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Flexible Office, Working Green

missional lifestyle, thinking green - by - February 2, 2010 - 01:26 Etc/GMT+5 - Be first to Comment!

The need for people to connect across race and class lines, among neighbors and churches, and between urban and suburban neighborhoods is urgent. We’re designed for one another, and there is joy in diversity. We believe there is yet-to-be-discovered imagination between us, meaning that our full God-given creativity is found when diverse people learn from one another, building mutual, give-and-take relationships.
– Nate Ledbetter, metromerge.org

For most of the last 6 months, I have been considering the coworking movement, shared office space and ways to work together as a communityIn addition I have been looking for ways to be environmentally friendly and work / live / play with less impact and waste (as well as less impact to our bottom line). These ideas seem to have a part in the missional lifestyle and ministry I am called to, and they fit neatly with the life stage of my business and family.

The trend to self employment, smaller companies and telecommuting leaves a new class of worker either isolated in suburban and urban homes for the 9-to-5 or in the edge seats of coffee shops or cafes.  But the coffee shop is not always the best or most conducive place to do business, nor is it an environment that actually encourages community in a culture where people have come to expect public spaces to be free from interference into personal space: picture 30 people sitting side by side, midmorning, with headphones on and eyes trained to a screen. Coffee shop owners sometimes face the dilemma of customers who are unable to find a gathering spot among the coffee offices. Additionally, creative professionals are looking for interaction in their design process: brain storming, a place to bounce ideas off of, peer critique and impromptu partnerships for new ideas.

An article in the New York Times describes the shared office space options well. While executive suites have been around for a while, new coworking spaces place more emphasis on the “co” – the working together. Coworking spaces are becoming more popular.  Some of the more successful facilities combine the best of all worlds with informal space, conference rooms, shared desk, dedicated desk and private offices, along with services including  phone answering, post office boxes, high speed internet access, printing and other office machines and the inevitable coffee or snack bars. Some provide even more services— yoga classes, onsite daycare, and even onsite laundry and cooking facilities or services for the multi-tasking entrepreneur who maintains the “at home parent” role.

So how can coworking space fit into missional living?  Imagine if there were rent-able offices in a location central to where you live and play.  You might conduct some of your business from home, while other times walk to the coffee shop, but also having a third option, a desk with the infrastructure  and tools needed to work efficiently, but also others professionals that can be the office peers for water cooler chats.  Artists and musicians, work-at-home and telecommuting new moms and dads, company start-ups, internet jobs, church plants without church offices. Living and working in community with affordable and accessible workspace that leads to increased collaboration is good for the business, the pocketbook, the planet and the soul.

We are seeing a correction of several decades of expansion – growth in the amount of space needed for work, growth in the size of our houses, growth in the amount of consumables  and throw away and products we use, growth in the amount of isolation we find ourselves in.  It is time to reverse these trends, live more on less, bridge the social gaps and come together. Rather than working isolated in offices, homes and even coffee shops,  we should come together in community, striving to create a workplace where business professionals, artist, free lancers, web developers, entrepreneur, etc can work side-by-side as neighbors.

How else can we make a greener office? (this list is based on “Green Desk“)

energy efficient lighting filtered water (no plastic bottles!)
recycled/recyclable furniture carbon offsets
low/no VOC finishes power from renewable energy sources
recycled paper products shared bicycles / bike friendly
paper, plastic & glass recycling community gardens
online paperless billing solar panels to offset cooling power demand
operate using sustainable business practices less commute / less transportation
cloud based computing (shared resources) green web host
images: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2008/12/01/2008-12-01_economic_crisis_has_brooklynites_turning.html

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