What is Coworking?

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Short History

A couple of years ago, I read an article on coworking.  After reading it, I thought to myself…wow, this is just like the old Neighborhood Telecommuting Centers of the 1980′s.

Having co-written the first “Telecommuting Plan” at LLNL, I became a staunch advocate of telecommuting and in the early to mid-90′s, I pondered opening a Telecommuting Center in Tracy, CA.  Hey…205 was getting busier, 580 was packed most days,  lots of commuters complaining about their long commutes, and these commutes were getting longer and longer.  I thought “Wouldn’t it be perfect to give commuters a place to work, close to home?”.   However,  not having money or support, that never happened….probably a good thing.

Fast forward 15 to 20 years or so….

Now “retired” from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (but,  still needing to make money) I opened the Tracy Virtual Office (now AltamontCowork) as a “coworking” location on May 1, 2009.

Did I understand what coworking was?  Ahhh….No.  My mind was stuck in “telecommuting” mode, and commuters.  But, that’s ok…I’m great at learning on the fly.  I did.

Originally, as I sort of  said above, I thought opening a coworking location was a great way to get commuters off the roads, reduce traffic, save dollars, be closer to home, improve their quality of life and increase productivity.  All the benefits of telecommuting.  In other words, a modern version of a  Neighborhood Telecommuting Center…my dream.

Scratch that….

Fast forward, 14 months (and change)

I now understand “coworking” (at least from my own experience).

Before I move on, let me get the following out of my system, as I still believe VERY strongly in the benefits of telecommuting (working at home or, now, at a coworking location).  There are ZERO commuters using AltamontCowork.  ZERO.  Let me rant on that point for a few seconds:  If you are happy commuting over 4 hours a day from Tracy to the Bay Area, great, BUT, I DO NOT want to hear ANY complaints!  If you complain…then DO SOMETHING about it.  TALK to your Old Fashioned Boss (OFB) about telecommuting. Believe me, your OFB will NOT talk to you…he / she does NOT care one whit (maybe with an “s” in front) about your commute or quality of life.    If you are too chicken to do something about your commute (assuming your job allows you to telecommute)…don’t complain, pure and simple.  Ah….there, I’m done.  I feel better?  Arrrghhh….

Back to coworking.  :-)

A coworking location IS an open collaborative space where independents, freelancers, small / micro businesses can call “home”.

It is NOT a boxed 10 x 10 office, it is NOT a virtual office…which is just a time-shared boxed office.

Likewise it is NOT Starbucks or McDonald’s or Barnes & Noble where you can sit and work on your laptop (in isolation except for the noise) until you get booted out.

And it is not home.  This means you have to get dressed and go to work.  It does help you stay away from the refrigerator, helps you avoid distractions (honey-do lists, kids, pets, laundry, lawn, garbage), and fight off isolation.

It IS a place where you get to know your fellow coworkers, where you can work in environment similar to a company, but, you are your own boss.

It IS a place where IDEAS flow freely (you are no longer isolated).

It IS a place where you can get help just by asking.  “Can someone help me?”.

It IS a place where you can give seminars, teach a class, or have a meeting.

It IS a place where you and your coworkers can (and do)  go out to lunch together, enjoy birthday parties, have family nights, laugh, and enjoy other social events.  It is kid and pet friendly, and, geeezzz, you could field a softball team in your town.

It IS a place where you can meet clients without cleaning your house!  And feel safe.

By the way….a coworking location IS ALSO CLOSE to your home.  You can be with your family, you won’t miss important plays, games, doctor visits, etc.  You can ride a bike to work or walk (good for your health and the health of the world).  You will probably spend more of your money in town (good for the fiscal health of your town).

Coworking has MANY benefits….and it is super affordable for starting out.

One coworking location came up with a great description:

“Work FOR Yourself, Not BY Yourself”

I thought of another while running….rats, walking one day, we are:

“A Community of Independents” (since there are no commuters / telecommuters).

Summary

Coworking is a NEW way to work, and I predict it will be THE way to work 10 years from now as box offices and virtual offices knock down walls to become coworking locations.

The benefits of coworking are simply too compelling to ignore.

Commuters?…..hmmmm, well.  Have fun.  Until you get the nerve to talk to your OFB (Old Fashioned Boss) to  start telecommuting / coworking, have a good life on the road.  No complaining!

Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

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