The C in Coworking Space Also Stands for Community

We’re excited to be “syndicating” a blog post from Robin Terrell’s amazing blog on the future of work (with a particular emphasis on the location-independent variety): The Global Mobile Worker. This post in particular was meaningful to us because it’s about the meaning of community, and in particular the community Robin found (and helped create! – Thanks, Robin!) at Locus.

Along with creating this blog and being a member of Locus, Robin is a Berkeley-educated lawyer, a writer (her book, Two Broke Chicasa travelogue about her adventures traveling around Central & South America, Mexico, and Cuba with her partner–is available on Amazon), a technology / startup junkie, a proud Amazon employee.

We’re excited to be able to share her blog post here…

wordgram-of-cowork
When I first arrived in town I used Meetup to find people who shared common interest. That led me straight to Locus Coworking space. Once in the door, I quickly connected with both the startup community and the writing community, common members of co-working spaces. It has been almost three years now and although I never signed up to co-work at Locus, I realized that I spent time in one of the two spaces at least once a week.
When my new job took me away from Prague for months, my homecoming included reconnecting with my friends at Locus. I write every Saturday with a dedicated group, committed to various forms of media that involve the written word. We have bloggers, and novelists, and game script writers, and PhD students writing a thesis. We come from different countries, different generations, different genders. Our bond is a long-term fascination with words on a page.
It was through Locus that I joined my E-publishing Mastermind group that has single-handedly taken me from talking smack to preparing to upload my first ebook, Two Broke Chicas, a Travel Series, December 26th, just in time for people to use their Christmas gift cards and make their New Year’s Resolution to travel more. Mentor members, like successful sci-fi writer, Bill King, have made my dreams come true.
While plopped on a big fluffy couch to wait for the group to start, I realized how important Locus was to my social life, and sense of being, in Prague. What my virtual membership gave me access to, besides one day a month and access to my e-Publishing Mastermind group, was a community. A place I could belong with people who shared my passion for a flexible work life.

Community = Thrive

Just like we need a Tribe, we need a community. Research found that people who belong to a co-working space report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices. Read more: Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces
infographic-co-work
Grind, is a growing network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago. Community manager, Anthony Marinos, shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community at Grind, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our staff knows all of our members by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between Grindists.”
Research in Forbes magazine showed that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger.Co-working spaces can be a place for women, known for being great communicators and collaborators, who don’t excel at building power networks can find a safe space to start. (Women tend to build deep and narrow networks women-networkwhile men wide and shallow ones.) I’ve added several women to my network from Locus, and started an informal dinner group to encourage young professional women to support each other, over a glass of wine.

Building Intentional Communities

Some experts believe that co-working space should be built more like intentional communities. Example, Brooklyn’s Friends Work Here. Founded by NYC-based Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur Tina Roth-Eisenberg, who’s also behind the international lecture series CreativeMornings (which happens monthly in Prague, but mostly in Czech) and Tattly. The space came as a response to Roth-Eisenberg’s negative experiences in “soulless” coworking places that are more focused on making money than cultivating inspiration among its members.

A Wealth of Human Resources

Locus is how I found my brief dog-sitting gig. I enjoyed several days of pretending to own a dog, forced to take several walks every day, which did wonders for my mental health. I’ve enjoyed people passing through town and people here for the duration, like my friend Sarah who first came when it was Czechslovakia, and still communist. She is at heart a historian, writes historical fiction, and loves talking about the history of this country she calls home, as a well-informed outsider.
It was hysterical and inspiring to sit in on Texas Holdem’ Poker night, where people from around the world turned into ruthless gamblers who might gut you for a pair of Ace. It was motivational to listen to Regina and Mike talk about becoming Courageously Free, and through that relationship I was interviewed for their podcast – which should be out just in time for my book launch.
There were people at Locus doing, looking for, thinking about the exact same things as I was. We all wanted to marry our fascination with social media and our passion for words. I could pick the brains of people who, like me, were inspired by Prague, determined to make their literary dreams come true. We figured out all kinds of ways to make money with words. My critique and Saturday writing buddy, Beth Green, will fix your words for a fee. Which still leaves her time to search for an agent for her first novel, represent on Booklust and @bethverde, and be a Wanderlust columnist at thedisplacednation.com.
My writing group has sustained me, in ways both creatively and emotionally, over noodles and pivo at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from Locus. We’ve discussed our lives and our loves, U.S. and European politics and the meaning of feminism.
We’ve shared critique groups and book front-cover
launches, like Sonya’s soiree for Under a Caged Sky, held at Locus Slezka, where we toasted with glasses of wine under the skylight, with Prague as the backdrop.

