Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind

We are thrilled to invite you to join us for a special event at Office Nomads! Please join us and this wonderful crew for an evening of prose.

tales from the grind

Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind
Thursday, March 13, 6:30-8 pm (during Capitol Hill Arts Walk)

Six Seattle authors read stories and poems about the jobs they’ve loved, lost, hated, tolerated, and sometimes, quit in a frenzied rage. Featuring Maged Zaher (2013 Stranger Genius, Thank You for the Window Office), Peter Mountford (The Dismal Science, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism), Jane Hodges (Rent vs. Own, My Year of Living Posthumously), Matthew Nienow (The End of the Folded Map, Best New Poets 2007 and 2012), Sierra Golden (poems forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, and Permafrost), and Michelle Goodman (The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, My So-Called Freelance Life). Coffee and doughnuts provided. Free and open to the public. More details at http://seattlewageslaves.com/


Maged Zaher is the author of Thank You for the Window Office (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), The Revolution Happened and You Didn’t Call Me (Tinfish Press, 2012), and Portrait of the Poet as an Engineer (Pressed Wafer, 2009). His collaborative work with the Australian poet Pam Brown, Farout Library Software, was published by Tinfish Press in 2007. His translations of contemporary Egyptian poetry have appeared in Jacket MagazineBanipal, and Denver Quarterly. He performed his work at Subtext, Bumbershoot, the Kootenay School of Writing, St. Marks Project, Evergreen State College, and The American University in Cairo. Maged is the recipient of the 2013 Genius Award in Literature from the Seattle weekly The Stranger.

Peter Mountford‘s debut novel A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism won the 2012 Washington State Book Award. His second novel The Dismal Science was recently published by Tin House Books. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, Boston Review, Southern Review, Best New American Voices 2008, and numerous other anthologies and magazines. He’s currently a writer-in-residence at Richard Hugo House.

Matthew Nienow is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which is The End of the Folded Map (2011). A 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellow, he has also been recognized with grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared in Poetry,New England ReviewPoetry Northwest, and two editions of the Best New Poets anthology. He lives in Port Townsend with his wife and two sons, where he builds boats and works as a writer-in-residence at a small private school.

Michelle Goodman is the award-winning author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life, both published by Seal Press. Her essays and journalism have appeared in dozens of publications, including Salon, Vice, Bust, The Magazine, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Seattle magazine, and several anthologies. She’s currently writing a book called Crap Job: How to Make the Most of the Job You Hate, which Seal Press will publish in 2015.

Jane Hodges is a Seattle-based business writer and author of Rent vs. Own. In 2012 she became power of attorney for both her father and her uncle. They each died, forcing her, grieving, back to the South she had fled like a prison escapee. There, in her executrix role, she found herself hocking jewelry at Southern Bullion, pawning a gun, skirting tornados, hacking into e-mail and bank accounts, trying to divest mountain plots and timeshares, and lurking at the Oconee County dump. Navigating Dixie with a catty ex-military rent-a-brother, a gypsy jazz CD, and her Letters Testamentary, she wound up in an existential crisis she’s chronicling in a memoir in progress, My Year of Living Posthumously.

Sierra Golden received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Winner of the program’s 2012 Academy of American Poets Prize, Golden’s work appears widely in literary journals such as Roanoke Review, Fourth River, and Tar River Poetry. New poems are forthcoming in Permafrost and PloughsharesShe has spent many summers in Alaska working as a commercial fisherman.

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 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.


Updated results from the Neighborhood Campaign

Today’s current standings from our Neighborhood Campaign are as follows:

  1. Ballard
  2. Fremont
  3. Greenlake / U-District (a tie!)
  4. Columbia City
  5. West Seattle

Thanks to all who have sent us their feedback thus far! If you wish your neighborhood was in the #1 place, be sure to get your vote in! We’ll be keeping the polls open through the end of the year, and are excited to hear where it is you’d love to see our next coworking space.

Oh and hey! Did you see the piece the Seattle Times did on coworking in Seattle? It’s a great article – you should read it!

Work From Home Relief!

Over the years, we have heard many work-from-home stories from folks who come through our coworking space.  Many start with “I love working from home, but…” followed by a long pause.  It seems everyone has something that makes working from home not work for them.  For some it’s the isolation of being alone all day without enough human interaction. For others it’s being a work-at-home parent with a child who doesn’t understand that “mommy’s working right now.”  And others got tired of waiting for their cat to come up with their next great business idea.

