A few months back I wrote a post advocating for a closer integration of living space with working space, a concept I dubbed “Co-Existing”. The post sparked interesting discussion (and debate) among colleagues and friends. While almost everyone I spoke with could understand the potential benefits (saving resources, making new connections, activating neighborhoods), few were able to envision this concept’s execution. Meanwhile, co-working and co-living spaces continue to launch all over our cities. They vary in scale, style, and amenities, but the basic model is the same: private space when necessary and public/collaboration/amenity space the rest of the time. All of this has kept me pondering on how Co-Existing could actually work. I’ve got a couple of ideas so far. Here’s one for your consideration:
Build a Network:In this age of a sharing economy, the straightforward solution would simply be to set up a network that would allow people to rent out their homes as workspaces for the large chunk of time during the day in which they do not occupy their homes. This would be similar to what AirBnb is for home-sharing, only without sleeping over. A whole slew of AirBnb-esque sites exist specifically for office space: Pivotdesk, Sharedesk, LiquidSpace, and Breather are just a few to name. The difference is that these sites are mostly marketing vacant commercial office space. Yes, you’ll find some home office options sprinkled within these sites, but they are in no way the main focus. What I’m proposing is a space sharing network dedicated to people interested in listing their living space as work space during regular working hours only. More and more, workplaces are being designed to look and feel like living rooms anyway. Why not use the ones which sit empty all day?
How it Could Work:In order for this to work, there would have to be a careful balance between cost and desirability. A home workspace would need to be affordable, but still valuable to potential renters. For this reason, I could imagine that homeowners could charge a fee (daily, weekly, monthly) which would amount to less than the direct cost of “traditional” office space or co-working space yet perhaps a little more than the indirect costs of working in public locations (read coffee shops, i.e. lattes and unsecured Wi-Fi). As for larger logistics, (scheduling, ratings, customer/listing reviews) the rest of this process could be handled almost identically to the AirBnB model. The only difference, in this case, is the offering. Forget Air Bed & Breakfast. It’s more like Desk, Wi-Fi, and Fridge.
Why it Could Work:The value of a home office for the renters is in the privacy, comfort, and reliability (not to mention power outlet availability) of the home office over the public spots. Instead of fighting for a seat in a coffee shop and shelling out for expensive, mediocre food and drinks (no offense, coffee people!), renters would have a guaranteed private workspace, and maybe even kitchen access for food storage and caffeine needs. Music choice isn’t at the barista’s disposal. And there’s no line, code, or obnoxiously large key for the bathroom. Life is good.
As for those listing their homes, the benefits are similarly appealing. Unlike an AirBnB model, which requires that homeowners provide specific overnight accommodations above and beyond their own personal needs (sheets, towels, cleaning service), in this model, people could potentially earn money simply for not being home during the day. Of course, this makes the assumption that home office renters won’t be complete slobs while they work, but (as mentioned in the last post) proper vetting of candidates is a given. The kitchen sink still needs definitive rules.
Furthermore, this model could appeal to those who are uncomfortable with people spending the night in their homes but would be glad to have people spending the day in their homes, especially if it brings financial and/or other unexpected benefits (read: Amazon packages, dog walking, free home security). For the renters, why not barter a home service or skill if it could offset work space rent? Personally, I’d gladly let someone work at my home desk if they walked my dog and kept him company for free!
Using an AirBnb type network with a modified offering is one way for realizing the Co-Exist concept. Simply put, it’s a platform for marketing existing housing stock to people who need an inexpensive, private place to work and it’s a way for homeowners and leasers to make money or gain services with minimal effort (not mention that it’s a nod to sustainability and resource conservation). To reiterate from before, is it for everyone? No chance. But is it an untapped market? Let me know what you think.
By the way, the next idea is a little wilder, but not totally unimaginable. Stay tuned.