The Telecommuter’s Social Office


While working from home is liberating, it is also isolating and lonely.  When a telecommuter has no nearby office, what can she do when she gets tired of her cat or wood stove for company? Enter the coworking hub, a mixture of modern solution and primal need fulfillment: a shared, social office space for independent workers to gather.

Why not go to the corner coffee shop?

Coffee shops and libraries have long been an imperfect match for the telecommuter.  Using the former generates friction between the need for productive work and the original purpose of the shop.  How many coffees do you need to buy per hour?  What if you need to make an ad hoc phone call?  Would your table-mate mind plugging in your power cord?  Free public libraries don’t induce the same guilt over misuse, but they don’t offer space to socialize and network while working.

What is a coworking hub?

Software screen capture of floor planThe particulars range from one organization to another, but common characteristics are:

  • An open floor plan with tables, desks, and couches
  • Kitchen and bathroom facilities
  • Services and utilities like Internet, heat, printing, and snacks
  • Some private or shared offices inside the main facility
  • Lockers for storing gear in between visits
  • Membership fees based on usage frequency

More important than the physical characteristics, though, are the interactions that occur throughout the day between independent coworkers.  When I visited Local 64 in Montpelier, VT, I encountered a warm, welcoming, social environment.  The day passed with a mix of billable hours, conversation, and networking.  I left with offers to join a 24-hour hackathon team and a development studio, and a feeling of friendship and engagement.
Some hubs, including Local 64, consciously enrich the natural community aspects by hosting events like board game nights, MakerBot workshops, and small business presentations.  They give back to their neighborhoods by bringing people downtown and enriching the civic environment.

Where do you find a hub?

Has your interest been provoked?  Most coworking hubs offer a day pass.  Find the closest space to you:

Check out the website for your local space, which probably has lots of information, then get in touch.  Introduce yourself, and ask if you can come visit the hub for a day.  If you have multiple options, look for the one with the most engaged, excited core members.
If you’ve been working at home for months or years, you’ll likely find it a breath of fresh air.

How do you get more information or start your own?

My home town of White River Junction doesn’t have a hub yet, but there’s growing enthusiasm.  We’ve started organizing via a Google group, spreading the news through the town listserv, local coffeeshops, and social networks.
Helpful online resources include:

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