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Sharing ideas in the workplaceEver found yourself on the road with no place to work after a meeting has been canceled? Do you go back to your hotel? Too lonely. Starbucks? Too noisy. Now may be the time to join the growing throngs worldwide who have discovered co-working, a membership-based concept aimed at business travelers who want to work but also want human interaction.

“It’s a simple idea,” Jacob Sayles, co-founder of Office Nomads, a co-working space in Seattle, and of the Coworking Visa, told The New York Times recently. “It’s not a shared membership among spaces; there’s no exchange of money,” he said. “It’s a declaration of an open-door policy.”

Members can travel anywhere in the world after contacting participating spaces directly, and work without charge, typically for up to three days. They enjoy the same amenities as their home spaces, such a desk, Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, good coffee and camaraderie. “We accept them as our own,” Mr. Sayles said. Regular members pay to join their home spaces; costs typically vary by level of use.

Doing work, making friends, getting local advice

Co-working took hold in the last decade on the West Coast to accommodate the growing number of independent workers who wanted to escape the loneliness of working at home, according to the Times article. Several years later, the Coworking Visa emerged as an informal exchange for regional spaces. Today, it has more than 450 locations in 52 countries, with 179 of those in the United States.

Conventional office rentals and coffee shops typically provide little opportunity to connect, Mr. Sayles stated. “The cross-pollination of ideas is really the valuable part of co-working. The energy is completely different.”

Oren Salomon, owner of Fort Work, a co-working space in Dallas, echoed this sentiment. “The Coworking Visa is almost like a built-in focus group,” he told The Times. An added bonus: workers can share their local knowledge with out-of-towners, like advice on where to take a client for dinner.

Chris Hammersley, director of e-commerce and online marketing for ClickSafety.com, works full time out of Office Nomads in Seattle. “It’s not like just renting a desk in an office,” he said in the article. “It’s instant colleagues. It gives you a quick family.”

An estimated 207,000 Coworking Visa members work in nearly 4,400 co-working spaces worldwide; within the last 12 months, the number of spaces has increased by 81% and members by 89%, according to Deskmag, a Berlin-based online magazine about co-working.

Co-working: where the future of work is headed

“Co-working is a window into the future of work,” reported Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, an independent research and consulting firm in California. The number of independent workers has grown about 6% a year in the last five years, he said, adding, “It’s growing much more rapidly than the traditional work force and will continue to do so.”

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