full partnership of child care and workspace.

But there are lot’s of variations which could appeal to different families.

This month Sensei Cat Johnson pointed out a furniture solution that addresses this challenge:  the Fairfield Parent+Child Carrel.

Basically it’s a cubicle with a desk and a baby corral attached.  The parental unit is pretty bare-bones, indeed sparse.  The kidful unit is designed as a safe and attractive play space.  The kid is in sight and within reach, but not free to roam.  This enables mom (or, I assume, dad) to have two hands on the computer.

Alissa Walker reports these have been deployed in a public library [1].  She reports these have been well received by library patrons. 

Will we see these in coworking spaces?  Probably.  Is this a complete solution?  Obviously not.  For one thing, it’s really aimed and small kids.  And it’s only really good for when the worker is working alone at a desk.  Meetings will require something more.

And, of course, there surely will be questions about using these in an otherwise open and uncontrolled environment. Stuff happens. Kids make noise, other workers make noise.  Kids will want to play with other kids.  Workers will not want to sit near other people’s kids.  And so on.

Now, I generally don’t consider special furniture to be an especially effective solution to a better workspace and work life.

But this is an interesting and low cost option for some working parents.  If nothing else, having some of these stations is a really clear “welcome” to working parents.

  1. Alissa Walker, Finally, a Desk for Working Parents, in Cubed, January 25, 2022.

Sensei Elam’s Megatrends 2022

It’s time for end of the year round ups and predictions.

Once again Sensei Liz Elam, long-time leader of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) offers her “Megatrends” [1].   As I have said before, actually she does know what she is talking about, so I always pay attention to these prognostications.

I was happy to see her push back against the tendency, even within GCUC itself, to misdefine coworking to be nothing more than the office rental industry.  “Welcome to Coworking Megatrends 2022! Notice it’s not the flexible workplace trends? (wink, wink)”, she says.

As Liz and me have been saying for years now, coworking is all about community, not desks.

“Coworking is not simply a place to work. Coworking embraces a community and believes that together we are better and will thrive in shared space.” 

So what trends does Elam call out? 

For one thing, “Home should be your haven, not your workspace.” (I strongly agree.)

Like everyone, she is looking at the evolution of working, as organizations try to figure out hybrid working practices, with both in person and remote working.  In this unfolding situation, coworking spaces have the possibility to be a third option between “in the office” and “at home”.

As noted in this blog, Elam sees a great expansion of coworking in “Suburbs and Rural” settings.  Remote working enables geographical distribution of work groups, but workers still need office space some of the time.  So coworking spaces should be located where ever workers live, including outside city centers.  In fact, coworking makes even more sense located near residential areas than in the middle of business districts.

So what should a good coworking space offer? What to workers need and want?

Culture is King”, says Elam.  As noted in this blog, the strength of coworking is a community with a culture.  Each coworking space should serve some workers, expressing an authentic work culture that workers want to enact. 

Different coworking spaces can and should have different cultures—”Choice is the New Black”. (Actually, “choice” has always been the critical ingredient.)

Is coworking the be all and end all?  Definitely not.  Work will be happening in offices of different design, in home offices, unofficial settings, and various coworking spaces.  Elam calls this, “Boundaryless Work”. 

In this article and her other writing throughout the year, Sensei Elam continues to outline her own ideas for what workers want and how to do coworking right.  We may have our own ideas about that.  But you probably should pay attention to what ol’ Liz has to say.  Cuz she definitely has her heat screwed on right.

  1. Liz Elam, Coworking Megatrends 2022, in GCUC Blog, December 7, 2021.

It’s Coworking Day – Surface Your Purpose

September 9 is International Coworking Day (not to be confused with National Coworking Day, 6 June). 

Over the last 18 months we all have learned to work remotely, like or not.  This year coworking is celebrating a rebirth of interest in coworking spaces, as people ease back into offices, and organizations contemplate a future of “hybrid” work practices.

As I have argued before, coworking is potentially just the right thing for workers who sometimes commute to the office, sometimes work from home, and sometimes want to work near home but not in the main office.  And frankly, if a coworking space is a good fit, you might want to spend a lot of time there, rather than home.

What are the variables that might determine a good fit?

Well, Sensei Cat Johnson has a little list [1]. Sensei Cat has always had her head screwed on right, so pay attention.

Her top three items are WiFi, coffee and creamer.  I’d say these are is necessary but not sufficient, especially since a good coffee shop covers these bases, no?

The core is items 4-7:  Connection, Belonging, Professional development, Professional connections.  Community, community, community.

And the rest is mere infrastructure….  Chairs, sanitation, provision for separating phone conversations from quiet work.  And so on.

This is a great list, and I know it is based on years of experience.

My own summary would be this.  Without WiFi and coffee, it’s not actually usable office space.  The key is, as it always has been, Community, Community, Community.  “Belonging” is basically the whole point.

