Spring Photo Contest!

work from home

We know working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For some it works out delightfully well – peaceful, quiet, focused. But for many (and we’ve heard from thousands of you over the years) it’s rife with distractions, lonely, and uncomfortable. We’ve heard your stories, but nothing quite says it like a picture. Show us how bad it can be!

Send us photos of your best (aka worst) home office setups. Whether you’re programming at the kitchen table, crammed into the local café, or attempting to get some work done with a puppy in the house (like Teal, above), we want to see what you’re attempting to work through. Photos can be spontaneous or staged, and we won’t judge you at all if you put your pets or your kids in the photo to get extra points.

The individual with the best photo will win a one-month membership to Office Nomads at any membership level (key card access not included). Send your submissions to photocontest@officenomads.com. We’ll be posting some of our favorites to both our Facebook Page and Twitter Feed. Submission deadline is Friday April 18th at 6pm.

Show us your worst, Seattle!

Cultivating Useful Connections


Networking

This is the first in a series entitled “Nomadic

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Encounters” – stories of cool projects seeded, germinated, and cultivated through encounters at Office Nomads.

When you get asked to a networking event, do you think “Cool! Free wine, cheese, and interesting new people!” or “Oh no! Cheesy people whining and trying to sell me things!”? That’s the dilemma Office Nomads faced – we know our members love to connect and create useful projects, but should we call it networking? “Networking” short-changes the real connections that happen within our community, and so instead we’d like to introduce you the first of many stories of “Nomadic Encounters.”

One project happening now is a member-driven idea called The Numad Program (it is an evolution of the Nomad-in-Residence Program if you remember that one). We selected one individual who was embarking on a professional transition, gave them a discounted resident membership, and most importantly collected a team of members who were interested in volunteering their time to help the “Numad” gain traction in their transition during a three-month period.

Our first Numad is Mandy Egle, a grammar and pronunciation coach for non-native English speakers. While Mandy is an expert possessing magical knowledge that unlocks the secret of saying “my car” differently from “mike are” – one that works fantastically whether your brain was wired listening to conversations in Bangladesh, Senegal, or Buenos Aires – she lacked the technical and business skills to upgrade her website, pronuncian.com, into the best tool for learning.

“I’m forging ahead but I don’t know what I’m doing,” said Mandy. With the help of other Nomads like intellectual property attorney Mike Morita, designer and engineer Trevor Smith, financial analyst Javier Soto, game developer Pat Kemp, and myself, Mandy is creating a project plan to achieve her dream, a site “that learners can really interact with and learn from in a profound way.” One that includes gamification so learning is more engaging for students.

“As a teacher, I have a list of students’ excuses for why they aren’t advancing,” Mandy told us. From this she has been able to develop a number of tools and podcasts to help them practice more effectively when she can’t be there.

And while pronuncian.com has been around since 2007, and now gets 70,000 visits per month, she wants to make that system more useful and available to students that live nowhere near Seattle. “We called it Project Morocco, because our vision was to enable Mustafa in Marrakesh to be able to speak as well as Cho in Seattle.”

What’s the goal? To double the usefulness of her site, to better help students around the world develop American English fluency so they can tap higher paying jobs, and to be virtually available 24/7/365 so she and her family can spend more time sailing their 37-foot cat-sloop named Rosie around the Salish Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Over the next few months, Mandy will meet with her team and develop a plan to make her transition happen. And I’ll be writing about it here; so stay in touch!

Kevin Owyang is a member of Office Nomads and Digital Strategist for Game-Changers. When not developing new strategies to amplify social entrepreneurs across new media, he can be found making independent films or hanging with his dog on Capitol Hill.

 

The Nomad-in-Residence Program Returns!

Come and spend some time with these smiley people.

Come and spend some time with these smiley people.

After running the  pilot version of the Nomad-in-Residence Program this summer, we are ready to bring this awesome community-supported membership back in 2013! Applications are now being accepted, and we’ll have the form open until January 15, 2013. Apply today, or send the link along to someone you think would be a great fit as our next Nomad-in-Residence.

What is the Nomad-in-Residence Program, you ask? It is a community-supported Resident membership designed to help bring a new Resident into our space for whom membership is currently financially out of reach. For a 3-month period, you receive 1/2 off your Resident membership thanks to the generous contributions by current members (which is then matched by Office Nomads). In exchange for having the barrier to entry for membership lowered, we hope that you’ll give back to the Office Nomads community by sharing your knowledge, hosting classes, or doing something else awesome that makes our community even stronger (even a little bit more than we all do normally, that is).

