Should You Work From Home?

Thanks to Marissa Mayer ($YHOO) for making this issue front and center.  As more and more of the US workforce transitions into independent contractors, people are being faced with a choice.  Do they set up a home office and work from home, or do they set up an office outside of their home?

I have done both.

Recently, I have been engaged researching trends in co-working.  I attended the Austin Juicy conference the week before SXSW and learned a lot.  This is more than a mere trend-it’s changing the way humans interact and produce.

Right now, it’s 6am and I am typing this in a home office I have set up.  It’s comfortable to work here now.  But, if I want to get stuff done without any interruptions I need to go someplace else.  For a lot of people, that becomes the local coffee shop with free wifi.

I have tried the free coffee shop route.  It sucks.  People wander in an out.  In the ones I have worked at in cities, homeless guys sneak a cat nap in chairs.  It’s also not a professional place to meet people.  If you are starting to work independently from home, avoid the trap of the coffee shop.  Even though it’s free-it’s not.  You won’t accomplish much here-and your time is worth something.

The place that people are turning to is a co-working place.

Desktime on Coworking from Desktime on Vimeo.

What’s interesting about the co-work model is that it reminds me of a trading floor.  When all those traders wore crazy colored jackets and gesticulated in trading pits, they were co-working just like people in co-work spaces across the US do today.  Each trader was working for their entity.  Sometimes they struck up relationships and worked on things together, and sometimes they didn’t.  That primitive co-working space created one of the most powerful human networks in the world.

Ron Burt talks about co-working and says it exposes you to the risk of a serendipitous accident.  People that co-work “put themselves at risk” where they may meet someone, or engage in a conversation with someone where an accident results.  Both people leave the conversation with more information than they had previously-and there is that chance that they might create something new from it.

Huge macroeconomic trends are pushing the movement.  Corporations aren’t hiring employees.  They are hiring 1099 consultants. The marginal cost to hiring is too great.  Workers are starting to “pod”.  They form groups of people with different skills and go from gig to gig.  Obamacare is restricting hours that employees can work-and it’s making it terrifically expensive to hire.  Companies like Shiftgig are sprouting up to surf this long lasting change in our environment.

For owners of co-work spaces, the problem becomes managing them.  Desktime is a software package that can do that seamlessly.  Not only that, but as it adds features, it connects people within your space and across spaces.

There are benefits to large companies paying to have their employees go out of the cocoon of the home office and co-work in a space.  They might pick up potential clients.  They “market” the firm by having a presence on the street. People connect with other people, not logos.  They also become eyes and ears for the company and can bring back valuable information about the outside environment.  This assists in planning strategy.

As I delve deeper and deeper into the whole virtual space, I am finding out interesting things.  As communication moves from human to telephony to virtual-people can get more interconnected in ways they had never thought of.  But, we are still humans.  We need a “hug”.  We do better when we are around other humans.  Co-working takes the detached at home worker and puts them in an environment where they can be around other humans in a nice environment.

People at home feel isolated.  That isolation can lead to depression.  It’s rough being an independent contractor.  There is a lot of rejection.  Entrepreneurship is hard.  It’s better to experience it with people in the same boat as you.

Everyone has their preferences on the type of co-work space they want to be in.  Fortunately, there are thousands of them.  Last year, there were 1200.  This year, there are 3000.  Commercial real estate developers have been caught with their hands in their pockets.  They don’t “get” co-working.  Nor do they get what you have to do to make the space successful.  A developer can’t just order furniture and put a shingle up saying they are open for co-working.

Great spaces take a little work and tender loving care to curate.  But, it’s worthwhile because they become really sticky.  Small companies can become big companies that become a pipeline to future long term leases.  Desktime helps them manage that whole process and puts them on the map.

For individuals or entrepreneurs starting a company, you get things done and you expose yourself to the chance that you might meet someone and create something even better together.  Don’t work exclusively from home.  Try co-working.

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thanks for link ChicagoBoyz

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