The internet has given the world many invaulable things: The ability to communicate with people anywhere instantly; a virtual encyclopedia for every question you’ve ever asked with answers that are either based in fact or hilariously misguided; and tools for procrastination like Facebook, Twitter and Cuteoverload.com.
Perhaps the biggest gift the internet has given the working man is the ability to work in his pajamas from the comfort on his couch.
For years, work-from-home professionals have taken advantage of freelancing gigs or their offices telecommuting policies to avoid the morning commute and do their jobs from home or the nearest coffee shop.
But lately, more free agents are looking for the camaraderie and distraction-free environment of a traditional office.
Easily sidetracked freelancer/telecommuter, meet coworking.
Coworking is a growing trend in which individuals in need of office space come together in a communal office setting.
These shared workspaces generally offer wi-fi, desks, tables, chairs, basic office amenities (think copiers and mailboxes), and plenty of free coffee to folks who pay rent by the day, week, month or anytime in between.
Beyond basic office setup, they offer a valuable commodity that the average person working from home doesn’t have: Other people.
“Like it or not, humans are inherently pack or herd animals — with even the most self-sufficient among us needing the assistance or nearness of others to occasionally keep us on course,” Christine Durst, author of “Work at Home Now,” told CNN.
People who use coworking space can tap into a like-minded community when they need to someone to bounce ideas off of or to network.
And these days, more and more cities are hosting such spaces.
In a 2009 article articlek, Cindy Auten, the general manager of Telework Exchange, a telecommuting research organization in Alexandria, Va., told the Wall Street Journal that as technology has improved, more companies are allowing full-time employees to telecommute in order to lower overhead real estate costs.
“Organizations are starting to see the benefits of telecommuting for the bottom line,” Auten said. “The ability to work offsite is even a recruitment tool.”
Depending on the space and how much you’re willing to pay, many co-working spaces offer a variety of workspaces, including offices, cubicles and large communal tables.
The cost of coworking varies by the facility, but at most you can pay per day (anywhere from $20-$30), month ($275-$500), or a specified amount in between (ie. two days a week).
Coworking sites are more than just a place to put a laptop down though. Telecommuters who are weary of the solitude their home office offers often find a community of like-minded people.
“The same way that [during] the last century work shifted from blue collar to white collar,” Tony Bacigalupo, who works at New Work City, told NPR in January. “I think we’ll be seeing in this century, we’re going to be moving away from the idea of a centralized Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 workplace, and we’ll be moving much more in this direction. People will work when they want where they want.”
Where to Cowork
Here’s a list of some major cities with coworking groups. Check out this Google map or a more complete listing.
Baltimore: Beehive Baltimore
Chicago: The Coop
Denver: The Hive Cooperative
Houston: Caroline Collective
Miami: BrikoLodge and MiamiShared
New York: New Work City and CooBric
Philadelphia: Independents Hall
Portland, Ore.: Souk
San Fransisco: Sandbox Suites and Cubes & Crayons
Seattle: Office Nomads
Vancouver: The Network Hub
Washington, D.C.: Affinity Lab
First photo courtesy of brandfortalent.com; Second photo courtesy of Keystoneedge.com