Staying Engaged

partyOnce I’d had that moment of realization, that my co-working space was my community, I started to look around for other ways to participate. Engaged in the social media connection and found easy, fun ways to stay involved. I am looking forward to the Christmas Party catered by Ethnocatering, a social enterprise of migrant women that serves authentic food from Georgia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Armenian. You can’t find this deliciousness in restaurants. I know, I said it, that bad M word. Well, I must own it because here in Prague, I’m a migrant. A tax paying, law abiding expat seeking shelter and new beginnings.
I know I’m not alone in this revelation and would love you to share your experience of finding community in co-working spaces. Tell us your story in the comment section here at the Global Mobile Worker Project.

Negotiating Like a Pro at Locus

On Wednesday February 22 Locus Workspace had the opportunity to host one of our own members, Martin Bednář, to speak on the topic of negotiation. The event Negotiate Like a Pro gave us all insights into the best practices for negotiating, with a focus on business situations. 
Martin is an experienced businessman and today a trainer and coach on topics such as sales, marketing, and negotiating. We learned and discussed what it truly means to be in a negotiating type situation followed by the behavior and language necessary to be a skilled negotiator. Martin was a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker on the topic.

Thank you Martin and thank you to all who participated for making the event a great learning opportunity! 

Please stay up to date with our facebook page and meetup groups to attend similar seminars in the future.

Locus Does NaNoWriMo

A November 2013 blog post from Sarah Tatoun that was mistakenly never published. As relevant now as when it was written.
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Born in the same year- 1999- National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and coworking have, at first glance, nothing much more than that in common. A deeper look, however, shows a common origin: both were born out of the recognition that people are designed to work in communities. Cut off from others, most of us flounder, while often the mere presence of others, even without any active attempt at cooperation, can make the same activities easier- even fun.
The difference between the processes in writing my first two novels  – twenty-five years apart- is a case in point. The first one, written in my twenties, was done at a time in my life when I was particularly isolated. I was living in a new place and had few friends. The only structure I had was the one I tried to build: forcing myself to sit down for a daily two to three hour writing stint. I had some advice from professional writing friends, but they were distant and, in those days before email, not readily accessible. Taking a writing class gave me some contacts and more structure in the way of deadlines and the demands of professional formatting. Still, the whole thing was excruciatingly slow and painful.

Twenty-five years later I was living in a whole different world. I had moved back to the US after nine years abroad- but, via the internet, I was still in touch with friends not only in the Czech Republic, but across the US, Europe and Asia as well. And I had made new friends locally, too. When I heard about NaNoWriMo in 2005 I thought maybe it was time to dust off my writing dreams and an old plot that had been lying around all these years and give it a whirl. So every day for the month of November, I sat down dutifully and churned out my 1667 words- on my way to writing the 50,000 words that mark the lower bound for a work to be called a novel. Only this time, instead of one or two people offering encouragement- and more who were tired of hearing me talk about it- I had an army of thousands of people around the world, all aiming for the same goal, egging each other on with ‘word sprints’ and challenges, complaining to one another, or offering advice. It still wasn’t easy, but it was satisfyingly hard, like running a marathon for which you’ve been training for for months, not painful. And the story I was writing opened up into something new and unexpected. Five years later, back in the Czech Republic, I used NaNoWriMo again to write a ‘prequel’- only to decide that what I had was actually a series of at least five novels.

NaNoWriMo turned out to be just what I needed for writing- but there was still the problem of revising. Once again I was stuck in isolation, trying to put and keep myself on some kind of schedule and finding it hard going. And that’s where coworking came in. I started coming occasionally to Locus for various events: movie night, lectures, poker… It hadn’t even occurred to me to become a member- until the Friday Critique-Free Writers’ Meetups got started. Usually there were at least three or four of us in both the morning and afternoon sessions. After saying what we hoped to accomplish we got down to writing. The sound of everyone else clicking away was enough to keep me on track. I found I was getting more done in a single day at Locus than the rest of the week put together. It wasn’t too long after that that I decided to become a member. I bought a ‘virtual membership’ – one day a month- and paid for extra days so that, with the Friday Writers’ Meetup, I was coming two days a week. About six months later I began helping with the management in exchange for a full time membership.