Questions? Comments? Wondering if you might be a good fit? Email susan@officenomads.com. I’ll be more than happy to help you out!

 

 

Coworking Europe: this is big.

 

I just returned from an excursion to France, where the start of my trip was completely absorbed with the Coworking Europe Conference in Paris. They call it a coworking conference, but I can tell you confidently that when this group of people got together – 300 people representing 30 nationalities – the conference was about much more than just coworking.

The bulk of conversations surrounding this 3-day event were about connecting to the higher purposes of coworking. How coworking fits into a bigger conversation about our changing world – economically, politically, and socially. We discussed how coworking is – amongst other things – a manifestation of changes we are a part of in every corner of the world.

Coworking and jobs. We heard from Tony Bagicaglupo, Mayor of New Work City, about the ever-evolving “why” of coworking. When so many of us started our spaces, the “why” of coworking was to bring together a community of independent workers who were otherwise isolated in their homes and cafes. But as our spaces evolve, and as coworking spaces from around the world connect, share, and collaborate, we are learning that the “why” of coworking is becoming much, much bigger. For Tony, the “why” has now become a channel through which we can work to fix the job crisis ourselves. His rallying cry to the independent workforce of the world is to stop waiting around for jobs to “be created” by big companies, and instead create the jobs ourselves.

Coworking and political action. Joel Dullroy of Deskmag highlighted the increasing population of freelancers during his presentation on Day 2, and called out coworking spaces as “new political meeting houses” for the independent workforce. For the independent workforce (Joel was speaking specifically about freelancers, but I believe similar conclusions can be drawn to any independent), coworking spaces provide a gathering place and a sharing platform in addition to being a place to work. While on a day-to-day basis this might enable independents to work better and connect with others, coworking spaces also provide a rallying point for independents when they may need it most. He ran us through the story of Germany’s proposed €350 “retirement tax” on freelancers, and how through the power of grassroots organizing (in part via coworking spaces) freelancers were able to raise their voices and strike down the tax.

Coworking and community resilience. I was a part of many conversations about the art of cultivating a coworking community, the beauty of multiple communities emerging out of one coworking space, and how cultivating community is a skill worth learning beyond just it’s implications in the coworking world. The value of a strong, diverse community is possible to see on a day-to-day basis in the form of vibrant conversations, the sharing of skills, and the joy of shared experience. But the power of community is highlighted in an incredibly powerful sense when it is able to demonstrate it’s resilience. Tony Bagicaglupo started off his talk reviewing the quick response by coworking spaces in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in New York. We often talk about how a coworking community isn’t about the space it is in, and Tony gave us a clear view of that truth in practice.

I could continue to wax on and on about the many lessons I learned in Paris and I likely will for years to come. But know this – I’ll definitely be at Coworking Europe 2013. This is a conference not to be missed.

Big thanks to Tilman Vogler and Deskwanted for the use of these photos from Coworking Europe! 

 

 

A Field Trip to Cedar Grove Composting Facility

Last Wednesday a cadre of Nomads took a trip to Cedar Grove, the family-owned composting facility in Everett that handles the yard and food waste from King and Snohomish counties. When you put your coffee grounds, chopsticks, eggshells, orange peels, leftover Pud Thai, sandwiches, bonsai trees, and approved food packaging into the green compost bins at Office Nomads, this is where it ends up!

Hey! Don’t eat that!

They use a 3-phase Gore system (as in Gore-Tex, the company that makes the breathable covers for the composting piles) to turn organic urban waste into various garden soils and mulches.  In fact, theirs is the largest Gore system in the world!  It turns out over 400,000 tons of rich, fertile goodness every year.

And this bald eagle owns all of it.

The first phase grinds and sorts the waste into pieces no bigger than 4 inches.  Then it is churned in with wood chips, which are important to balance out the abundance of green yard waste they receive.  “Green” materials contain lots of nitrogen, while “brown” materials like wood have lots of carbon.  Getting the right balance is critical to making good compost.  Then, they use front-loaders to move the compost into long piles, which are aerated and sprayed with just the right amount of water for decomposition.  The next phase continues this, and the final one involves “curing,” i.e. letting the compost rest until it naturally darkens in color.

Conveyor system moving the compost from intake to Stage 1.

