“It made little sense for me to pay for a co-working space full time, because I’d then need to pay for a dog walker,” says Sharona Coutts, the chief executive officer of Brooklyn's SpareChair. “And I had no desire to volunteer for the daily Brooklyn-to-Manhattan commute if I didn’t have to.”
The search for a place to work outside her home that allowed her the flexibility she needed led Coutts to launch her site, which matches nomadic workers with temporary places to work.
SpareChair is one of a slew of new sites that aim to take the model popularized by Airbnb—renting out unused spaces for short periods of time—and apply it to workspaces. Now you can try out a new co-working spot for a few hours or experience the thrill of sharing a stranger’s home office. Some of these sites, such as Breather and LiquidSpace, emphasize traditional office and meeting spaces. Others, like SpareChair and Desktime, are loaded with offbeat workspaces such as dining room tables, recording studios, and even a printmaking workshop.
“We've been fascinated to see that some hosts have deliberately created mini co-working spaces within their homes,” Coutts says. “This seems to be a particularly millennial approach to life, work, and community.”
The sites are especially appealing to frequent travelers, who may need to find reliable Wi-Fi and coffee—and fight the suffocating boredom of working out of a hotel room—in far-off cities. The cost may be worth it if you can grab a desk beachside in Bali or blocks from the Eiffel Tower.
Pricing for drop-in workspaces varies wildly, and services charge by the hour, day, or month. A spot in somebody’s living room on SpareChair can run as low as a few bucks a day, while a private office, conference room, or specialized space, such as a photo studio, can cost a few hundred dollars for the same amount of time. A nice-looking co-working space in Chicago costs $5 per day, and although I can barely handle beads, I have to imagine $15 for a full day’s access to a stocked Manhattan jewelry studio is a pretty decent deal.
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But let's get real here: Popping into an established co-working space is one thing, but do the masses really have any desire to work in a stranger’s home—or even consider letting a stranger work in theirs? The suggestion is met with hesitation by many. “The potential for weirdos is too great, and $20 or $30 simply isn’t worth it,” says Julia Schweitzer, a Brooklyn-based startup employee who works remotely.
On the other hand, people cited that same weirdness factor when criticizing the Airbnb model in the company's early days, yet millennial willingness to take chances in exchange for personalized lodging at a relatively low cost has garnered it a $20 billion valuation.