Dan Morris started with a philosophical post (Working Spaces in a Knowledge Economy: Part 1) on shared spaces. I’m going to start in the trenches and work my way up.
I’m restarting my search for a mildly social workplace, one that doesn’t require me to submit to a manufactured ‘company culture’ or keep specific hours or write TPS reports. One that stimulates, challenges and gently corrects me as necessary.
When I realized that I was not suited to my (any?) job about 17 years ago, I had a fully equipped home office but did most of my work in clients’ offices. That worked well; I was in the Silicon Valley then and my clients had great amenities for employees and contractors alike. For example, Intuit’s culture encouraged everyone to join the Friday beer parties and most groups included contractors in their ship parties. I really enjoyed the breakfast burritos from the cafeteria too, and Fiesta Del Mar was right around the corner when I felt like eating some amazing mole poblano for lunch with a coworker or two. Many of my clients made working from their offices similarly attractive.
As I started working for distant companies as a remote worker, I did more of my work in my home office. With a new baby in the house, I was never completely ‘at work’. And with the computer just down the hall, I was rarely completely ‘at home’. It all worked out OK, but I didn’t feel as engaged in either role.
When we moved to Portland, Oregon in 2002, I separated work and home. My office was a small unit in the same high-rise where we lived, and we didn’t even have internet service at home. That was a great change, mostly. We moved out of that building in 2012 but I kept the office, commuting 20 minutes by streetcar each day. That really felt like ‘going to work’. But something was still missing.
What was missing from both my home office and my small remote office? Other people, aka coworkers.
In about 2008 I started making a concerted effort to meet the people around me who were doing similar or related work. Fortunately Portland is full of interesting and competent people! We’d meet groups of 2 to 12, in coffee shops and brewpubs and at the seemingly endless unconferences at CubeSpace to work or plan or just to have company while focusing on a task with our headphones on. Over time, some of those people have gotten jobs, some have started companies, and some of those have sold their companies so they can do it again. That core group of 15-20 people has fragmented, though I can safely say that we have all retained our high regard of each other.
So I’m restarting my search for a mildly social workplace, one that doesn’t require me to submit to a manufactured ‘company culture’ or keep specific hours or write TPS reports. One that stimulates, challenges and gently corrects me as necessary. I don’t expect to get subsidized breakfast burritos again, but I do expect to find a great group of coworkers.