It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it. Telecommuters, by definition, don’t really have coworkers in the traditional sense of the word. I do “work with others” so I do have coworkers, but not physically. Physically, I work alone all day, every day…
I was reading Organized Coworking (about CNN’s work at home feature about the next phase in telecommuting) over at Cromely’s World today, and I had one of those “now why didn’t I think of that” moments. It’s not that I haven’t heard of the concept. The government provides telework centers all over the DC area and there are companies who do the same. The idea of having to report to a telework center instead of the office doesn’t exactly thrill me. I work at home because I like to work at home and don’t want to HAVE to go anywhere.
But today I saw it in a slightly different light. The CNN story talks about a group of developers and programmers that’s been organized into a network called Jelly. They meet once a month in a local watering hole that by night serves as a local sports bar but once a month serves as a telecommuter’s haven.
So the “ah-ha” moment for me is actually a business opportunity idea where local establishments could look at another angle for using their space. If I owned a restaurant, bar, gym, computer repair shop, daycare center, or anything else with adequate space and the desire to attract local publicity and interest, I’d look into providing some workspace for the growing number of telecommuters who are changing the way the workforce works.
In my physical world, I don’t know anyone who works at home like I do. I’m sure they’re out there, I just don’t know them. Would I join a like-minded group who meets once a month at a nearby establishment to cowork? Probably!
Think about it – if you’re a telecommuter looking to join a gym and you find one that also provides an inviting space where you’re encouraged to stay before or after your workout to knock out a little work and even organizes monthly co-working network groups, wouldn’t you choose to join THAT gym that caters to your lifestyle? I would.
If you’re thinking of starting a day care – think of attracting both the parents and the children to come to stay and work and play. It would be kind of like a play date group, but hosted by a “daycare” facility. Telecommuting moms and dads would accompany their child to the play date – and while the kids are getting to play together, the parents are co-working in a quieter section of the facilities.
Suppose the local mom and pop computer sales and service shop, competing every day with the likes of Best Buy were to work to organize a group of telecommuters and then provide the work space for that group once a month. What better way to cater to the people they’re looking to attract?
I realize it might take some work on the part of the hosting business, but darned if I don’t see it as a great opportunity that didn’t exist a few years ago. I rarely travel with my laptop to do any real work. I take it with me on vacations, but I have never packed it up and headed down to a Starbucks or local bookstore. I just don’t have the desire to sit amongst strangers and silently go about my business. I would, however, welcome the opportunity to occasionally go somewhere else where the same group of like-minded, independently-working telecommuters showed up once a month to co-work in a fabulously friendly environment.
If they provided fresh coffee and tea for the duration of the day I might even pay for the privilege. If they provided lunch, I might even ask to come once a week.
Heck, maybe it’s a whole new business idea all together. A start-up that provides state-of-the-art, co-working work spaces without the typical distractions of a home office and, of course, features plenty of desk space and outlets, waiters with coffee, tea and other easy menu choices, and plethora of other creative accouterments catering to folks just like me.