The presence of other people working is always a stimulus to getting things done- still, I find what helps the most is being in a group, all there for the same purpose and with a clear goal for the day’s work. So this year for NaNoWriMo we threw open the doors of Locus every Saturday for the month of November to anyone and everyone in the Czech Republic doing NaNoWriMo. Some people came from other cities, most were already living in Prague. Some came every time and some came only once. A total of around fifteen people came to at least one meeting- and three of our members that I know of – perhaps more- ‘won’ NaNoWriMo in 2013 by writing at least 50,000 words on their novel. And yes, I was one of them, writing the third of my historical series- set, fittingly enough, in 18th century Bohemia.

Nomad Holidays

Below is a wonderful blog post about organizing work-holidays for independent workers by the Czech Republic’s own Robert Vlach, founder of na volné noze. Read the original Czech version here.
 
Nomad holidays
 
26 September 2012, by Robert Vlach
 
Translated by David Creighton 
 
Organising a longer holiday can pose a real challenge to freelancers. But do you know how a holiday can boost your business?
 
Although it may not seem very obvious, a quiet revolution is sweeping through the labour market. In the USA, 25% of the workforce is now working on a freelance basis, and this number is the same in a number of European countries. This revolution is ushering in new lifestyles, including the freelancer‘s approach to holidays. In this article we’ll look at the main principles and then offer full advice on everything you‘ll need to know about organising holidays abroad for digital nomads.
 
The problem: irreplaceability
 
One of the downsides of being a freelancer is irreplaceability.If employees are on leave, colleagues can usually stand in for them, but most independent professionals have nobody to replace them, and they can’t be offline for more than a week(according to recent research, up to 80% of freelancers are in such a position). And what if a long-standing client needs urgent help, or a lucrative project comes in?
 
Such fears are justified. Self-employed people running small businesses need to think twice before heading off on a break to the middle of nowhere. What’s more, unlike employees, self-employed people have to pay travel costs and run the risk of a considerable financial loss in the form of lost income. In other words, the traditional summer holiday is much more expensive for a freelancer than an employee.
 
The solution: a nomad holiday
 
The market is able to find ideal solutions to very tricky problems. When I first wrote about digital nomads, I thought the term meant a fringe phenomenon involving holiday adventures. But I was very much mistaken. Among freelancers abroad, nomadic work is coming to the fore, which is a huge leap in just one year!
 
Essentially, digital nomads are independent professionals able to work remotely from abroad for their clients, using a laptop or mobile phone. The nomad holidayusually involves an average of two hours’ work a day; the rest of the time is spent like any other holiday – with families, partner or friends. And as with classic holidays, nomads go on trips lasting several days and meet local people, among other things.
 
A traditional holiday has a different “structure“ from a nomad holiday, but a huge benefit of the latter is that it promotes relaxation, inspiration and ideas, and is an opportunity for nomads to recharge their batteries. And in these respects, traditional and nomad holidays are practically the same. In professions that don‘t require frequent contact with clients (such as translating or programming), the stay can be several months longer, making the holiday impact even stronger. And earnings can be a pleasant surprise during the stay, in line with the well-known Pareto principle, where up to 80% of your income is earned from 20% of your work.
 
A holiday for nomads is therefore a surprisingly neat solution. It answers the problem of irreplaceability over a longer period and the corresponding impact on income. At the same time, the positive features of a holiday aren‘t lost. You can easily alternate between a traditional and nomad holiday, depending on your situation, taking into account the season, agreement with your partner, etc.
 
