In this age of broadband, more and more jobs — particularly those of a geeky nature — can be, and are done from home. While homeworking has its benefits, there are also some downsides, most notably the risk of feeling isolated and the potential to procrastinate with daytime television.
One solution is co-working: renting a desk in an office shared with other self-employed people or remote workers. That’s not for everyone though: the costs can be high, and it still involves a regular commute.
Jelly is another solution. Now taking place in more than 100 cities worldwide, it’s a semi-regular event organized by local people. It involves borrowing office space with Wi-Fi for the day where homeworkers can gather to use the facilities and meet other people. If office space can’t be found, other venues can be used: coffee shops are often particularly welcoming given the potential for extra custom. Given the range of jobs of those involved, it often leads to networking and even business tie-ups.
The concept actually began with two home-based workers in New York who decided to ask other people in the same position to come and work at their apartment for the day. (The name, “Jelly”, apparently comes from the theory that the best thinking is done over a bowl of jelly beans.)
I’m writing this article from a Jelly event in my own city, Bristol. Like most Jelly events, it’s free to attend, with a token donation to cover coffee and biscuit supplies.
Though there is plenty of networking going on, I’ve been surprised how much work people are actually doing. That maybe because the situation of working in an open plan office removes potential distractions, and I haven’t caught anyone sneaking a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz yet. But unlike working in a traditional full-time employee office, there’s also very little time being wasted by unnecessary meetings or water-cooler talk about office politics.
There are some strange elements to the process, though: for example, even though the people involved are perfectly sociable, there’s something quite strange about the way we are instinctively engaging in Twitter conversations with others in the same room.
If you do work from home, I’d certainly recommend looking for a Jelly in your area: it’s a great way of trying out the idea of permanent co-working, but even if that proves not to be for you, it’s still a useful experience either as a one-off or an occasional visit.