Everything “co” seems to be hot these days (co-living, car sharing, and so on), and after working in a “co” office for three years, I thought I’d share some thoughts and tips.
About three years ago, after 10 years of working from home, I hit the wall. My daughter (the main reason I started working from home in the first place) had started middle school, many of my friends who used to work part-time or not at all had gone back to full-time work, and I was unhappy and not getting a lot done during the day. Go out into the kitchen to get a drink of water…only to be confronted by a heap of dirty dishes. Get an e-mail asking if I could chaperone the school field trip…and end up feeling guilty about having to work instead. So, I decided that the problem wasn’t working from home, it was me plus working from home, so something had to change.
Three years in, my three-word summary is: I love it. I really don’t plan to ever work from home again on a permanent basis, although I do work primarily from home in the summers when my daughter is out of school. My income has gone up a lot; I gave myself a parameter that I had to make up the office rent in increased income and I exceed that goal, and I find that I’m much more able to focus on work when I’m at work. I’m much happier with my work situation, and I also find that when I get home, I’m much more able to focus on things other than work, which I had a very hard time doing before.
For my first two and a half years of co-working, I worked in an office in a historic school building, where the other co-workers were mostly middle-aged word nerds. When that office closed, I moved to a new office which has more of a tech/startup vibe and I’m one of the oldest people there, but I like both offices in their own way. At the first office I paid $350 a month and at the new office I pay $330, which includes my own desk, coffee, meeting space, etc. I leave my large monitor, full-size keyboard, etc. at the office and carry my laptop back and forth on my bike. The office also has a printer, copier, etc. so I’m pretty much set in terms of office equipment.
The only main caveat I would give is that working in a co-working office requires either a fairly high ambient noise tolerance or a willingness to wear headphones a lot (I alternate between the two). People are on the phone, or chatting, or whatever…there just always seems to be some kind of conversation going on. I find that kind of enjoyable, but it’s something to think about.
I’ve also heard from readers who want to try co-working but can’t find an office near them. The easiest option would be to just DIY: go work from a cafe or the library when you need to get out of the house. Another interesting option would be to form some kind of co-working club: get a couple of freelancers (or 20 freelancers…whatever!) together and meet up to work together. One day a week, or one day a month, or whenever you want; meet at the library or a cafe, or someone’s house, or a space like a church basement that you could use inexpensively.
Also, don’t discount the option of co-working on the road. Last summer my daughter did a day camp in Denver, which is about a 40 minute drive from our house. I couldn’t get excited about the idea of either doing two round trips a day, or camping out in a cafe for 7 hours, so I rented a desk for a week at Creative Density, a really fun co-working space in Denver (and they separate their rooms by noise level…yay!). So that’s an interesting option too!