Out of the Office: Playful Workspaces

Aug 17, 2018

At Impact Hub Honolulu, there are two large, open areas with desks, private offices, meeting rooms, a movement room, surfboard racks, and a kitchen with fresh coffee and kombucha on tap. Oh, and printers, copiers, office supplies.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Like a health club, a co-working space offers group or private space to work, office amenities, coffee, and a collegial atmosphere.  Self-employed people and start-ups, especially, have embraced the phenomenon. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports people of all ages are getting into the game as office culture changes in the 21st century.

Anne Weber is the Director of Community and a co-founder of Impact Hub Honolulu. Each of the 102 Impact Hubs in the US chooses a focus from the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For Honolulu, the focus is on education and sustainability, which become an important aspect of their events and programs.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

“We can grow within the space and it’s just a really neat atmosphere.”

So says Carl Smith, who is opening branches of Citywide Home Loans in Hawai‘i.  While they’re hiring, they’re working out of Impact Hub in Kaka‘ako.   They can review and meet potential employees and clients here, in a conference room, with fresh coffee.

The Global CoWorking Unconference Conference (GCUC), estimates 2.3 million co-working members globally, with an annual growth rate of 24%, and thousands of co working spaces, over 17 thousand, actually.  Oleg and Natalie are online cruise consultants, they’ve been in Hawai‘i 2 months, doing Airbnb and hotels, happily co-working.

“Natalie used to work in an Impact Hub in Ukraine, Odessa.  Same brand, same homey atmosphere.”

You might not walk up to someone tapping a keyboard and start a conversation, but here, in Impact Hub's comfy kitchen with a microwave, kombucha on tap, beer, wine, of course, Nitro coffee, you might just strike up a conversation.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

There are 102 Impact Hub spaces globally, and each adopts a UN sustainable development goal, according to Anne Weber, Director of Community and co-founder of Impact Hub Honolulu.  This flagship Hub focuses on education and sustainability in its activities and programs, which are a large part of any co-working space’s identity.

“I think the idea of Hawai‘i as a start up paradise is definitely marketable and exciting, and true!”

Weber says, we’re part of the US, the time zones work, and we have what digital nomads like: Wifi, and atmosphere.  And great communities.  Weber, who used to teach 3rd grade in Wai‘anae, knows what a safe, conducive community can accomplish.  She’s kind of applying Homeroom skills here.

Weber:  You can’t learn from someone you don’t trust.  If you don’t have relationships with each other, it blocks all the learning.  So it’s interesting when you’re trying to be incredibly intentional about what that community looks like, and how do you create a safe environment, then, doing it with adults.

Waiwai Collective does it with astro turf and big pillows.  At Impact Hub, there are two big rooms with tables, like a library for casual working.  There are private offices, meeting rooms.  There are surfboard racks, hey, the kitchen is a nice place to meet people! There’s a movement room, too, and panel discussions, events.  There’s art all over the place.

Impact Hub is not a library, you an take calls at the table. If you need a little privacy, step in here.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Weber says their members' age demographics are evenly split across the spectrum. 

Weber:  “And it’s really awesome to see someone painting while you’re working on your computer.  Just seeing the conversations that happen between someone that works in tech or in software development ad a local artist…” 

Weber says once people realized they could work from anywhere, a sort of isolation took hold, along with a lot of lonely struggling at home or huddling for hours near the outlet in a coffee shop.

“I see co-working as a manifestation from the cloud,” says Rechung Fujihira.  He co-founded Hawai‘i’s first co-working space, Box Jelly, eight years ago, when nobody knew what co-working was.  He says there are some businesses where it makes no sense, like banks, that need special security, etc.

Rechung Fujihira and his early partners aimed to create an airport lounge outside an airport when they started. A 2011 pilgrimage to the godfather of co-working, Tony Basicalupo, convinced them to start the first co-working space in Honolulu, Box Jelly. Fujihira says Box Jelly began behind a curtain in Fishcake, a shop owned by his mother, and no one came in for the first 6 months. Planned for late 2018, leveraging new partnerships in a much larger space in Ward Center.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Fujihira:  But you see Microsoft, Softbank, Dropbox, a lot of these companies are renting co-working spaces and somewhat outsourcing a lot of things, including culture to the co-working space.  You just basically buy into a space that has the culture for you, right?

Fujihira:  You’re going to see a lot of changes.  Co-working is changing and the style of work is changing.  The fact that we have laptops, cell phones, Skype and Slack has changed the way we all work.  And Hawai‘i in particular, I think we have an opportunity to leverage the fact that we have great people coming out of here that can pull on resources around the world.  I think co-working is a part of that.

The online radio station, Central Pacific Time has found a home at Box Jelly.  Uniqlo is renting office space too, as they prepare for their Honolulu store.  Box Jelly is creating a big new space in Ward Center, in the former Brew Moon space above Mocha Java.  Partnerships, including with education initiatives, may allow day care to exist alongside co-working for a real young mom advantage.  Education related projects are also a focus for Impact Hub.   

Leimomi Bong is a founder and DJ for Central Pacific Time, an online radio station that broadcasts live, Mondays through Fridays, from a studio in Box Jelly. The programming is eclectic, often delightul. It is a platform for non-commercial, non-college, non-public radio material, most of it very local.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

There are other co-working spaces in town, notably Kouwork just down the street in Kaka‘ako, Waiwai Collective near the University, and other spaces in downtown Honolulu.  There's Treehouse in Kailua and several coworking spaces on the major islands.  Really, checking out the unique character of each space is a delightful exercise in understanding how you like to get things done.

With unique, creative spaces popping up, we are, right now, in a perfect Petri dish moment for co-working.  Look for the big chains to move in shortly.