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Telework Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely

For all of its many benefits, full-time telework can be lonely. One study identified 2.5 days a week to be the telework sweet spot, after which the solitude becomes oppressive. For those who for whatever reason have to telework even more frequently than that, there’s now a new option—co-working:

This was supposed to be the age of the mobile (a k a nonexistent) office, with “solopreneurs” telecommuting from home or the beach in elastic-waist pants. But many who work independently are discovering alienation lurking behind the home-office fantasy, and an increasing number are joining a new generation of co-working organizations, like GrindFueled Collective and NeueHouse — some more exclusive than others. There are work spaces for writers (the Brooklyn Writers Space); for design types and bloggers (Studiomates, in Dumbo); and scores for tech entrepreneurs, including ones that double as continuing-ed campuses (General Assembly, which opened in New York in 2011, offers classes on subjects like “back-end Web development”). […]

There are now nearly 800 commercial co-working facilities in the United States, up from a little more than 300 only two years ago, and about 40 in 2008, according to an annual survey by Deskmag, an online magazine that covers the co-working industry.

If you’ve got the time, read the whole thing. The NYT piece profiles some forward thinking and undeniably hip co-working clubs and gives some color to a subject that can seem a bit drab at times. We think the Grey Lady has drawn the wrong conclusions from the rising popularity of these places, however.

As the technology that makes remote work possible gets better and cheaper, employees continue to value telework more and more—even more than salary, by some accounts. That many of these teleworkers are choosing to work in the kinds of sub-hubs described in the NYT piece isn’t an indictment of telework; it’s a clever application of it. Ad-hoc satellite offices are places where team members can collaborate, solving that persistent gripe that telework kills informal “water cooler” banter. Having a diffuse work force spread across a variety of work spaces as opposed to one central office can also make companies more resilient to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, power outages, and other unpredictable disruptions. That kind of insurance can be invaluable to businesses like finance, where even short periods offline can mean millions of dollars in lost opportunity.

Many employees, particularly new parents, enjoy the benefits of working from home, but co-working is another teleworking alternative to the status quo that will be increasingly popular. As more of these hubs open up, employees can select a work space closer to home, curbing the onerous effects of commuting. That’s a step in the right direction.

[Telecommuting image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • wigwag

    “There are now nearly 800 commercial co-working facilities in the United States, up from a little more than 300 only two years ago, and about 40 in 2008, according to an annual survey by Deskmag, an online magazine that covers the co-working industry.” (Via Meadia)

    There are actually alot more than 800 “co-working” facilities; that is if you count Starbucks and public libraries. It is amazing how many teleworkers actually conduct their businesses from Starbucks and/or libraries; they migrate to these venues to escape the alienation and loneliness that comes from working at home all of the time.

    Another feature that Starbucks has to offer is that it is the perfect place for a business meeting (assuming you can find a seat). When teleworkers need to conduct business meetings, it is usually pretty uncomfortable to invite business associates to their homes. Starbucks (and similar coffee houses) offer the perfect solution. They are ubiquitous, they are generally clean, they tend to have an upscale clientele and, for the most part, they are relatively quiet.

    My guess is that Starbucks is perfectly aware of this trend and doing everything they can to capitalize on it; forward thinking library leaders are also aware of this trend. As the proliferation of E-books and the coming phenomonon of E-book lending threatens the business model of “bricks and mortar” libraries, it would not surprise me if libraries reinvent themselves as a place where teleworkers can congregate to work in a public space that is business-like yet friendly. Of course, to make it work, libraries will have to dispense with the “no-talking rule.”

    Nor would it surprise me if ten years from now private institutions like Starbucks and public institutions like libraries actually install the software (e.g. meeting software like “goto meeting”) and hardware (high definition cameras and microphones) that make telecommuting more productive.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    I’ve never been lonely working by myself. As long as you have a phone and an i’net connection, you’re not alone.

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