I heard a story on Morning Edition yesterday about making telecommuting a social affair. Just the day before I'd published short piece on what's come to be called "co-working."
Co-working is a developing trend where developers, writers, independents, and other professionals to spend at least part of their day in a shared, public space. In the NPR story, the co-workers took turns opening up their apartment. Other people meet at a library, Starbucks, or other space with wi-fi.
The trend is catching onto the point that cities are creating co-working spaces. A recent article by Sean O'Steen documented a co-working space in Berkeley created just for that purpose. The Berkeley experience, and I presume the NY one to some degree, take co-working to a more committed place--the anchor tenants are paying rent.
Co-working acknowledges that face-to-face matters, at least occasionally. I find the same thing. When I need to just crank out some code or write, sitting at home in a private space is a great way to be productive. But there are times when having other people around is a boon to creative thinking or just more pleasant.
This is an evolutionary move in what Thomas Malone calls the "future of work." If you listen to Malone, he believes that whenever new cheap materials show up in the economy, they change the way we live and the way we work. The cheap new material of our day is communication. Cheap communications is creating new, innovative ways to organize teams. For example, the real innovation of Wikipedia isn't the wiki, but rather the new distributed work structure that it created.
I know more and more people who work independently and spend at least part of their week as an office nomad. While I don't foresee a future where everyone will work like this, I do believe that new methods of work are on the rise and co-working is just one of the latest. As workers change the way they want to work, businesses will have to adapt in order to find the best and the brightest.
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