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Sharing an office can be a good thing

Janet Babin Jan 27, 2009

Sharing an office can be a good thing

Janet Babin Jan 27, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: Maybe there’s a bright side to your job: a conference call that you get to attend in your PJs. Or maybe you forego sitting in traffic for an hour for the pleasure of paying to park. Yeah, for some it’d be nice to stay at home to get the job done. For others with that choice, it can be a lonesome luxury that they’re trying to fix. From the Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, here’s Marketplace’s Janet Babin.

Janet Babin: At 8 o’clock on a Friday night, most offices are dark. But at Creative Coworking in Carrboro, North Carolina, the work, if you can call it that, is just getting started. Office mates are playing Wii baseball in an open area conference room.

Office mate: Oh, that’s how you pitch, OK.

The idea behind Coworking is to create office space shared by workers in all types of fields. Here, some are writers, some are web designers. More than just a corporate rent-a-desk, coworking encourages people from different careers to brainstorm.

But I struggled to understand the attraction:

Babin: A lot of people work in offices and they kind of spend their lives, you know, just wishing they could work at home in their underwear — and then you guys get that chance but yet you come to an office.

Dante Cassanego: So tried that, it’s really not that cool. Because, at least for me, it’s been very difficult. It’s difficult to separate work and life.

That’s Dante Cassanego. He’s a software engineer for Intuit. While he could work anywhere, like a coffee shop, Cassanego says the Coworking office brings a sense of structure:

Cassanego: The atmosphere here is a lot more focused on work than Starbucks, reliability of Internet connection, ability to print, photocopy.

The guy in charge of making sure all that stuff works is Brian Russell. Users pay varying fees to rent private space, or just hang out in common areas. The day rate is $30, .and includes access to the flat screen monitors and the kitchen.

Russell says the best part of his job is fostering collaboration:

Brian Russell: Two people who are working here that didn’t know each other are now working on [a] Knight Foundation Grant, just because they happen to be randomly sit next to each other in this environment.

Coworking started in California’s open source community, then spread to New York, Philadelphia, Austin, and Miami. Russell brought it to North Carolina a few months ago — right around the time the recession became official.

Russell: I mortgaged my condo, my wife’s 23 weeks pregnant, and I’m scared.

So far Russell’s got 30 clients. But he thinks the economic climate may bring him even more business. Space with him is a lot cheaper than renting an office on your own. And at least for some, it’s more fun than working at home.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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