Coworking Telecommuters

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.

11 comments

  1. “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.”

    Hmm… Lisa… sounds like a telework center to me! If you are in the Winchester VA area, we cater to our clients EVERYDAY. Renting terms are as fexible as you could want, coffee is hot and the staff can help you with techno problems on the spot. There are 14 such GSA Telework centers in the DC Metro area. Check us out at wmtc.org.

  2. Linda – The GSA Telework centers are indeed cool. I wrote about them in Telework is a Triple Win, which covered the latest updates in Government making good use of Telecommuting Programs. I kind of assumed you’d have to be a government employee – so it’s good to know that anyone can opt into the idea of working at a Telework Center. I appreciate you letting us know!

    I’m actually not in the Winchester, VA area – I live in rural NC. Surely more of the “instant offices” just like yours will begin to pop up in even more places as telecommuting continues to gain. I still also like the idea of the local mom-and-pop getting in on the action.

    ~Lisa (still working sans wait staff and tech support)

  3. Interested “Future” Teleworkers,

    You might actually be surprised if you gave a Telework Center a chance. I am not saying, by any means, that it is for everyone. If you can work from home and your life is structured without interruptions then by golly do so. Some people have wives, husbands kids or pets that would tie up parts of their day if they did Telework from home. Also to mention, working from home you may lose some social skills when having to talk through a piece of plastic as your only form of verbal communications. At the centers friends are made and you develope a social network with other agencies (private and public).

    The centers have on-site technical support (24×7) which will work with your tech support agents to fix any issues you may incur, new PC’s (which are changed out every 3 years), latest software, expensive Color and B&W printers, a Xerox WorkCentre (copy, fax and scan to email capabilities) and are you ready for this?? …all the free coffee you could ever drink (with flavored creamers too)!

    The best part of it all is that if you are with a Federal Agency your Telework day(s) are paid out of your agency’s Federal Telework funding and not your Dept’s own account. If you are a private sector then your company will be invoiced, but all in all the price per day is very minimal when you consider that you have everything (inclusive in price) in hand to do your job (pc, printing, internet, supplies, etc.). I highly recommend to those of you who cannot work from home to give your local Telework Centers a try. The site is http://www.gsa.gov/telework for those interested!

  4. Tony – thank you SO much for the added information. Flavored creamers, you say?

    I think this topic is actually great. I’ve known that GSA Telework centers exist for a long time now (since mentioning the IRS back a bit) – but I just didn’t realize anyone could subscribe. I will consider a GOV’T telecommuting job if and when I’m ever out looking. That way my job can pay for my taste for fancy creamers.

  5. AND….Lisa….if you would like to take a look at a telework center located on a University campus, let me know and I’ll give you a tour of the GSA Telework Center at Bowie State University. You can also consider taking a class while you are on campus, eat in the dining room, and/ read in the Library. I own a home in NC and understand fully the “rural NC” area. I will say, however, with the traffic increasing in the Raleigh/Cary area AND people just wanting to work SMARTER, I think EVEN NC might be ready to look at Telework Centers. Flavored creamers? Shoot….I’d even pitch in for a donut!

  6. I have flavored creamers and donuts – what else could a gal need?? The biggest draw for me, seriously, would be the equipment. It’s honestly my biggest expense and sometimes my biggest headache…

    I am shocked at the response I received, and truly appreciate what I’ve learned. This really opens up a whole new world for the future of telework and telecommuting options. Don’t be surprised if I hit you all up for tours, pictures, more information, and donuts, of course, for a future article.

  7. I have put up a new web site for listing Telecommuting Centers. It is a free site for both listing and searching. So far, most of the listing are for centers around the Washington D.C. area, but I am working on adding new centers as quickly as possible.

    Here is the web site:
    http://www.remoteofficehostingcenters.com

    Please feel free to post this link.

  8. Thanks, Aullman. Great idea and resource for finding ROHCs. I gotta say, I love the picture of Telecommuting 1.0. Those of us working at home know it’s hardly an accurate portrayal but I do think it’s what most folks envision (and definitley some managers envision) when you talk about working from home on a computer.

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