This is not Coworking, and kein Problem(*) at all
Yesterday I visited and worked one hour from Büro Züri, a brand new venue at the heart of Zurich.
Is it a coworking space? Do we really care? Is it cool to see such initiatives coming to the market? Why?
(* This is not a problem).
#MyOfficeToday, testing the brand new #buerozueri at the heart of Zürich. Impressive execution. Welcoming, quiet but not too much, free, registration preferred, not crowded yet, professional hosts, amazing natural light, complimentary coffee & water. Well done, #zkb. #cowoslowtourism #cowoch #coworking #coworkingch #igerszurich #officelife #nomadness
A bit of context
Last June, during the first General Assembly, I became a Member of the Board for Coworking Switzerland, a brand new association gathering more than 40 coworking spaces from all over Switzerland. It’s been started by awesome women (among them, Jenny from Büro Lokal in Wil is the President, and I’ve been hanging around with Priscilla since Coworking Europe 2013 in Barcelona; she runs Urbanfish Cowork in Bern). The working lingua franca is English, and we start to get shit done: the main Railway company in Switzerland, SBB, is already a corporate member. Why? « Because we need to have a clearer idea of the offer in this country », they said (they operate themselves two interesting experiments in Bern and Geneva). I love it and have been waiting for that to happen for at least 2 years here in Switzerland.
Who are the French-speaking members of Coworking Switzerland?
Pretty active, more and more visible people. For instance Stéphane from seedspace.co, Kaspar from voisins.ch and Felix from Impact Hub Geneva in (wait for it) Geneva. The Greater Lausanne Area is at the forefront too with, for instance, Moloudi and Martino from atelier6 in Renens, the cool community which just opened Work ‘n Share in Ouchy a few months ago, and yours truly representing the biohackers/makers/coworkers from Hackuarium and UniverCité (new website coming soon™). Those are only some of them. Who could have thought that, 3 years and half ago, when I discovered the business side of « Romandie » (Western, French-speaking part of Switzerland)? At the time you only had L’Eclau in Lausanne (the very first to open, still alive and kicking), and La Muse in Geneva. I helped La Muse Lausanne to launch during the first 4 months of 2013. And then coworking boomed. A lot. I attended the first pop-up coworking efforts in Neuchâtel. Impact Hub Geneva opened. We unfortunately even already experienced as a community what it is to share some grief, when Pavel from Haldimand 15 passed away. I might be an incurable optimist, but you start to really get the coworking community feeling in Lausanne and everywhere in Romandie. The same I already experienced in major coworking cities in Europe like Brussels, Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, London or Milano. You can find the whole list and a Coworking Switzerland member (i.e. a cool coworking space) in a Canton near you on the association’s website.
Back to Zurich: is Büro Züri a coworking space?
tl;dr No it’s not. Let’s use the most easily accessible encyclopedia of our times if you need it:
Coworking is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is also the social gathering of a group of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with people who value working in the same place alongside each other. Coworking offers a solution to the problem of isolation that many freelancers experience while working at home, while at the same time letting them escape the distractions of home. Coworking is not only about the physical place, but about establishing the coworking community first. (bold is mine, CC-BY-SA 3.0 International, Wikipedia)
Sharing values: that means you have to state them 😉
Synergy: hard if your market is hot-deskers who really appreciate the free-lunch effect. Büro Züri is a success design-wise, is spotless clean, and is free, yeah I said it again. You can only book one hour at a time there and they do not host events (yet), Pretty hard to create a synergy.
Establishing the community: So far, Büro Züri doesn’t own dedicated social media presence, and you do not get to know your « coworkers » there unless you always end up talking to people in front of you like I do.
Is it a problem?
Not at all, not a second. It is a totally cool place, in one of the most expensive areas on Earth, real-estate wise. It is free. People hosting the place are totally warm and welcoming. They offer free coffee and water. The toilets are spotless clean and perfumed. I plan to go there again and use this facility if I have one hour between two appointments or before a train back to Lausanne. But I do not plan to contribute, not a second.
Why is it important to clearly state what coworking is and what it is not?
Because you have at least 40 business owners and managers in this country who are working damn hard together to uphold the coworking standards really high.
Because they serve clients who are entrepreneurs, innovators, small-businesses owners, creatives, startupers, remote workers; yeah all the fancy people every politician are desperate to better know and understand because they are « the future » of economics. For them it is the present. I’ve been living and working with more and more people in this reality for 5 years. We as a society will not go back, neither will mobility, technology and business needs for agility, interdisciplinarity and adaptability.
It is also important because most of the pioneers in this new industry had it or still have it really hard risk and financially wise. And sorry, but we are not ready at all to leave opportunists trump customers and this society about what our business, our craftsmanship, is.
Büro Züri is a cool place, and they are not opportunists. We are actually looking forward to starting a long-term conversation with ZKB, the operator of this really interesting fresh new experiment.
I am even more fond of this initiative because it shows something Jenny and I both agreed on while leaving (Jenny tested büro züri 1h after me yesterday too): the value we provide to our coworkers is less and less about the space and the furniture. Sure, it is part of it. Sure, I need the WiFi at my coworking to be even more reliable than the one at my home.
But what do coworkers pay for? We tend to think it is for a dedicated host/tummler/concierge helping them to meet more relevant people key to their businesses, faster. It might be for a relevant events curation, or for a pertinent way to share crucial information regarding the life and the skillsets of the community, where people are: on social networks and remote online tools.
We are on the watch to not let anyone say or sell too much bullshit about what we do and the serious and fun and brilliant people we serve for a living.
We are the coworking industry in Switzerland. We come in peace, but we are definitely serious about it.
Come meet us during the next leading event of the coworking industry in Europe, in Milano this November: the Swiss delegation, including French and German friends, will be 15-people strong.
By the way, we do not use an hyphen (
« co-working »). We use « coworking », and here is why #deathtothehyphen.