A long pile of compost in Stage 2

Their “recipes” for nitrogen and carbon (green and brown organic waste, respectively) ratios vary throughout the year in order to produce a uniform final product.  For example, they have a grass recipe, a pumpkin recipe, and a Christmas tree recipe, depending on what they’re getting seasonally from consumers.  They also modify the recipes with nutrients such as manure and loam to make the different products they sell to gardeners and landscapers.

Vesting up for safety

We were able to walk right up to the giant rows of compost to see and feel the various stages of decomposition.  Most were under their Gore-Tex covers, but in the final stage they are out in the open air.  We were able to touch them to feel how hot they get–the composting organic material naturally heats up to about 175 degrees!  This hot composting action works even in the dead of winter.

Veena feels the warmth

On a sad note, there were pieces of shredded plastic visible in all the piles. While they have a system to remove most of the plastic and metal that gets tossed in with the organic waste, seeing the plastic bags all piled in tall heaps was enough to make any Italian-actor-playing-a-Native-American-chief cry.  It might not seem like a big deal to toss a bag closure in with the spinach, but it adds up fast–and the result is pretty upsetting.  They can’t even sell some of their compost anymore because of all the plastic.

Huge magnet they use to remove metal

But encouragingly, everyone we met was super sweet, optimistic, and very passionate about composting. It was such a nerdy good time that we’d love to organize more field trips in the future.  Next up, we’re going to see if we can visit the recycling center to learn how that magic happens.  Onward to more adventures!

Introducing the Nomad-in-Residence Program

We are testing out a pilot program to bring new Resident members to our coworking space on Capitol Hill. The Nomad-in-Residence Program offers Resident membership at half the cost to an individual who believes that coworking could greatly benefit their work, and who is interested in contributing their knowledge and skills to the members of Office Nomads. We are able to offer this membership at half price because the rest of the membership is funded by current Office Nomads members.

It’s a unique program, and we’re just getting started to see if we can make it work! If you are looking to join a coworking space but have held off for any reason (including finances), please fill out our brief form and let us know why you think you’d be a great fit as the Nomad-in-Residence. The Nomad-in-Residence term lasts 3 months, and is only open to one new Resident at

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We’re keeping the form open until July 15, 2012, and would like the Nomad-in-Residence to begin their membership starting August 1, 2012.

Questions? Please email susan@officenomads.com.

Introducing: Advocate membership

After listening to to the Nomad community and reviewing the Office Nomads membership levels, we are excited to announce the introduction of the Advocate membership.  The idea is simple: provide an easy, low-cost way to be supported by and participate in the Office Nomads community.

Advocate membership is $30/month and includes one visit per month as well as all the usual perks of an Office Nomads membership. What this means is that you will be able to participate in the Office Nomads mailing list, attend any of the community events in the space, and you can proclaim from the mountain tops that you are a Nomad. This is the perfect sort of membership for individuals who are not able to come to Office Nomads regularly but still would like to be connected to our community.

Adjusting our membership offerings in response to community demand is important to us. If you have any thoughts, ideas or questions, please get in touch!

What creates our culture?

Several months ago, a group of Nomads gathered and discussed the culture here at Office Nomads. We talked about what helps contribute to the culture of our coworking space, and how those elements interact with one another. It was a fantastic exercise, and one we plan to go through again and again as our coworking community grows and changes over time.

After our discussion, we made up a quick chart of the threads of our coworking culture:

Do you run a coworking space? Are you a part of a coworking space? What do you think contributes to the culture of your space? Share your thoughts here!

How Do the Nomads Commute?

Before I worked at Office Nomads I worked down in SeaTac. My morning commute involved leaving my house at 5:45 AM to walk 25 minutes to downtown where I would grab my bus for the 45 minute ride. The end of my day usually involved a delayed bus and traffic, stretching the commute to close to 2 hours. The only thing I miss about that commute is the speed at which I was able to fly through books.

Now I work 11 blocks from home. Usually less than 30 minutes elapses from the time my alarm clock goes off and I’m walking in the door at Office Nomads. Working at Office Nomads has eliminated my horrendous commute.

Thinking about this, I became curious about the commutes that members have to Office Nomads. How are people getting here? How long does it take them? Are we really a neighborhood location?

Not surprisingly, people either walk, bike, drive or take the bus. Turns out, nobody drops in via parachute. What was surprising was that cars and bikes came out as the top modes of transport with each being used by 29% of Nomads. Seattle likes to talk about its growing bike culture. Seattle Bike Blog put it, “Of the 25 largest US cities, Seattle has the largest share of people commuting by bicycle.” That huge number of bike commuters? 3.6%. With 29% of our Nomads commuting by pedal power, our small community is acting as an example for others to follow.

