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!
Here are two coworking spaces that are going places.
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.
Latest ‘Coworking’ Services Combine Remote Offices, Transportation
A Silicon Valley startup says there’s a better way. It’s called SleepBus, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like, but with a difference. It’s also a coworking space on wheels.
The company launched last month with its first prototype bus—actually a Volvo truck hitched to a long trailer. The company is building 10 custom busses with sleep pods on the top deck and lounging and working areas on the bottom.
You’re assigned a sleep “pod, which is a bunk bed with a curtain, power outlets to run and charge your electronics, and a reading light, but there’s also lounging area and workspace with work desks. The bus also provides WiFi, coffee and a bathroom.
The SleepBus leaves San Francisco at 11 p.m. and arrives at 6 a.m. But you’re welcome to sleep or work until 9 a.m. if you want to. It costs $48 one way.
So basically you show up, get some work done at a proper desk, and then turn in whenever you like. When you wake up in the morning, you’re there. And if you take it both ways, you can skip out two nights in a hotel. Nice!
Let’s say you want to take a working retreat as both a brainstorming and team-building exercise. One company has the ultimate idea for doing exactly that. It’s called the Coboat.
Yes, it’s a boat!
The company is a startup that realized the power of combining the thrill of sailing with the opportunity to keep working, thanks to the Internet.
The Coboat is an 82-foot catamaran, which can carry up to 20 passengers at a time. It travels around the world (from Thailand to the Maldives to the Mediterranean to the Caribbean to the Galapagos), picking up and dropping off passengers along the way.
It costs $971 for a week or $4,300 for a month. If you want to live and work on the boat for a year, the price is $50,630. That price includes a bed, a constant Internet connection, three meals a day, access to diving and other water-related equipment and all the port fees and other charges associated with showing up in various countries in a boat.
The Coboat makes wireless mobile broadband connections available to passengers whenever it’s within range of cell towers near shore or in port. When out at sea, it uses a satellite Internet connection. So you always have an Internet connection. The boat has lounge and desk-like work areas.
The boat is eco-friendly, too. The boat sails under wind power until the wind dies down, at which point the solar-powered engine takes over. Water is created with a desalination plant onboard.
The Future of Traveling Coworking Spaces
I love the idea of mobile working spaces and, no doubt, we’ll see more innovation in this area. I’d like to see coworking train cars, airplanes with office space, coworking self-driving minivans and buses and more.
Coworking spaces have increasingly become popular among entrepreneurs and small business owners who find that shared office space provides not only an affordable alternative, but also a small community of like-minded professionals.
But the newest version—where you’re actually traveling and even exploring in some instances while working—gives the “mobile office” idea a whole new meaning.