Monday, 20 May 2013

New Spaces for Independent Workers

Photograph of Grindspace workspace courtesy of NY Times

I’ve been reading a fascinating article in the New York Times by Alex Williams (see link below) on the emergence of a new type of workspace and place to work for individuals who would rather work in a shared environment rather than sit alone at home.  Alex interviewed a number of people who have made the move from the home office to the shared workspace and common features were the desire to escape loneliness, the need for interaction with other people, the desire to share and discuss ideas and to tap into others experience and critical intelligence, and the need to access specialist facilities for creative people.

This new type of space is not like the shared buildings that emerged in inner London in areas like Clerkenwell and other UK and US cities during the 1980’s which, by and large catered for small companies unable to afford traditional commercial office and workspaces. Places like Grind ( ), Indy Hall and Neue-House ( ) – a workspace styled as a form of private members (workers) club, cater not for small companies but individuals with big and creative ideas, people who are looking for collaborators, contacts and access to others networks and little black contact books (the digital variety).

These new spaces do not come cheap and their costs can range from $500 a month for a desk space and access to all of the facilities down to $35 per day subject to availability.

                      Photograph of Indy Hall shared workspace in Philadelphia courtesy of NY Times

The facilities can include desk space, lounges for meetings, specialist screening rooms for media types to showcase their visual and digital arts and products, kitchens, cafeteria spaces, recording studios and shared libraries.They will not be everyone’s choice but they do offer an alternative to being home alone and the small firm’s workspace. In some ways they are a variant on the US business cubicle for individual workers but with less of the divider walls and more shared spaces. They are not quite as deliberately designed as the modern offices of a Google or a Facebook. They are a lot less regimented with a lot more informality.They appear to already be attracting a market and they could be a way of bringing older, unused or under-utilised buildings back into more productive uses as a new place in the landscape, particularly in city centres and, who knows, in town centres with vacant retail premises. We shall see.