Historically, if you wanted to work remotely to avoid a long commute but didn't want to work from home, you would have been out of luck. Not anymore. Now, there's Loosecubes, Inc.
Founded in 2010, entrepreneur Campbell McKellar wanted to create what she was looking for but couldn't find ... a place to telework that wasn't her house and wasn't a coffee shop. Her vision has quickly grown into a community marketplace for workspace in 346 cities and 47 countries.
According to two recent studies, the growth of the telework movement has hit an interesting crossroads:
- The Telework 2011 World at Work Special Report found that the total number of people who worked from home or remotely for an entire day at least once a month dropped from 34 million in 2008 to 26 million in 2010 (which is 20% of the total 139 million U.S. working population).
- The June 2011 State of Telework in the U.S. study by the Telework Research Network reported that there is a pent-up desire for remote work. They found that 50 million U.S. employees who want to work from home have jobs that would allow them to do so regularly but only 2.9 million consider home their primary place of work.
Both studies cite a combination of economic uncertainty, lack of awareness and management distrust as the causes behind the decrease in and lack of accessibility to telework. While I agree with all three points, I think there's another factor as well:
Many people have either discovered, or have always known, that they don't like to work from home. It's not that they don't like to work remotely. It's that working and living out the same space is not appealing because, "I find I miss interacting with others," or "I don't like mixing my work and personal life. I like a boundary."
What if these individuals were offered an alternative that gave them the ability to telework, but in a real office environment? Would that prompt more people to work remotely? Campbell McKellar of Loosecubes, Inc. certainly hopes so.
I recently spent some time with McKellar and learned that, for her, Loosecubes goes beyond supporting telework. She wants to create thriving communities of diverse workers that promote new levels of collaborative innovation that doesn't happen in homogeneous workplaces.
Cali Yost: What led you to create Loosecubes?
Campbell McKellar: I've followed an unconventional career path, which is a function of graduating from college in 2001 right at the beginning of the first dot com crash. I lost my first job 6 months after graduating and realized that I couldn't count on a large company for security. That was going to be something that I needed to create for myself. I've worn a couple of different hats since then, including working for Goldman Sachs as and then as the COO of start up real estate company.
I was at the real estate company when the second market crash happened. When Lehman imploded our business dramatically changed. It went from optimistically building boutique hotel to working out construction loans. The work environment was depressing. I negotiated with my bosses to work remotely for three months so that I could get a break from it. I took 50% pay cut in exchange for location independence, and spent most of the three months in a cabin in Maine with my boyfriend who asked for the same flexibility and got it.
I learned two things that summer. I'd only ever worked at truly bricks and mortar companies, but I learned that summer that I could do my work from anywhere. But I just needed a productive place to work sometimes. A café didn't cut it and I wasn't looking for a office lease. I wanted something more productive, and convenient, where I could separate work and home even though I was a 1,000 miles away from my job. I started envisioning a neighboring art studio with wifi where I could go when I needed to concentrate or had a call scheduled.
I knew that existed in our town in Maine and I set out to create a site that could help me find that space for myself. And the funny thing is that we still don't have Loosecubes in Maine. It's our last holdout state!
Cali Yost: How does Loosecubes work?
Campbell McKellar: If you are provider of a Loosecube: You are a business owner with an empty desk in studio, office or even home office. You can invite people to co-work with you and choose the type of people you want to work with. Then you set the price whether it's one day or a month. It's up to provider. Some offer a studio that's not being used at night or an office on the weekends.
If you are potential user: Go to Loosecubes and do a search. It's free to join. You apply to work at a space. Every space reservation must be approved by the host. And then you pay your fee with your credit card. If you connect through your Facebook account we'll suggest spaces to you through your network. We want people to see that you can be more productive because of connections being made not just space.
Cali Yost: What does a typical Loosecuber look like?
Campbell McKellar: Our core user is a member of a dual income family, an entrepreneur, or a remote worker employed by a company who has kids who are young enough that they would need supervision. Generally, these are people in their 30s or 40s, but eventually I think we are going to have more retired people who are looking for places to work that offer meaningful relationships, especially in places they're traveling to.
My dream is that you can travel all over the world for business and in every city you will have a Loosecube. It lets you know people in that local community because you are co-working with a local business, which doesn't happen in a hotel room.
Cali Yost: When you say that you see collaborations from Loosecubes that take things to the next level, what does that mean?
Campbell McKellar: Working in a Loosecubes environment creates stronger businesses. It gets us out of our homes and helps us make real life connections with other people who can help us build our business. There will be more innovation as ideas collide in the spontaneous conversation that happens in Loosecubes. Not only will we have cleaner air as people work closer to home and not commute every day, but we'll also have stronger community ties. Good business opportunities come from being friends with each other, not just networking.
I think that's critical if we want to get our economy started again. We need innovative ideas that will come from people working in heterogeneous work environments. Like I discovered: if you change your work environment, you can change your life. Our goal is to reconstruct the office in the image of our flexible workforce. That's the power of Loosecubes.
Cali Yost: Thank you, Campbell. I wish you continued success. Even though I'm a hardcore lover of working from home, you make me want to see if there's a Loosecube in my area.
What do you think? If you had an alternative to working from home or a café, would regular telework have more appeal? How do you think working in a Loosecubes-like environment with people from different businesses and industries, or even countries, help you be more innovative?