For the millions of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and travelers who desire a flexible work environment, coworking has become a way to maintain productivity, build community, and get out of the coffee shop.
Thousands of spaces in cities around the world are inviting people in to share work space, wi-fi, and coffee. Spaces that were created as coworking spots are leading the way, but in the spirit of Airbnb, people in a variety of office situations are renting out desks, sofas, and studios to people seeking a place to work.
But with a growing number of spaces to choose from, how does one find the one that is right for them?
Enter Loosecubes. A “global office-sharing community,” Loosecubes helps people find spaces that suit the “vibe” they’re looking for and to fill spaces with people they think would be a good fit for them. Going beyond simply listing available co-working options in a given area, Loosecubes seeks to connect people with shared interests, encourage relationships, and to create a network for the thriving co-working community.
What follows is a Q&A with Loosecubes founder Campbell McKellar, in which she talks about her motivation to create Loosecubes, the growth of the mobile workforce, the benefits of workplace flexibility, and how co-working can propel us out of the recession.
Loosecubes grew out of your own need to find a place, or various places, that you could work out of. Can you talk a bit about your own inspiration and the importance of having workplace freedom?
The idea for Loosecubes was born one summer when I decided to cut a deal with my (then) employer and work remotely from Maine. Though I enjoyed our cabin escape and the ability to do my job hundreds of miles away from my company's office, I found that barking dogs, crying babies, and other perils of vacation homes didn't make for a sustainably productive work week. I dreamed of a nearby artist's studio where I could plug in just a day or two a week and be really productive. And if that was possible, why couldn't I tap into other such spaces pretty much anywhere in the world? A passionate traveler at heart, I decided that I wanted to make that vision a reality: to create opportunities for a fulfilling and mobile work life, whether that be in Brooklyn or Bhutan.
Co-working spaces are springing up all over and have become a vital part of the new economy. Through Loosecubes, people now have a way to connect with spaces in hundreds of cities around the world. What do you think is driving people toward a more mobile work life and where do you see this trend headed?
A fundamental shift in the way people work is occurring. Although a number of factors are contributing to this sea change, technology, women's role in the workforce, and the rise of the freelance and independent workforce are making significant impacts on the way we work. The Internet, smart phones, and cloud computing allow us to do work just about anywhere. At the same time, family dynamics are shifting as women become household breadwinners. Parents struggle to balance dual incomes with child-rearing duties, and opt for work-at-home arrangements and flexible work policies. Meanwhile, more people are opting to ditch careers at large companies in favor of gaining flexibility as a freelancer. The independent workforce is 42 million strong and continues to grow. With no corporate office to report to, mobile work is quickly becoming the norm — coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other third places serve as ad hoc workspace. I think we're only going to see these trends accelerate in the coming years.
Through Loosecubes, people can find not just co-working spaces but a variety of office or work situations. That seems to open up the possibilities, whether someone wants a small corner in a quiet office or to be in the middle of a large, buzzing co-working space. Was that your intention from the beginning?
As a college student, I studied wherever I felt most productive — whether that be in the library, in my dorm room, or at a coffee shop. When I graduated into the world of traditional employment, I quickly realized that the notion of selecting the environment that would allow me do my best work wasn't the norm. At Loosecubes, we're focused on curating a network of spaces that aren't homogeneous, rather, that meet the different needs of our community — whether that be a co-working space or a company office. Tackling an email inbox or writing a blog post might require a quieter, less social space (and a spot on the sofa), while strategy and product-development work might be best achieved in a gregarious space where coworkers are up for providing feedback and problem solving.
Loosecubes provides a way for businesses and organizations to invite people to work in their space. This is a bit of a twist on the co-working concept. What was your motivation to open it up in this way?
Loosecubes was started in New Work City (NWC), a community co-working space in Lower Manhattan. One of the things I loved most about NWC was the serendipitous connections made by virtue of sitting next to someone working on something different than me. Through casual conversation, I connected with people that helped me solve problems, get advice, and motivate me. The ability to tap into the collective expertise of the group without having to attend a networking event was invaluable.
Taking the lessons learned from traditional co-working spaces and applying them to company office environments lends many of the same effects. By hosting coworkers, companies reinvigorate their work environments, meet potential collaborators, hires, and friends, and embrace a new work culture. Even more exciting is the potential for host companies to help shape our economy — by offering a desk or two to entrepreneurs and small-business owners, they can incubate the companies and build businesses that will propel us out of the recession.
Having a personal workspace, with all the resources you need to be productive, anywhere in the world is new experience of work and place. Can you talk about the social network of workers and spaces that is growing out of Loosecubes? How does Loosecube's new mobile app add to this movement?
As opposed to just connecting people to space, we're focused on connecting people to people. We're working to create a network of friendly offices around the world that also results in relationships being formed on a broader scale. Through each coworking experience, our members make connections that they then impart to other Loosecubes (and Loosecubers). It's a bit of a network effect. Our integration with Facebook (LinkedIn coming soon!) also allows people to work where they have mutual connections, thus accelerating those delightfully serendipitous aspects of co-working.
In building our platform and community, we strive to help our members be as productive as possible, both from a professional and social standpoint. Our mobile site, for example, helps on-the-go and traveling coworkers find and book a convenient place to work in 42 countries. What's more, those coworkers are then able to meet potential collaborators, hires, and new friends wherever they go – just by walking into a Loosecube.