For whatever the reason, many work-from-homers need a break from time to time and that’s where we’re excited to come in and help out. Whether you need to escape the drudgery of the home office once a week or full-time, Office Nomads has some great options you can mix and match to fit into your schedule and budget.  Take a look at our updated membership & pricing page, and then switch back here for an example of what we are talking about.

A real world example

So, you’ve finally got your consulting business up and running, and things are going well.  You’ve got several clients, but are still looking for more.  You started up out of your living room, and occasionally head out to the coffee shop when you want to shake things up.  You are still excited to be your own boss and yet also feel like you’ve plateaued.  While seeking something to break the stalemate you look into coworking.

You don’t need a full-time office, but dropping in a few days a month would really help revive your productivity.  You decide to give things a try and sign up for a Basic membership at Office Nomads ($50/month).  While chatting with Alexandra at the front desk, you learn about Biznik, a Seattle-based networking group for indies just like you.  You whip up your free profile, go to a few events, and soon realize the value of upgrading to a Biznik Pro membership ($10/month).  Now you are gathering clients faster than ever, and more and more people know who you are and what you’re all about.  Realizing that you might want to register your consulting business someplace other than your home, you add a Business Identity Plan to your membership at Office Nomads ($35/month).

One month later, you’ve got an impressive new office to bring your clients to, a vibrant community of coworkers to collaborate with, a wider network of independent entrepreneurs to learn from, and a professional address associated with your business, all for less than $100/month.

Sounds pretty awesome, eh?

Again, check out our updated membership and pricing page, and then mosey on over to our list of friends & partners to see what other opportunities membership at Office Nomads might bring!

Thanks to Flickr user Fayez for use of the beautiful photo above under the Creative Commons license.

Climate Change, Transportation & Coworking

Jacob and I spent the morning today at the WBR Business Transportation Forum, put on by the Seattle Climate Partnership and several other transportation-related organizations. We heard from various business as to what they were doing to improve their transportation-related carbon footprints, as well as Mayor Mike McGinn, who wanted to talk about a new city initiative called Walk Bike Ride. We were there because we believe that coworking is a 21st century solution to addressing climate change in our city.

Really? Coworking and climate change? Allow me to start from the top: the Seattle City Council recently announced that it is working towards becoming a carbon neutral city. In order to do this, the city is going to have to address every aspect of how the city runs day to day. Transportation is the single largest contributor to Seattle’s carbon footprint and as such is the logical first place to get started on the grand path of carbon neutrality.

Making a dent in carbon emissions when it comes to transportation requires an incredible toolbox of solutions – from improving public transportation to making our urban neighborhoods pedestrian friendly to enforcing strong emissions standard, and more. The list is endless. There is a lot of work to do, and with a truly strapped city budget, the work gets tougher and tougher each year.

What is the role of coworking in this scenario? Coworking is one tool in the toolbox of solutions to transportation issues. Coworking spaces are neighborhood-based, intentional workspaces (in contrast to workspaces like coffee shops) that enable local workers to work closer to home. Whether that means they trade their longer commute for a walk to the coworking space once a week or ditch their commute completely to become 100% remote, coworking spaces allow modern workers to work closer to home without having to face the isolation, distractions, and productivity challenges of working from home.

Here at Office Nomads we know that 40% of our current members come directly from our neighborhood (Capitol Hill Seattle).  Extend that radius to 3 miles from our office, and you capture 61% of our members. Because of the close proximity of our space for most of our members, that means they tend to arrive at our space by either walking, biking, or taking the bus (we’re currently working on gathering more data on that point – stay tuned). Today’s technology allows these individuals to work for clients from all over the world, but stay in their own neighborhoods while they do it. This method of working keeps local dollars local and builds healthier communities.

Office Nomads believes that coworking enables independent workers to make their work experience better.  Beyond the work environment, we also believe that if the majority of individuals using coworking spaces are doing so because there is a coworking space convenient to where they live, more coworking spaces would allow more workers throughout the city to stay in their neighborhoods to work. That is one of the reasons we started Coworking Seattle, and why we continue to encourage the growth of more coworking spaces in our city. More individuals choosing to telecommute or work within their own neighborhoods means less time wasted commuting (the average American spends 61 minutes behind the wheel each day according to Transporation Choices Coalition), and more productive time working, living, and contributing to local commerce.

So, consider coworking a tool.  Not a one-stop solution, but a great tool to use in the journey to make an impact on our city’s carbon footprint.  Interested in helping out?  Join in the conversations happening at Coworking Seattle via our Google Group.  We’d love to talk to you!