How to organise a group nomad holiday
 
A good number of people have asked me how I organise the successful nomad holidays about which I’ve just been writing. Over the past few years we’ve developed an approach, through trial and error, that deals with most of the familiarrisks and suits those involved. This method can also be used on a wider level, and should be regarded as just one of many approaches to a holiday for nomads:
  1. Why a group? Group dynamics have, over time, become the theme of our holidays. When you put together a group of fantastic people for a month and mix in local friends, you have a recipe for amazing things. Can you remember the last time you spent a whole month in one place with your peers?! It’s a very intense experience and–for all the participants–an enriching one too, with a creative explosion of ideas as well as discussions, trips, shopping, new friendships, and who knows what else.
  2. Organiser On our holidays I take the role of initiator of the entire project. This key role must be the responsibility of someone who is fluent in English, is reliable and trustworthy, and can smooth out problems and minor conflicts.
  3. Holiday dates As the organiser, I have to start with all the date options and then come up with suitable times. I tend to have less work in the winter and summer holidays. So I organise shorter winter breaks of two to three weeks and longer summer holidays of three to five weeks. In summer, it‘s good to go away for at least four weeks because it gives us enough time to make friends with local people.
  4. Destination country My responsibilities also include making a list of possible destinations. Most people want to spend the holiday by the sea, somewhere where it’s warm and quite safe. Ideally, it should be somewhere relatively close at hand, and I comply with these criteria. After this year‘s experience in Morocco, I‘ll leave out the Arab countries. Women are worried about travelling there.
  5. Sending out invites beforehand When I have an idea of where we’re going, I then send out invites to friends. A month, or at best two months, before the date under consideration, I send the list to 120 potential nomads (all members can travel with their partners). The goal is to ensure a number of participants expressing a preliminary interest, defining who will make up the core group.
  6. Core group These are the serious candidates who want to stay for the entire period. They‘re willing to equally split the costs and responsibilities, including for resolving issues. They also share the risks associated with organising the holiday and property rental. The core is made up of three to six people (including me).
  7. Firming up arrangements We confirm the date and place with the core group members. For long summer breaks, we prefer an attractive seaside resort that also offers cultural and other activities, because we would become bored after a week in a small resort. Barcelona and Lisbon are excellent examples of places where you can combine a resort holiday with other activities.
  8. Estimated number of participants The core group is present throughout the holiday, but we also need to have spaces available for those who are with us for a shorter time. When the core comprises five definite people and 20 tentative people, we know that we have to look for a property with a capacity of 10 beds. Seven would be too small (there wouldn’t be enough room) and 15 too much (we would run the risk that we would be unable fill more expensive properties). On the other hand, the more people the better!
  9. Choosing a place The advantage of travel in a large group is that we can afford to pay for very luxurious, centrally located, accommodation, which is just what we‘re looking for. We don’t want to be stuck out in the suburbs or in accommodation with mouldy walls. We look for an airy, bright flat, ideally with a cleaning service, air-conditioning, a terrace, and more than one bathroom. We also look for a property with double bedrooms and a quick, reliable internet connection. All of us have the task of finding accommodation, most often on Airbnb, Homeaway, and Homelidays.
  10. Discussions with the owner We usually choose from a selection of apartments. Beside the price, what‘s important is the communication process with the owners, how quickly they can hand over the property and a willingness to accommodate our requirements. When renting a property for longer periods we can sometimes agree to a discount of up to 30%.
  11. Deposit The core of the group divides the overall accommodation cost equally. The deposit is paid, and the organiser is responsible for paying the rest. The reservation is binding upon everyone, and payments are not refundable if somebody has to cancel and the only option is to find a replacement. The amount involved is quite high, so it pays to consider your plans carefully. We all then buy cheap flight tickets.
  12. Costs for visitors Short-term guests pay more for the beds available than the core group members. This is because they do not bear any risk or additional costs connected with renting the holiday accommodation. Generally we agree on a price of around EUR 20 per person per night, which is similar to the price of a bedroom for 10 people in a cheap hostel. On the other hand we are all together, and visitors can take advantage of all the comforts of property. In addition, they are sharing it with friends, not strangers.
  13. Gender balance It‘s quite important to have a balanced number of men and women, otherwise the holiday doesn’t quite work. I therefore give priority to inviting a couple of men or and a couple of women, so that there is balance. At this stage I’m still fine-tuning the make-up of the group, through personal meetings.
  14. Reservations In the first stage I send those who are tentatively interested an invitation with detailed information and instructions. The reservation goes through the system on a first come first served basis and becomes binding when the full payment is deducted. Everyone can track their reservations and occupancy rates online. This year in Lisbon we were fully booked in a record two hours!
  15. Costs split equally Ultimately, the payments from the short-term guests make the stay cheaper for the core group members, who bear all the costs and risks of the  holiday. This is a good system, and ultimately everyone is 100% satisfied. Once we are fully booked, we spend part of our funds on other items, such as renting a car. It is available, including petrol, to everyone. We also spend money on minor items for the kitchen, refreshments and such things. It is the little details that make the holiday perfect, and we want our guests to feel at home.
  16. Sending out more invitations If there is a lack of interest, all members of the core group send out invitations. We don’t try to have a full house at any cost, but rather our aim is to have a holiday with lots of great people! Having free spaces left is better than a full group that doesn’t work well together.
  17. Before we depart When we reach full capacity, the preparations are essentially finished, although there is work to do a week before departure. At this stage I contact the owner of the property. I check with him/her that everything is in order, that there will be enough keys, beds and tables, etc. Then I send everyone in the group an email with last minute instructions, our telephone numbers, etc.
  18. After we arrive There are almost always some minor niggles after we arrive, and as the organiser my responsibility is to resolve them tactfully with the owner. First of all we check the workspace and the internet (it’s a good idea to carry a spare Wi-Fi router). Then, as soon as possible, I see what’s on offer in terms of local groups  and activities on Couchsurfing. Then we can start meeting the locals! It’s best to do this on the same day that you arrive.
  19. During the holiday We have just one rule: we mustn’t disturb others, and should respect their rights to work and peace and quiet. If people are still up at 4 o’clock in the morning and making a noise, I try to sort this out, but usually people are considerate and tolerant so there isn’t much to deal with. As the organiser, the only thing I have to deal with is buying minor items for the accommodation, and managing the transition when short-term guests come and go. Everybody can get up when they like, nobody is forced to do anything, and organising trips and entertainment is spontaneous. Some people eat out; others do their cooking at home, as they wish.
  20. Departure and settling the bill The holiday accommodation tends to be in my name as the organiser, so I always want to be there when the property is handed over and have assurance that everything is okay. Within a week after we return we settle the bills. If there’s any money outstanding, we divide it up equally between the core group members. And I’m pleased that everything has turned out well!
 
