In the beginning, there was the office.
If you were a white-collar or "office worker" of any kind, an office was the only place you could work. This was long before "Office Space" became a cult favorite or "The Office" became a comedy franchise.
Then the Internet happened. Since then, a growing number of people started working remotely, but where exactly? Remote work spaces evolved from kitchen tables to home offices to coffee shops to "coworking" spaces.
What's a coworking space? Well, it's... an office.
But coworking spaces are different. For starters, coworking spaces are usually better work environments. Most coworking spaces I've seen look like the offices of typical Silicon Valley startups, complete with ping pong, foosball, slides, sugary snacks and brightly colored bean-bag chairs. They're often built in fashionable lofts and conceived by trendy designers.
Coworking spaces are paid for with rates applied hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or annually. The coworking companies provide fast Internet, appealing desk space, private conference rooms and, most importantly, coffee—gallons and gallons of coffee.
Instead of being cooped up with co-workers who are all doing the same kind of work—say, in the accounting department—coworking spaces bring together people from different companies and different professions, but with shared ideas of what their workplace should be.
Coworking spaces often specialize. For example, Berkeley's Mothership HackerMoms coworking space is for developers and makers who have children. It combines a technology-centric work environment with all-day childcare. It's like a cross between the Googleplex and a preschool.
Then there is a coworking and living space called CocoVivo created for people who want to be close to nature, but don't have time for a vacation. The CocoVivo location is at an off-the-grid site in Panama and includes 145 acres of privately-owned jungle. Some of the facilities are on stilts over the Caribbean Sea and pristine reefs, which can be seen from the conference room. No shoes needed.
Some people need to be active during the day. These were the kids who couldn't sit still in class. Brooklyn Boulders builds hybrid rock climbing facilities in multiple cities with coworking spaces. So you can take a break from stapling the cover sheets on your TPS reports and do some rock climbing right next to your workspace.
A recent report in the Harvard Business Review discovered, and explored, a productivity advantage of coworking spaces.
First, they learned, there's no office politics at coworking spaces because members work at different companies. Second, work feels more meaningful because there's more cooperation. Third, while working at an office feels like participation in the "rat race," the coworking ideal is a movement, complete with a set of shared values (independence, creativity, collaboration).
Coworking spaces are great for productivity, creativity and a whole lot more, but they're nothing new. What's new is the combination of coworking spaces and—wait for it—transportation!
It takes nearly an hour and a half to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles, right?
Wrong! That's the flight time. In reality, you've got to negotiate crazy traffic in San Francisco, find parking, take the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport in time to check in at least two hours early. Upon arrival, you've got to wait to disembark, then wait for luggage, then wait for a taxi to your hotel. It really takes several hours. Then, of course, you've got jet lag during your meeting.