What is Coworking? Can it be a trailer?

A company in Cape Town offers a mobile workspace in a trailer, called Nova.  The main point is that they will tow it to a scenic location (e.g., a beach), so you can work for a day with a nice view out the window.  (As Mark Wilson put it in Fast Company, “like a horse trailer” [2].)

It kind of marginal office space, though probably better than some.  (At $250 per day, it better by pretty nice.)

It isn’t offering a day at the beach; it’s a day, spent on Slack, in a little cage at the beach.” “I mean it really can’t be worse than an open office anyway.” [2]

Actually, the Fast Company headline is misleading (“This coworking space is like a horse trailer, but for humans”) because the Work & Co has a more or less conventional workspace. The trailer is basically similar to their other room reservations, except on wheels. You could rent a conference room, or rent the trailer and conference at the beach.

So it’s basically a gimmick.

Seeing this South African amenity, I wonder if the Sandbox Santa Barbara might want to “mobilize” their Airstream lounge.  There are definitely beautiful beaches and overlooks in the SB area (and the main space is nice, but has no particular view).

Generally, I think coworking is about community, not about desk space.  So a rented meeting room—in a trailer or not–is an asset to a coworking space only to the degree it is used by a community of remote and freelance workers.

I’ll note that this particular facility is never going to be a very good space for actual coworking. It’s too small to hold more than a handful of people at a time, and, by design it is separated from the main space and the community there. There is no synergy, mutual help, or networking.  Any mobile facility by definition is not rooted in a specific location, which is one of the things that may tie a community together. Hiding out by yourself at the beach is pretty much the opposite of immersing in a community workspace, which is the essence of coworking IMO.

(For much more on what makes coworking tick, see the book “What is Coworking?” [1])

  1. Robert E. McGrath, What is Coworking? A look at the multifaceted places where the gig economy happens and workers are happy to find community. 2018, Robert E. McGrath: Urbana. https://whatiscoworkingthebook.com/
  2. Mark Wilson, This coworking space is like a horse trailer, but for humans, in Fast Company. 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90297908/this-coworking-space-is-like-a-horse-trailer-but-for-humans