Thanks to flickr user Robert S. Donovan for use of the above photo under the Creative Commons License.

Dibspace in the space

What’s more community oriented than trading the skills, products or space you have available for the services and things you need? Well, maybe sharing a meal or helping to raise a kid, but very next on the list is a marketplace where neighbors trade goods and services to everyone’s benefit.

In a strange and round-about way, I just described Dibspace, a relatively new site that fosters community relationships through business. The best part is, in a kind of domino affect, when one member gets “paid” she can use her dibits to buy something from an entirely different member.

Office Nomads recently joined up because we think we have a lot to offer the Dibspace community and we know that the community around us (especially that of Capitol Hill in Seattle, where we are located) has plenty of people who can fill our needs as well.

Almost immediately after signing up, it turned out that the space we’re offering on

the site for a mere 25 dibits (Dibspace’s virtual currency) ended up being a boon to the site’s founder, Dominc Canterbury, during his quest to live on nothing but dibits for an entire year.

As I said, we’re relatively new to the whole Dibspace community. We’re just now starting to explore the goods and services available our local Capitol Hill Marketplace to see what might be there that we can use, but it was great that one of our first transactions for dibits was with their founder, and for such a neat project. Now, if we could just find a way to frame and hang one of those first dibits…

Are you on Dibspace? Do you have some mad graphic design skills, carpentry know how, lunch-making lunacy or some other service we might need but no office space? Check out our two offers on the site, sign up (if you haven’t already) and let’s chat!

Big Ideas

Last night I was happy to present a quick 3-minute stint on coworking at Great City’s “What’s the Big Idea?” event. This was the first time they’ve held an event like this, and it seems like they got enough positive support to host more in the future.

I was excited to share a big idea for Seattle, and am now happy to pass along some of what I presented. Ideas are still very much in the initial stages, but if any of this catches your eye and you want to get involved or pick our brains about it, definitely get in touch!

Coworking Seattle: A Platform for Shared Working Spaces in Seattle
Coworking is a community-based approach to getting work done. Coworking spaces exist to provide shared resources to independent workers and telecommuters to allow them a sustainable, local, professional option when it comes to trying to successfully “work from home.” Seattle has put coworking on the map in the pacific northwest and has proven that it can succeed. Coworking is recognized as a method by which cities can drive innovation and encourage collaboration – key success matrices when it comes to surviving difficult economic times. Worldwide, there are over 165 coworking spaces currently in operation, and coworking has attracted the attention of a wide spread of media outlets.

Why are coworking spaces a big idea for Seattle? These spaces are a simple, resource-efficient way to address the transportation issue in our city. They encourage urban sustainability by encouraging individuals to work closer to where they live without sacrificing their sanity and professionalism by trying to work from their living rooms. Coworking spaces enable citizens to get out out of their cars, save valuable commuting time, and keep their dollars local by supporting other neighborhood businesses. Coworking spaces are economic generators for neighborhoods.

Seattle is current pouring huge amounts of tax dollars into building more roads and bigger transpiration systems to move people all over the Seattle region. While this work is important, it also begs a question: when it comes to daily transportation needs, why not work on encouraging our citizens to stay closer to home? Why push to do more when we could succeed by doing less? We have the technological capacity (access to the internet, virtual private networks, etc.) and city-sponsored programs to support increased telecommuting in our area. As the job market tightens, we see more and more individuals deciding to strike out on their own and start their own businesses. Instead of asking these people to attempt to succeed by working isolated at home or amongst noisy cafes, why not support shared workspaces which not only allow individuals to work in their own neighborhoods, but also to share resources and save energy by sharing space?

There are an average of 210,000 cars going over and back on the floating bridges each day. This is a shock, and an embarrassment to our city as we claim to be an environmentally friendly place to live. Seattle can do better, and Seattle must to better. Coworking spaces, whether for desk jockeys, caterers, woodworkers, or artists, are one way in which our city could take a strong step forward in making a difference. In our current market, and with so many commercial offices spaces laying vacant, we cannot afford not to. An effort which combines the energy of private coworking spaces and leverages their knowledge to support public spaces is going to be key to making these spaces available to all.

The future of work: temporary spaces

A good friend of mine just forwarded me an awesome article from Worldchanging on temporary spaces, creative infill, and the general concept of nomadic workplaces. More and more each month, we are contacted by individuals and small groups who are interested in changing their work environment from something closed-off to something else that incorporates the community around them. Over the past few years, it is becoming apparent that the very nature of workspaces is shifting, making room for creative space use and shared resources. Here’s a little excerpt of what Worldchanging had to say:

The next time you’re waiting at an intersection, look around and imagine how much of the built (and furnished) environment stands empty and unused at any given time. Cafés in the financial district are closed at dinnertime; restaurants that specialize in dinner fare are silent until mid-afternoon; parking lots that fill during the workweek are largely vacant after 6pm and often on weekends.

