Instead of working alone, independent workers—freelancers, contractors, independent consultants and temps—are increasingly joining co-working spaces. These are collaborative work environments where independents can rent desk and meeting space down to the hour. Roughly like a gym membership, at co-working spaces, you pack your laptop instead of your sweats.
In Oakland, 2012 is the boom year for formally expanding the prevailing cubicle-centered notions of work and worker archetypes. By the end of the year, Oakland will have at least four formal co-working spaces.
Tech Liminal, Oakland’s first formal co-working space, is wedged between a tattoo shop and a fabric store on 14th street near Alice. Founded in 2009 by Anca Mosoiu, this technology hotspot and salon is frequented by novice web developers, entrepreneurs interested in tech, and “DIY-ers.”
Tech Liminal is part of a rising national trend. Last year, the number of co-working locations more than doubled to 1,320 according to the co-working magazine Deskwanted.
Steve King of Emergent Research says that number will continue to rise. “Overall, the number of people participating is growing... at a rate of 125 percent a year. We’re seeing this in a lot of industries,” he said. “We’re seeing that growth outside of traditional tech places [such as] facilities targeted at artists, people who make things, and small manufacturing companies.”
For one, corporations are turning away from the cubicle in order to reduce costs. And, says King, women will continue to join the ranks of coworkers.
According to King, women comprise about 35 percent of the membership of US co-working spaces. Yet, they comprise 53 percent of the independent workforce. As the independent workforce grows and as co-working broadens into more fields, we will see more women co-working.
In 2011, there were 16 million freelancers, contractors, independent consultants and temps in the U.S., according to Emergent Research. At the current growth rate, Emergent projects, by 2020 roughly half the U.S. workforce will be comprised of independent workers.
At Tech Liminal, the focus is on building the sort of culture that welcomes women, people of color and children.
Today, Tech Liminal coworkers are mostly women and people of color.
Raised in communist Romania, Mosoiu says that she grew up with the mantra that everyone is equally capable. “We have a support group style. Most of it is coaching. You come here and together we look at possible solutions,” she says.