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By Matt Paulin

Around Seattle we have Co-working Spaces.  These are large spaces that have been divided up so individuals and small companies can rent desks by the day or month and have somewhere to work other than their house.  Its an interesting phenomenon and I have a feeling it will grow tremendously across the country as people choose not to drive everywhere and to work more independently.

Clearly there are problems with having a group of strangers use the same space to work.  Everyone has different working habit, noise requirements, and space requirements.  And then there are all the “human” problems that need to be addressed.  It certainly is a tricky business to put together.

Last week the Seattle Think Tank’s  “Weekly Online Brainstorm” question was “What are the problems with co-working, and what are innovations that can make it more widely adopted?”  The following are some ideas we came up with.


  1. Meeting Room Tablet Reservation system : Imagine an iPad duct taped to the door of a meeting room.  It has a google calendar on it of everyone who has reserved the room. You can easily see who is in there and who has it reserved.  If you want the room there is some touch screeny way of doing this.  If you don’t want to get up, you can just do it through google calendar.
  2. Heavy and Light Room Configuration : Divide a space into two distinct areas for co-working: a Heavy work area, and a Light chill area. The Work area is like a library, and it is where you do the “heavy lifting” work. Quiet, chill, and all the assets of having an office. The Lightweight area has bean bags, couches, etc, is reconfigurable, is probably open to the kitchen, etc. This is where you sit with your laptop and do all the “lightweight” work that doesn’t require a quiet deep-focus area.
  3. How To Start A Co-Working Space : A book explaining the ins and outs of creating a co-working space.  It would also have techniques for dealing with common and difficult problems.
  4. Mall Incubator : With the death of the mall you might be able to use it as a co-working space. Malls have a lot of space available, plenty of parking, food and grocery stores, and if you have a space on the outside wall of the mall, 24×7 access.
  5. Co-working Membership Card : Create a federation of co-working spaces with a universal membership card.  This would allow someone to one person at one place and then have office hours for someone else at another.  Something like a subscription coffee shop.
  6. Co-working Skills Network : it would be nice to have a easy connection to the different people and skills from within a co-working space.  This network would let you know what other people at your space are working on, what they are looking for, what they can provide, and their availability.
  7. Quite Booths : Remember the desk with walls you had in grade school?  Having some of those around would be handy. When you need to focus.
  8. Self Cleaning Fridge : It’s a fridge with a countdown timer on it.  On Friday at 4 pm the countdown will hit zero.  Then all the shelves tip forward and dump everything in the fridge into the trash; recycling, whatever… It then self cleans and the timer resets for next week.  

This actually ended up being a very difficult subject to form ideas from.  For the most part they were about how we could change rules or specific changes that could be made to co-working spaces that are available.  

I do feel very strongly about this as an alternative form of working.  I suspect that there are several possibilities for changing how people work, commute, and interact with each other.  I also feel that with the pressures of fuel and quality workers many people want to shift in this direction. At a minimum it makes a nice alternative between working from home or a centralized office.  There certainly are opportunities here.

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