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Together, we can work solo

Marketplace Staff May 20, 2008

Together, we can work solo

Marketplace Staff May 20, 2008


Renita Jablonski: Working from home may seem like the pinnacle of professional convenience, but it can also be a double-edged sword for creative types who crave stimulation and social contact. Alex Goldmark looked into one solution for the work-at-home blues: something called co-working.

ALEX GOLDMARK: Political consultant Joanne Wright used to work from home, but it got lonely.

JOANNE WRIGHT: Great apartment, great cat, but I kinda lost my mind after trying to work there for six months.

So after trying out noisy coffee shops she found Nutopia, a co-working space in lower Manhattan. Co-working is an emerging practice of sharing a workspace, but not the work. This large, sunny office with over 40 desks is designed to encourage interaction. There aren’t any cubicles, and hardly any walls.

WRIGHT: I like to take in the fact that he’s over there organizing Broadway auditions that has nothing to do with what I’m working on. She’s putting together ad campaigns. People are just from all different walks of life.

Well, not exactly all walks of life. It’s mostly tech workers and creative types, and a few nonprofitters, too.

At 2 p.m. on a Friday, this Midtown apartment is calm, but crowded. Fifteen or so laptop-lugging young professionals are sitting thigh to thigh on couches, futons and even the floor. It’s a bi-weekly work-together day called Jelly — which doesn’t stand for anything by the way.

Two years ago, founder Amit Gupta used to work from home with his roommates but they still craved company.

AMIT GUPTA: So we just started at some point inviting over like one or two people to work on the kitchen table with us, just ’cause we thought it be fun. And they told their friends and other people told each other and . . .

And now it’s a public event, replicated in 18 cities.

Jeremy Nims is a regular attendee. He says for most people here, the lure is social.

JEREMY MIMS: They sit around doing work, sometimes, but mostly it’s a good place to just interact and find out what other people are working on.

GOLDMARK: So you’re not more productive when you’re here, are you?

MIMS: I’m not more productive, but I’m a lot happier.

And he’s better connected. Which is crucial, according to Sara Horowitz, head of the 70,000-member Freelancers’ Union.

SARA HOROWITZ: It’s not just about socializing, it’s not just about hanging out. That is exactly the way that people find out where work is. So if they’re not getting out of their homes they will be truly unsuccessful.

Trying to balance productivity with my freelancer’s urge to socialize, I’m Alex Goldmark for Marketplace.

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