Indeed, 29% do drive in. The neighborhoods from which these Nomads are coming are not easily connected to Capitol Hill via

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buses. While our neighborhood seems to be arranged to discourage cars, some of these Nomads have found well-priced parking lots and or ‘secret’ spots that make it easier for them. This then allows them the ability to pick up their kids or run those important errands on the way home.

When Susan first thought of opening a coworking space, she envisioned places to work within each of our neighborhoods. Stroll a few blocks from your front door and find yourself at work. It appears that 24% of our community is doing just that. One Nomad said, “It’s the perfect 20 minute walk: too short to be taxing even in the rain but long enough to let me stretch my legs. Also, good for both me and the environment.”

18% of the Nomads use the bus to come to Capitol Hill. Most of the bussing Nomads said it was easier to bus than drive. Many said they have the ability to drive in but have decided that the bus is the best option. William Do said, “It’s most convenient for me. I could drive but parking is expensive. I could bike, but I’m not into biking. I also walk part of the way, sometimes depending on how I feel, I’ll walk 3 to 4 miles at least part of the way from Office Nomads to get home.”

We may not be right around the corner from most of our Nomads but the majority take twenty minutes or less to be part of our community. That’s less time commuting than the national average of 25 minutes.

These sorts of numbers make me more excited about coworking. If more of us are biking or walking, does that mean we’re healthier? And if we are driving but our time in the car is less than the national average, are we happier? I think so. It’s evident in the way people talk about coming to Office Nomads or any other coworking community. And it all starts with how we get there.

 

A few things we’ve learned

Jacob and I regularly survey our members so we can learn more about their experiences at Office Nomads and with coworking. We analyze this data to help us create a coworking space that truly works for our members, and to ensure that we have our finger on the pulse of what makes our space work. We recognize there is a lot of value in sharing this information, so today we thought we’d post some interesting tidbits we’ve learned from our experience creating Office Nomads! Here are a few points we’ve pulled from two of our surveys: a Coworking Survey completed by members who have been with us for two months or more, and an Exit Survey of members who choose to end their membership at Office Nomads. Both of these are ongoing so the data changes over time and requires regular analysis. Each survey, as of June 2011, has been filled out by approximately 45 individuals.

Why do members come to Office Nomads?
It is a common misconception that individuals seek out membership at a coworking space because they need to share resources like the internet, coffee, or a fax machine. Through our experience starting Office Nomads, we’ve learned that individuals come to a coworking space as more of a lifestyle (or perhaps “workstyle”) choice as opposed to a services choice. Here’s a chart taken from our Coworking Survey results:

We think this makes it pretty clear that independent and mobile workers today don’t need more places just to plop down their laptops and get to work. What they need is a simple platform that enables an in-person connection with others during their workdays.

Some ideas about why they stay
What brings new members to our doors is not necessarily what is going to encourage them to maintain their membership at Office Nomads. We try to get a sense of what benefits our members experience by being a part of Office Nomads.

  • 2/3 of surveyed members report they have seen an increase in their productivity since joining Office Nomads.
  • 81% of surveyed members think of Office Nomads as a place where they “can meet and connect with potential collaborators for work.”
  • 83% of surveyed members report their “work/life balance is healthier than it was before [they] joined Office Nomads.”
  • 72% of surveyed members tell us their familiarity and knowledge of the Capitol Hill neighborhood (where Office Nomads is located) has increased since becoming a member of Office Nomads.

Why do they leave?
Part of being responsible coworking space owners is figuring out not only what brings new members to our doors, but trying to understand why members walk away. Attrition rates can only tell us how many people walk out the door, so we appreciate getting candid feedback when members depart.

The exit survey has been an invaluable tool because we can keep an eye out for red flags that do require our attention. But not every member who joins finds coworking to be the solution for them.  In fact, the exit survey process gives us an opportunity to make recommendations about where people might find a better fit. I’d recommend any coworking space operator to survey the folks who end their membership.

And now a few questions: If you own/operate a coworking space, does this data jive with what you’ve learned from your members? If you’re a coworking space user, does our membership data resonate with the reasons you’ve chosen to work out of a coworking space? Let us know – we’re curious! We’re taking all we’ve learned here in Capitol Hill and are trying to apply it to creating another space – you can read more about that process on our grow page.