When you're daydreaming of freedom from languishing behind cubicle walls, the idea of working at home sounds like a fantasy. Wake up at 9. Sit down to your laptop in sweats and slippers. Get your stuff done while avoiding crappy coffee, tedious meetings and time cards. You know, a real life versus Office Space.
I wish. In fact, my home office resembles what a tornado left behind, a disaster zone of cat hair, piles of magazines and files and 17 empty coffee cups. Dirty dishes and laundry prove pressing distractions from deadlines. And, sometimes, I don't comb my hair or speak to another human all day.
When I found out about HiveHaus (or The Hive) in East Village, I practically begged them to let me test-drive a desk of my own for a few hours. The brick-and-concrete loft where work areas are available for rent on a month-to-month basis is far from a fresh concept. Flexible communal office spaces thrive in cities like Los Angeles and New York, where there are plenty of independent contractors and small-scale entrepreneurs. But it's new in San Diego. And it's about time.
“God, I wasted so much money,” says David Brown, the founder of cool-hunting marketing and promotions company Holiday Matinee. “When I think about signing leases and paying for utility bills, Internet, staff, work stations, furniture and computers—now I just walk in with my laptop.”
Brown set up shop at HiveHaus (www.hivehaus.net) when it first opened in March. His workspace—for which he shells out a mere $350 per month (downstairs desks are $300)—looks much more inviting than the one I'm working at for the afternoon, but only because he's personalized his with Holiday Matinee logos and gear.
My large Ikea desk at The Hive is still wrapped in plastic, awaiting a more permanent resident. I wish that were me. I think I'd get a lot more work done. I rolled in around 10 a.m., and by noon, I'd already shot off a half-dozen important e-mails and finished some necessary data entry.
“There are too many distractions at home,” agrees Brown. “You need an office? You now have an office.”
Brown and I headed off to lunch with Jason Harper, who launched HiveHaus with partner Graham Downes, the architect and CEO of Blokhaus, where Harper once housed his small media company, BHaus. Back at Blokhaus, Harper's clients and vendors were awed by Downes' impressive building—a big professional leap from meeting at a neighborhood café or in a tiny home office with laundry hanging to dry just a few feet away.
“I wondered how I could bring that sense of community to other entrepreneurs,” says Harper, who bills his solution as “communal digs for the nomadic creative.”
HiveHaus, which has about three-dozen desks set up—and still more to come—now serves as hip office space for artists, designers, filmmakers, real-estate consultants, programmers and fashion-industry people (Choice Media, Picaluv and Sezio among them). The best part? The buzz they all generate for each other.
“I've been to [networking] events, and it just feels uncomfortable to walk in there and sell your spiel,” Harper says. “Here, talking about ideas becomes more natural. When we have a new tenant, people meet him and get to know him and it leads to work, to opportunities. Look how busy Dave is.”
Brown grins. “The real specialness of this place is the networking and collaboration that goes on here. We all want to see good people do well. Everyone's getting each other work. For a new entrepreneur, the network is built in.”
I didn't land any new jobs during my day at HiveHaus, but I did find a great lead for a story. And at lunch, I heard all sorts of good gossip and useful information. Sure, it was no grilled-cheese sandwich eaten over the sink, like usual, but I returned from Cowboy Star invigorated and inspired.
Of course, working in a communal space is sort of like having roommates. Though my desk felt somewhat private, tucked behind an opaque plastic divider, I could hear everything going on around me. To work there, you'd have to be comfortable with loud talkers and people knowing all your business. And as the afternoon wore on, Brown played his music over the building's wireless sound system. His taste is awesome—he's a tastemaker, after all—but I might be a tad bothered if he were blasting, say, the best of the '80s for hours on end.
As far as offices go, The Hive is a place you'd be proud to call home. These aren't conformist worker bees embracing a hive mentality, but driven individualists looking for a sense of community that you just can't find in other small-business scenarios. And with little overhead (desk and WiFi are included with rent) and such a reasonable price-tag, it's the perfect launch pad for would-be entrepreneurs—especially of the creative sort.
“This is a very attainable way to start your own business,” Brown says, adding that there was beer in the downstairs fridge if I wanted one. Seriously? Where do I sign up?
Around 5 p.m., I packed up my laptop and gave a nod to the few people still hanging around. If I were a full-timer like Brown, instead of a trial visitor, I'd have access to the building at any time. Late-night scribble sessions? Early-morning interviews? No problem. If I weren't moving to Seattle at the end of the month, that Ikea desk would be unwrapped and decorated with all my home-office flair.