“I’m back at home after spending three weeks in Lisbon. What was the break like? Inner and outer worlds came together. On the outside, people are just travelling through a new world, meeting people and enjoying life. But at the same time they are changing inwardly, imperceptibly. The idea of coming back from the holiday is an illusion – and it should be, otherwise travellers lose a bit of what they gained while away. The digital nomads were great friends on the journey. I took everything back with me and nothing. And I’m not back –  I’m a step further on.”
 
What next for digital nomads?
 
So far, nobody knows, but things are looking up for us. Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing global nomads is the actual – not entirely intuitive – concept,which has almost endless possibilities. It‘s evolving organically through imitation, improvements and coincidental innovations.
 
Everybody has the chance to  discover something new and share this with others. For example, designer Vít’a Válka travelled with his family around Europe in a caravan and writes about it in his blog. It may be that this trend inspires travel agents to offer packages for nomad travellers. I’d love to hear about your nomad holiday experiences and would be happy to share them on our Digital Nomads page on Facebook.

August 9th is International Coworking Day

Every year on August 9th–10 days from now–coworking spaces and coworking enthusiasts around the world mark “International Coworking Day” (and hopefully tweet about it using the #coworkingday hash tag). It was on that day in 2005 that Brad Neuberg first publicly blogged the word coworking, sparking the innovative trend that has seen the opening of thousands of coworking spaces around the world.

Neuberg’s original message–in the first few lines of his blog post–goes a long way in communicating my original motivation to start Locus Workspace:

Traditionally, society forces us to choose between working at home for ourselves or working at an office for a company. If we work at a traditional 9 to 5 company job, we get community and structure, but lose freedom and the ability to control our own lives. If we work for ourselves at home, we gain independence but suffer loneliness and bad habits from not being surrounded by a work community.

Coworking is a solution to this problem. In coworking, independent writers, programmers, and creators come together in community a few days a week. Coworking provides the “office of a traditional corporate job, but in a very unique way. 

Coworking has come a long way since this initial description, with dedicated spaces and recognition that there is a far more diverse group of people who benefit from coworking, but the basic idea is the same: working for a company and working for oneself have largely opposed costs and benefits, and coworking can provide much of the solution: coworking adds the community, shared knowledge, continuing education, and social support often provided by a traditional office, while enabling people to follow their own passions and do what they most want to do, a path that traditionally has required giving up the community and support that comes from working for someone else, often at the cost of long-term success.

This August 9th, Locus’s Krakovská location is hosting a Jelly (a FREE open day of coworking for anyone in the area who’d like to join us with their laptops and some work to do to spend the day working alongside others). Locus hosts Jellies in cooperation with some other coworking spaces in Prague through our shared Meetup group, “Coworking in Prague”. Join us for this special Jelly and help us commemorate the 8th anniversary of coworking. You can sign up for the Jelly here.