If you’ve got that Wifi, coffee and community, everything else can be worked around.

And if you don’t believe me, Sensei Cat included two last points, to cement the point: “Purpose” and “Community”. 

“A strong community is the intangible that money can’t buy and data can’t pin down. “

From [1]

“Purpose” is an interesting one, and very definitely Cat Johnson-y:  “People want purpose in their lives and work.”

In my view, this is something that coworking leadership helps enunciate, and both creates and emerges from the development of a community. Sensie observes that “coworking spaces are full of people living a life of their design, digging deeper into their best self, and finding purpose in their days” .

And so, an important goal for coworking leaders is to, and I quote, “Surface this”. 

So there’s a motto for 2021:  Surface your Purpose.

From Rene at da.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Surfacing Our Porpoise….
From Rene at da.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Cat Johnson, 25+ Things Members Want From Your Coworking Space, in Cat’s Blog, August 3, 2021.

Coworking Spaces Will Be Important in “Zoom Towns”

I have noted the pandemic driven trend to dispersed, hybrid workspaces.

This summer, Aayat Ali gives me the word we didn’t know we needed:  Zoom Towns [1].

Forced to work from home, some workers have moved out of city centers to suburban or exurban homes.  Remote work works fine as long as you’ve got connectivity, so why not get out of a depressing shut down city? 

And some places have been trying to entice workers to move there, with subsidies and other presents.  These “Zoom Towns” hope to beef up local economies with a slice of the talent and jobs that have been concentrated in the major cities, especially on the coasts.

As Ali’s title suggests, it’s not clear how long this trend might be sustained.

On the plus side, this is certainly a trend that has been growing slowly, even before the pandemic.  And it seems that many organizations have discovered that they can function without everyone being in the same office all the time.  So there is a lot of talk about “hybrid” workspaces, with only some workers in the office some of the time. 

On the other hand, some organizations either can’t or won’t go this way. So workers may soon face either longer commutes, relocation back to the city, or a change of job.  (This summer is certainly seeing a lot of job changing.)

Coworking spaces might play a role in this hybrid working model.  Remote workers have always been key customers for coworking spaces, in fact they are literally what coworking was invented for.  So a successful “Zoom Town” will likely have quite a few coworking spaces, and, I would say, a variety of different coworking spaces. (With childcare.)

These spaces could provide a local community of “zoomers”, as well as on-demand meeting spaces for remote corporations and other features we haven’t realized we need.

Even better, the remote zoomers can mix and meet and collaborate with local workers, companies, and start ups; spreading knowledge and human networks out into the talent pools out here in flyover country.

So, if you want to try to succeed as a Zoom Town, I suggest you look to create a rich mix of coworking spaces.

  1. Aayat Ali, Zoom Towns: Fad Or Future?, in, July 12, 2021.

Trends: Just how expensive is a coworking desk?

Part of the attraction of a coworking space is reasonable cost.  Independent workers generally can’t afford to rent conventional office space, so a local coworking space or spaces offer cost-effective alternatives. 

Part of this savings comes from “on-demand” rental, with only-what-you-need pricing.  If you need a desk for one day a week, or for one week a month, you don’t need to pay for unused capacity.  Similarly, other facilities, such as meeting rooms, are available just as needed.

Of course, in the best case, when the worker is part of a community of peers she is getting a lot more than a desk and utilities.

But just what does basic coworking cost? 

This spring, Circleloop reports a compilation of coworking in major cities [1].  These figures reflect local conditions, of course, supply and demand and the availability of competing alternatives.  But they are surprisingly similar across the survey.

It is interesting to see that the most expensive cost per month, Lichtenstein at £464. is not that different from many other cities.  And even the least expensive in the survey, Buenos Aires £37, is not that different.  Mainly, I suspect, these figures track the overall cost of office space in these locations, as well as the general state of the local economy.

Naturally, these figures are a bit hard to interpret precisely.  Are these “hot desks” truly equivalent in all these facilities?  Probably not, at least in the sense that the cities have overall different infrastructure and environment.  For that matter, these are averages with no indication of the variation among different coworking spaces.

In any case, I predict that prices will be quite a bit lower in the next few years.  Vast amounts of commercial office space is empty and looking for users.  There will be opportunities to open or expand coworking and offer very much cheaper rents.  This will mean new coworking spaces, and, I expect, many smaller, boutique-y spaces. 

I hope many will be attached to child care facilities, which will benefit working parents, and possibly provide income for child care facilities.

There will also be a lot of coworking spaces outside city centers, and even—gasp—out here in the corn fields.  We have learned that we can work remotely, but remote workers still need colleagues. 

In short, these statistics are both out of date and probably not representative of several important trends in the near future.

  1. CircleLoop, The Co-Working Index:  Where in the world is the best city to co-work post-Covid?, in Circleloop Blog, May 7, 2021.

What is Coworking? What will Coworking Become?