Where to work when you don’t have an office
For many in the creative industries, work is done at home – on the kitchen table, or a commandeered spare room, or in a shed in the garden. But sometimes, especially if you’re trying to make money from your business, the work-from-home lifestyle – which sounded so great when you were slaving away at your 9 to 5 – can start to feel like a prison sentence.
Work never goes away, the dishes always need doing, the neighbour’s dog will not stop barking, and your partner always needs a hand with something. Your mother pops by. The neighbour’s locked out of their house, or a friend needs a babysitter. The rest of the time, solitude can lead to rising stress and troublesome thought patterns. And if you have children being cared for within the house while you’re trying to focus, the chances of getting some serious work done are pretty much nil.
When it all gets a bit much, home-based workers usually turn to libraries and cafes to get stuff done, but there’s a limit on how much coffee you can drink and whispered phone calls you can take. Sometimes you just need an office – and that’s where coworking spaces come in. Offering the flexibility of a home office with the professionalism and social life of a business space, they can be the creative’s saviour.
Thanks to faster broadband, better technology, and people looking for more flexible lifestyles, coworking spaces have blossomed all over New Zealand in the past 10 years. Coworking involves a shared workspace, which is often laid out like a traditional office, but filled with people working individually, whether freelance, on contract, remotely, or running their own businesses. Spaces can include parking, showers, mailboxes, printing, tea and coffee and kitchen facilities, social gatherings, meeting rooms, education centres, and even farmer’s markets.
They’ve become the office away from home for many creatives who are finding themselves happier, more productive, more connected to their communities and new work opportunities, and better able to manage that elusive life/work balance. Coworking spaces can also add a veneer of professionalism to your work, helping you to separate your business from your creative energies – and perhaps restoring some valuable mental health by allowing you to leave it all behind you at the end of the day, too.
The range varies hugely across New Zealand, depending on the needs and finances of a city’s working population. Spaces can be massive, such as Auckland’s Generator, which has four locations in the city with its Britomart base taking up four luxurious floors. Coworking behemoth BizDojo, has coworking spaces across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. As well as the traditional office and desk rental, it also concentrates on offering support such as business development.
In the regions and smaller centres, spaces can develop into whatever the community needs them to be – along with office space for small businesses such as local architecture and design firms, they can offer a single-person regional office for a national firm, or a community hub with event space, or act as the head office for a local artistic project. They’re also frequently used by travellers, writers, photographers, and other remote workers passing through or living in small-town New Zealand.
Depending on where you live, prices can range from $5 for an hour’s use of a hot desk at EPIC Westport to $1,000+ a month for permanent desk with 24/7 access in one of the main centres. If the cost seems too much upfront, consider how much brain space you’re likely to get back by trying out your local for a couple of days a week, how much more work you could fit in to your day, and how many new clients you could gather.
And next month is the perfect time to try them out. National New Zealand Coworking Day is on May 22, when all coworking spaces taking part are free for visiting public to try out for a day or a week. From Dunedin to Westport to Whangarei, the celebration encourages potential or new coworkers to give coworking a go. Try it yourself by checking out who is taking part near you at www.nationalcoworkingday.nz . It could turn out to be just the break from home that your home business needs.
Naomi Arnold — Generator