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Stereotypes are simplified ways of thinking. They usually attribute to a person, a place, or a group, allow someone to pass judgement, without having to reflect their actual properties. There are also stereotypes regarding coworking spaces. Most people only know about the coworking spaces from hearsay, but have never worked in one. It’s actually not so easy to find such people. We asked them to tell us what they honestly think of coworking spaces and why they do not, or do not want to, work in them. Understanding stereotypes helps coworking spaces to better deal with these arguments and opinions.
By Hana Hariri - Friday, 11 January 2013

Regular users of coworking spaces look at their workspaces differently than irregular users. So far, a logical conclusion. We often write from an internal perspective, and talk with Coworkers and operators. In this article, we wanted to let the people have their say. Most of the people we interviewed had heard of coworking, but had never actually worked in a coworking space. The views we got are both entertaining and sometimes sad, but of particular interest, because many coworking spaces in the future are sure to meet these arguments..

A couple of weeks ago, I (the author), talked to Viktor. I met him at a party that was mainly frequented by coworkers. Naturally, my first question to Viktor was: „So, do you work at Betahaus as well?“ and his response was a decided and slightly appalled „Oh hell no!” Slightly taken aback, I had to ask why…

"Coworking spaces are like battery farms"

Viktor is a freelance programmer, working mainly with hardware and also doing a lot of art installations, compared coworking spaces to battery farms. This is where everyone is sitting in a row pecking away on his or her MacBook like little lemmings. “That is not for me” he said, “I need my own space. I need space to make a mess sometimes, and sometimes I need space without the mess.” For Viktor, coworking was not an option…

There's no privacy

Maja, who was also at that party, works as a booking agent for artists. She was sitting next to me and Viktor, was and added: “It wouldn’t be for me either. These places are full of people looking over your shoulder when you are trying to work. I don’t like that. I have my own office and I don’t like that here either.”

Maja explained that the first thing she did in her office was move her computer so nobody could see what she was doing. “I need a wall behind my back, to protect my monitor from the looks of other people.” She also stated that coworking spaces had the potential to be very distracting, because people are walking around all the time and you would be paying too much attention to everything that is happening around you.

"I don't have the money for it"

Another non-coworker that I just love to talk to about this subject with, is my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, Jordi. He’s a magician, who does his magic not only with cards, but also with QR-codes and social media. Jordi actually likes the idea of coworking. But since he lives in Spain, where the economy crisis has hit hard, he says he simply can’t afford it. “I know it doesn’t cost much, but it still costs something. I’m sure the community is great, but money is scarce right now.”

You can’t make money appear magically, so Jordi works from his home-office, which is also known as my sister’s closet. I guess you could say he is a closeted worker. He does literally come out of the closet from time to time to meet with clients and do his magic. When I asked him how his perfect work environment looked like he said: "The non-office, with all the cloud solutions nowadays, the work process is decentralized anyways. So why would I want to go to the office when I might as well go to the bar!"

"Coworking Spaces are too techie"

Ann, who’s a graphic design student told me that sooner or later she wants to become a freelancer. Well, they won't be so many options as graphic designer anyway. She currently works at Betahaus in Berlin, but not as a coworker. She works at the café and is around the members all the time, but she can’t imagine working here “as one of them” she says: “This place is just full of programmers and IT-people. I wouldn’t mind sharing an office with someone, but when I do that I’d rather share it with people of my own kind.” Apart from the fact, that most coworking spaces are “too techie” she also stated that they are too big. “I get that it is a great environment for some people, but I’d need something smaller, with less people and less buzz.”

"I'm more productive at home"

Also there is one special kind of non-coworker, those who come to just hang out at coworking spaces like Paul, a musician and the founder of audiofu.com. He can randomly be found at the Betahaus café with his laptop, pretending to work.

I asked him why he never went upstairs to work at the actual coworking space. "I don't really come here to work", he told me. "I'm much more productive at home. I come here to socialize and meet people. I need this to get out of my hole at home. I don't really get anything done here, but I was freaking out today, so I decided to come here." For Paul coworking is more networking than actually getting work done. That's one way to see it...

So apparently coworking is not for everybody. However, you can't just go and tar all coworking spaces with the same brush. If you would go and do your research, we're sure you would find a space that caters exactly to your needs, be it messiness, privacy, costs, size or clientele. You just have to want it. Only the hermits might be a little hard to satisfy.

>> Next page: How to respond to these stereotypes?

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