A place to work

For two weeks of our time in New Zealand, we were working out of a spare office in a building occupied by an architect, designer, surveyor and engineer. It was a great success. We were productive, we were motivated, and fortunately for us, we were able to use the space in exchange for our services, a win win for all concerned. It was a dedicated workspace with access to all the things we needed – a constructive professional environment with desks, internet, (a kitchen with good ground coffee and a plunger), and, most importantly for us, a local base, with local people to connect with and share conversations and ideas.

There’s a lot of discussion, and amazing work, done around the creation of coworking spaces – more on that in another post – but less commonly discussed though potentially more valuable, is hot-desking. By hot-desking, I mean using a spare desk in a workspace which is already established, and therefore involves mixing newcomers/outsiders, with more stable, static and/or local occupants.

As is oftentimes the case, small businesses may end up with more desks than they can use, either because they are using a space that’s deliberately too big, in order to grow into it, or have had to downsize in numbers during a weak market, without downsizing their physical offices. It’s generally undesirable for business owners to be paying for space that they are not using, as maximizing not only the efficiency of your people, but the efficiency of your real estate, has a significant impact on the bottom-line. On a more positive and proactive note, empty desks offer an incredible opportunity to welcome new faces for whom you are not financially responsible, but who can bring new ideas, access to new networks, and diverse conversations to inspire the existing team.

From the perspective of Global Lifestylers, it’s the perfect opportunity. Most significant is the access to local information, networks, ideas and experience, because the goal of any Global Lifestyler is integration, and building a rich foundation of local knowledge. Of secondary importance is the physical space, facilities, and the removal of anything resembling hassle, as someone else has signed the lease, bought the furniture, hired the cleaner and so on.

There are literally thousands of empty desks in all kinds of offices, in every major city in the world, and the value proposition to both the business owner/city council, and the individual Global Lifestyler, is extremely high. What’s lacking are the match-making services, to connect one group to the other. Websites such as LooseCubes, based in Brooklyn, New York, and RentaDesk in the UK, are a great start, but they are currently operating on a small scale in relation to the supply and the demand. Most postings still occur on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or niche social networks such as A Small World. What we’re looking for is the workspace-oriented version of AirBnB, which is able to reflect the same levels of usability, design and trust on the same international scale.

But perhaps that’s coming soon. The first US Coworking Unconference is happening this March at SXSW in Austin, and, one suspects, it may well be a key topic up for debate.