Co-Creating the workplace: Participatory efforts to enable individual work at the Hoffice
The self-organizing network Hoffice – a merger between the words home and office – brings together people who wish to co-create temporary workplaces. The Hoffice network was founded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the beginning of 2014, with the main intention to facilitate the collective use of private homes as shared offices. The Hoffice concept entails a co-working methodology, and a set of practices inherent in opening up one’s home as a temporary, shared workplace, with the help of existing social media platforms, particularly Facebook. Hoffice is an interesting example of the collaborative economy because it is a local initiative that relies on commonly available tools (such as Facebook) and volunteer efforts of its members who come together in a flexible manner to address a shared need for a workplace and a work community. Hoffice is also interesting in that it aspires to co-create an alternative social model that encourages trust, self-actualization, and openness.
Hoffice is connected to the broad visions of the sharing economy. These visions have been heavily critiqued over the past years, but if we return to the early, community-oriented versions of what the sharing economy could encompass, then Hoffice clearly connects to narratives about sharing. With its emphasis on opening up private homes for collective use, Hoffice encourages co-creation of sociable events that seek to make use of underutilized resources while, perhaps more importantly, fostering values such as care.
The Hoffice network relies on its members’ joint efforts to improve their own and each other’s work lives, and participation is entirely voluntarily. The co-working methodology – providing a rhythm of silent work sessions and social breaks – along with the practices, norms, and values that underlie the facilitation of Hoffice events characterize the workplaces that Hoffice participants co-create. Hoffice is an attempt to recreate a supportive social setting to make isolated professional lives more bearable, and even enjoyable. It can serve both as an alternative and a complement to “traditional” workplaces and office arrangements, as well as to the home offices of remote workers.
For this study, we set out to create a grounded understanding of how the local Hoffice community functions and how Hoffice workdays are arranged and attended in practice: How do people agree and coordinate where, when, and with whom co- working takes place? What is the role of the Hoffice work structure and how do attendees experience its proposed rhythm of silent work sessions and social breaks? Moreover, we wanted to understand why people are attracted to the community, what makes participation worthwhile and, equally importantly, what might hinder getting involved, or lead to lessening one’s involvement. To address these questions, we conducted fieldwork in the Hoffice community in Stockholm, Sweden, from June 2016 to October 2017. We collected data through interviews, participant observation, and workshops.
Through our study, we have gained an understanding of the reasons for organizing Hoffice events and attending them, as well as of how the resulting practices can be interpreted as a sustainable alternative to contemporary forms of flexible work. Enacting and maintaining sustainable workstyles is central to Hoffice members. Attending Hoffice events creates both the physical space and the time to work on activities that are meaningful to the individual participants. Sharing a home with collocated Hoffice attendees enables individuals to accomplish their (work) goals with the support of others, rather than on their own. Some attendees regarded participation as paramount to self-actualization and to being able to work on unpaid yet deeply meaningful tasks. The participatory practices inherent in Hoffice are an example of an alternative social model – a departure from the contemporary status quo of knowledge work. The idea of bringing about an alternative has its roots in how Hoffice was initially conceived and instantiated by two people who were struggling to carry out their independent work in the isolation of their homes. Our study highlights how participants valued practices that help establish boundaries around work and recreate the sociality of work. Participating in Hoffice events provides a setting and the means to pursue these goals, thus contributing to the attendees’ sense of agency, empowerment, and well-being.
Hoffice is an interesting example of the collaborative economy in part because of the non- monetary arrangements of co-using domestic spaces that it encourages. Perhaps more interestingly, though, shifting the focus from sharing in terms of co-using material resources like homes to sharing as an act of caring and being together broadens our analytic possibilities. This point connects to the political nature of Hoffice as an alternative model of co- working. Hoffice is political in that it is concerned with the production of alternative workplaces that foreground togetherness and support, rather than solely profit or individual productivity. It embodies the effort to question a particular social situation (the experience of self-employment), the existing order of things (how individual, freelance work is carried out and accomplished), and the reconfiguration of social relations and boundaries (encountering others through the temporary sharing of a domestic space).
The impact of Hoffice is primarily social – despite its informal nature, Hoffice already making change for its members as a grassroots approach to creating alternative ways of organizing nomadic work and navigating non-traditional employment arrangements. Hoffice can provide a context for more sustainable work styles, particularly with respect to the challenges emerging from flexible work arrangements (e.g. self-managing work load and schedule, the lack of a social context, flexibility in hours and income, etc.). It can be thought of as a model for a workplace that values self-care and care for others, building on the politics of care, instead of – or as a complement to – connectivity, profit, and productivity.
For full details, see: Rossitto, C. & Lampinen, A. Co-Creating the Workplace: Participatory Efforts to Enable Individual Work at the Hoffice. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (2018). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-018-9319-z