Reinventing Coworking Spaces
After more than a year running our coworking space OffiCaire in Paris, we’re expanding the concept to Vietnam with the launch of Le Tipi this month (from August 2015). A great opportunity to explain a bit how we expect to reinvent the concept of coworking spaces!
Wait, it’s free?
The first thing that will sound totally odd: it’s free. No fixed fee. No monthly rent. You’re not even paying for the state-of-the-art coffee machine.
A coworking space is not just a desk, a chair and a wifi access. If that’s what you need, then the better option is probably to work in underwear from your living room. We like to see coworking spaces as living ecosystem where people come not only to work, but to cowork. We want to see emulation. That’s nothing new though. Most people enjoy coworking spaces atmosphere because they also have a chance to connect and meet with fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs.
The thing is, paying for your seat and wifi access comes with a certain level of expectations. You’re not part of an ecosystem. You’re just buying a service, and you want to get some bang for your buck. The wifi access drops every 15 minutes? You’re going to complain about that. The room is noisy? You’re going to give a weird look to people around you (and they’re probably going to hate you for that). Removing the money aspect allows us to come back to what really matters when it comes to building a community: interactions, trust, respect, which are all social flows by nature.
Now of course at this point you wonder: What’s the trick? Well, the trick is, we believe that everyone should be able to choose how they want to contribute to our ecosystem. And hard cash is often not the best option. If you’re a connector, you will be better off spreading the reputation of the space and its community around you. You’re a senior graphic designer? How about giving some of your time to support others’ projects, or even organizing a class of Graphic Design 101. You don’t have all that? No worries, you can still get some refill for the coffee machine (it desperately needs it), or upgrade these uncomfortable plastic chairs. The bottomline is: you choose.
This approach may not suit everyone, and to be honest we’re perfectly fine with that. Some coworkers just want this quiet and internet-connected place. After all, that time you spend giving a Graphic Design course is time you won’t be spending on your project. But the fact is, it’s mutually beneficial. You’ll be happy to give out two hours of your time talking about graphic design when the next week, a UX expert takes the stage. And best of all: you can just come whenever you need your fix of social.
Share and Care
When we started having more coworkers at our first place OffiCaire, we have to be honest, it became a bit overwhelming to say “hi” to everyone every single morning, let alone spare some time to talk about your latest project. We were losing a bit of emulation, and coworkers tended to stay more in their “work bubble” than before. That’s when the Share & Care idea came up.
The concept? Once a week, all coworkers who are available and open for sharing gather around lunch for an hour or two. Good Spirit, No Judgement and Wittiness are the keywords. Then, it pretty much unfolds like a “scrum” meetup: What did you work on last week? What’s your plan for the coming week? Are you stuck somewhere? And incredibly, saying things out loud in a benevolent environment opens up a lot of locked doors. It’s an awesome way to put everyone’s expertise at the service of the community. It will also put you in front of your internal contradictions and clear things up. And sometimes, it will even make you realize that well, you’ve been losing a bit of focus on what your vision really is. You know, these moments when you start talking about what you did, and you suddenly feel a bit silly. Fair enough, you’ll work twice harder next week!
So how do I get a seat?
You may think that having a free coworking space attracts all sorts of people who will use it, abuse it, and then just leave. The truth is: it actually rarely happens.
The “selection” process and filtering happen quite naturally. We meet people, we like what they do, then it’s on: How about you come and work at our space? And interestingly, the first question that comes up after is often: “Cool! What’s the deal?”. More than the financial viability of their project, or their expertise, we have a simple — and very humble — filter: Is their project going to make Vietnam a better place? The deal itself? you probably understood it by now: make Le Tipi andOffiCaire better places and communities, day after day.
Yes, we do mess up sometimes. Some people are just not comfortable with that atmosphere. And whether they find it too noisy at times, or are reluctant to openly talk about their ideas, the fact is: they leave by themselves after just a few weeks. For those who stay? Well, we’re happy to say that so far, they can’t get enough of it.
This article was originally posted on Medium. Thanks Sylvain for your article, and if you want to know more about Le Tipi and coworking spaces, come to Officience – room 5. 🙂