I first heard about coworking in the "Cheap Bastard's Guide to Chicago" and pretty much thought it was the coolest concept ever discovered. For those of you who haven't heard about this enlightened idea, check out the Chicago Tribune's September 2008 article "Coworking sites cater to the lonely self-employed" The idea is to take the independently employed of the world out of their individual apartments/slippers/procrastination and put them together in something like a real office atmosphere. Obviously there are a lot of people who feel like they worked hard to work alone in their slippers, but there are also many of us who get so lonely that even a trip to our local coffee shop with the laptop feels like social stimulation.
Coworking for the unemployed
So why not coworking for the unemployed? As they inevitably always say, "Looking for a job is a full-time job," - one that often lacks stimulation, encouragement or human interaction.
This from Sara Shiffman, a Chicagoan who has been looking for jobs in public relations for eight months: "I don't do well with an abundance of time. I get bored, and then I contemplate my life, and then I get depressed and then the panic starts...My resume gets sent out into the great abyss known as the Internet never to be heard from again. So I update said resume and make it fancy and still the silence is deafening."
I asked Amy Davis, who cofounded The Writers WorkSpace, a coworking space on North Broadway, if unemployed coworking is permissible.
"The Writers WorkSpace doesn't ask if potential members are employed. Plenty of people are freelancers, some of whom are always looking for their next gig. Others are fiction writers, etc. So for us the question isn't as relevant as it might be for other types of coworking spaces," she said.
That said, most coworking spaces do charge a fee to keep up with rent, internet access, etc. But surely there could be coworking meet-ups for the unemployed in coffee shops, apartments, bars?
"As the unemployed masses we should all stick together and try to stay positive, but positivity in the face of rejection is not easy. I say to hell with staying positive, let's start drinking!" Shiffman said.
For more information about Coworking in Chicago, check out/add to this great wiki.
I just applied to this workspace in Uptown.
And for you traveling types, here's a nascent international coworking community.