Two years ago I wrote a post about co-working spaces and their blossoming popularity with Germany’s freelancers. Though the idea appealed, back then I was still enjoying the quiet and ease of working in my own living room. More recently my feelings changed – why, I am not sure, but the dining table became rather too solitary and the familiarity of the pictures on the wall claustrophobic instead of concentration-inducing.
It was time, it seemed, to get out of the flat at last and rent a desk. My research proved useful. At first, I thought I would look in small office spaces – perhaps one room, shared with a just a few other freelancers. But as I looked around the many desks on offer locally, the large, well-equipped spaces seemed far more attractive. I liked the lofty ceilings, newly installed galley kitchens, and the general buzz and entertainment provided by gang of young, mostly-bearded coders, invariably working for some start up or other, using the same space.
So that is how I come to find myself writing this blog at a pale wooden desk with a proper office chair, in a large warehouse-sized, Hinterhof (back courtyard) building, plastic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, a pug sniffing at my feet, and new bearded friends offering to make me cups of tea.
As these things go, it is relatively inexpensive. I can spend 9 days a month here (enough for now, though given how much better I concentrate, perhaps I will up it) for just over EUR 100 (incl. MWS – the German equivalent of VAT). For that, I can use the printer, the kitchen, the bathroom facilities, and the conference room for phone calls (or indeed meetings, if I ever needed to organise one of those). Getting set up was very straightforward. I sent them an email, dropped by for a visit, came for a trial day, and then, on liking it, booked myself in for a month (no interview to decide whether they liked me!). I can cancel or increase the number of days I come at any time.
The impact on my work is interesting. When here, I am more productive. That sense of paying to be somewhere drives me on ferociously. I dare not waste a second. And, I feel happier – seeing other people work and watching the rhythms of their days in moments of distraction – which in turn improves the quality of what I do.
Sometimes, I regret adding a level of unnecessary complication. I cannot flit out of the house for the KiTa run, only worrying about whether I’ve packed a snack for the children. Now I need my laptop, notebook, and a snack for me too (food, along with teabags, they don’t provide). Sometimes, I am struck by the absurdity of becoming a freelancer to escape the confines of the office only then to recreate an office of my own accord. But then, I chose this one and can decide how often I come. This desk connects me to the commercial life of this city, not just my distant colleagues in London – a new sense of arrival after three years of solitary freelancing.