Now imagine putting those darkened rooms, kitchens, galleries, cafés, outdoor spaces and more to use. What would you fill them with?

We’ve talked a lot about concepts that conserve embedded energy in the built environment by preserving historic buildings as re-imagined spaces instead of bringing in the wrecking ball and developing new. This idea, however, harnesses another kind of embedded energy — by creating meaning, activity and experience where there would have been emptiness, waste or worse. It’s about using up every bit of urban space to its fullest.

Beautifully said, and evokes images of split-personality spaces such as cafe-to-bar restaurants, office-to-art-gallery spaces, or Jacob’s favorite idea, office-to-bar facilities. What would our cities look like if instead of having areas of town that “emptied out” at certain parts of the day or the week that those spaces simply flipped and were able to still maintain the vibrancy and energy that is so critical to an urban environment?

For us, coworking is only the beginning. As we discuss so often with our coworking cohorts, the future of work as we know it is still very much uncertain. We could think of this uncertainty as a huge risk, but in reality it could be a huge opportunity for collaboration, creativity, and urban revival. So keep those good ideas coming, and let us know how we can help.

Creative Space Use

If you’ve ever heard of coworking before, you know that the folks who lead up coworking spaces all around the world are a bunch of folks who like to re-think the way we use space.

Well, fresh from the coworking Google Group is a new string of conversation about the creative reuse of closed pubs throughout the UK. Apparently, pubs in the UK are closing at a rate of nearly 6 per week, begging the question – what happens with these spaces once they are vacated?

Similar conversations are happening all over the world when it comes to commercial real estate – whether it’s pubs, restaurants, or other small businesses, the unfortunate truth is that many small businesses are unable to keep their doors open. Obviously, saving them from closing down in the first place would be ideal, but in the end we will still lose some businesses during this tough economic environment. So what do we do with these empty spaces?

Coworking could be one answer (I know, I’m biased on this one). What if these spaces could be rented out relatively cheaply (to keep at least some minimal income coming in for buildling owners) for workers to fill in? Sharing costs of an office is one of the biggest perks to a coworking space for independents – these spaces could allow for that to happen in a wider variety of places than just traditional office spaces. They could also allow for more neighborhood-based work options for individuals who are able to telecommute instead of commuting traditionally all over the place.

Beyond coworking, crowdsourcing these great spaces could provide a way for a group of independents to salvage and save these spaces from becoming bland fill-in businesses (do we really need another cash advance/payday loan store on our corners?), and enable them to be reflections of the people who live in the neighborhood. Imagine co-owned woodworking shops, art spaces, community kitchens…the options are endless.

What would you do with a beautiful empty space like those photographed on the “Last Orders” photo set on Flickr?

How can these spaces be saved or creatively re-used?Thanks to Flickr user camies for the use of this photo under the Creative Commons license.

Social Networking Ain’t All That

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. MySpace. Blogs. I know there’s a ton more social networking platforms and apps out there, so what am I forgetting? Oh yeah: Yelp. Discussion Boards. Flickr. YouTube. Viddler. Does that cover it? Nope, because I forgot the biggest, baddest, oldest, most important social network of them all: Word of Mouth.

It’s amazing isn’t it? Most of us who live and work online think and talk about and interact with social networking platforms all day, every day thinking all the time that the world of social networking is some new phenomenon that we need to learn how to manage. But humanity has been networking since we’ve had language and Ugg told Grog about that new warm and bright thing in the back of the cave.

A good friend of Office Nomads, Jeremiah Andrick, who happens to be a social media guru brought all of this to our attention yesterday with a post that says simply:
“We forgot about word of mouth.”

Often when I hear people talk about the how “Twitter is changing everything” I laugh because while I get that twitter and other social platforms are changing our ability to stay in touch, these tools are just enabling us to have conversations that we might have had by other mediums. Real change occurs not by a medium, but by people how people use it.

Take some time to read it. Jeremiah’s idea is pretty brilliant in it’s simplicity, and it’s definitely a D’Oh! moment because it reminds all of us who are in customer service (and which of us running our own business isn’t?) that every interaction is a social interaction, replete with all the opportunities and risks inherent in every social media platform there is.