Hoffice

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= "an open concept for arranging temporary “home offices”, i.e. a set of principles for transforming a private kitchen table into a one-day shared office space".

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Case Study

By Karin Bradley and Daniel Pargman:

"Hoffice is an open concept for arranging temporary “home offices”, i.e. a set of principles for transforming a private kitchen table into a one-day shared office space. Hoffice was started in 2014 by a small group of Stockholm-based friends who were self-employed social entrepreneurs and who both enjoyed and suffered from the fact that their work lives were characterised by much freedom and little structure. While loving their work, many social entrepreneurs who work from home or a coffee shop miss out on important aspects of work life, e.g. lack of workmates, lack of a separate workspace and, not least, a lack of self-discipline. Hoffice aims to solve these problems by creating shared values out of under-utilised resources, most notably someone’s kitchen table, thereby creating a type of commons out of thin air. Anyone joining the Hoffice Facebook group can offer up their kitchen table as a gift in the shape of a free “pop-up” temporary office (commons) for a day (by providing information about the number of available seats, address etc.). Other Hoffice members can then book a seat in that temporary office-for-a-day. While Hoffice was restricted to purely being a Stockholm phenomenon during 2014, the simple structure and ease of replication, combined with increased media coverage, led to an explosive spread in the concept during 2015. There are currently Hoffice groups on five different continents, and in 50 European cities. Hoffice events are easily set up and coordinated with the help of low-cost digital technologies—each Hoffice group is currently organised through a separate Facebook group.

Hoffice is more than a scheme for efficient use of under-utilised “office spaces”, however. It was founded with inspiration from Gandhian thought, Buddhist philosophy, the secular Sri Lankan Sarvodaya6 movement’s ideas about gift economies and more modern ideas about “collective intelligence” (Lévy, 1997). Offering up one’s home as a temporary workspace for others can be seen as a pure gift; the host cannot expect to get anything back except friendship and company. Correspondingly, the guest cannot set any particular demands on the host or the workspace. A number of principles provide a structure for organising the day, in order to ensure that a sizable amount of work is performed at a Hoffice event while still providing an appealing and supportive social environment. Work shifts (usually 45 minutes of mandated silence) are followed by 5–10 minutes of recuperation and a social/physical exercise (stretching, dancing, breathing exercise, coffee break etc.). Work shifts are also preceded by participants stating what they will work on and are followed up by reporting back on work performed. This constitutes a pledge of sorts and the group can thus also provide social and emotional support, as well as a structure to ensure that the time is used productively. The possibility to meet new people and extend personal networks is attractive to many participants (not least to self-employed freelancers and social entrepreneurs). There is much experimentation going on with the Hoffice format itself (outdoor meetings, meetings on a boat or with specific themes, e.g. web development, creative writing etc.). The analysis of Hoffice in this article is based on having attended Hoffice meetings in Stockholm during 2014 and 2015 (Figure 2), hosting a few Hoffice events and holding lengthy conversations with the founder of the Hoffice concept in 2014.

Hoffice serves here as an example of temporary, pop-up commons, similarly to the “restaurants at home” or peer-to-peer ride sharing concepts, where a private space is temporarily turned into a commons, a process which has become more easy to organise with the spread of digital technologies." (https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/10/2/231/3003399/The-sharing-economy-as-the-commons-of-the-21st)