By now we are all familiar with the narrative about how the COVID pandemic has changed how we work. There have been hundreds of articles written about why working from home is amazing, or why working from is terrible (spoilers: I’m a big fan of working from home). There is also debate about what the “future of work” will look like, but I can tell you that my workplace will certainly become a “hybrid” workplace, where workers are expected to come into the office occasionally but work a significant amount from home. Before the pandemic, this type of arrangement would have been almost unthinkable. The technical and financials hurdles that would have prevented work-from home in the past are gone now, and that means that more of us will be working remotely in the future. So how does “work from home” work in cohousing?
At Sunnyside Village, I think our cottages are a modest but comfortable size to live in. However, I worked from home in my previous career and I’ve always needed an extra room to dedicate to the home office, and with kids in my future, the Sunnyside Village floorplans just wouldn’t work. Unless we could leverage the Common House! Early in the design process, my wife (who also works from home) and I brought up the possibility of having some kind coworking space in the Common House. The community supported the idea, which we were very happy to hear. Sunnyside Village wants to accommodate individuals who work full-time jobs, and many of us need a place to work from home. Having a shared coworking space solves that problem! Additionally, I think it’s a great example of how a community of people can use resources more efficiently than the typical indvidualized solutions (for any Elinor Ostrom nerds out there, we might call this sharing a “common pool resource”). Building a cohousing community during the pandemic has been difficult, but if there’s any silver lining, I think it’s that we have a unique opportunity to build our structures from the ground up in anticipation of the changing future. If we had been designing our site five years ago, I doubt we would have included such a space, much to our detriment.
So what does Sunnyside’s coworking space look like? Nothing is set in stone, but here are some things to expect that I’m personally excited about.
- It’s in the Common House. It’s a little removed from the main areas, so workers won’t be too distracted by neighbors passing by (you can see it in our latest Common House floorplan. It is in the top left, labelled “quiet work/crafts”). That said, workers can easily step out of the coworking space and stop by the beverage station for coffee or tea and maybe say hello to a neighbor, which should make for pleasant breaks. The Common House will also have a kids’ playroom, so workers who happen to be parents (which will soon include me) won’t have to stray too far from their children.
- We’ll have fast, reliable Internet. We expect to have fiber optic Internet at Sunnyside, and the coworking space will have Ethernet ports in the walls so that computers can have hard-wired Internet connections. This will allow for the most stable Internet possible, which is important for work that relies on remoting into computers that are kept on-site by companies. This is how my work arrangement is setup.
- The coworking space will have some basic office equipment, like a printer. One of the big advantages of cohousing is sharing stuff, and a printer is a perfect thing to share. In my experience, most people only need to print something, like, once or twice a year, but it’s really inconvenient to not have one around when that moment comes. We also plan for some desks to have external monitors, keyboards, mouses, and docking station. This means that a worker could bring their laptop and easily plug into this equipment. The data stays with the individual’s laptop, but the monitors and other gear can shared by multiple people with different schedules. This let’s use the space and equipment most effectively among different people.
- You’re not stuck to the coworking space! The Common House has a couple of small rooms that are designed to be flexible in function. They are close to the coworking space, and we think people will use them for private phone conversation or Zoom meetings. Additionally, if a person’s work is easily portable, then there are all kinds of lovely places to work from at Sunnyside. We intend to have some wifi coverage in and around the Common House, so a laptop should work great out on the patio, in the “dining nook,” or in the cozy living room.
- The “coworking space” isn’t limited to computer work. Other activities will be happening as well, like crochet or drawing,
- Lastly, because there is a dedicated workspace in the Common House, that means I have the amazing privilege of separating my home from my workspace, while retaining most of the benefits of working from home. If you don’t work from you home, it’s hard to appreciate just how valuable this is to those of us who do.
Working from home is something I enjoy, but I think “Working From Cohousing” is going to be an even better experience! It’s honestly one the things I look forward to the most about cohousing.