Would You Want to Live at Work?

CUgbMtXUAAA9Wz2A few days ago when I read the following article--“From WeWork to WeLive: Startup moves members into its first residential building”–I bookmarked it because it seemed like a pretty novel concept. It read to met that a company was offering housing to employees, presumably to build community, reduce commutes, and blur the line between business and personal.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the article was about. It’s basically about a coworking company that is opening an apartment building using a similar business structure.

So, let’s forget what the article actually says and talk about what I thought it was going to say.

Last year, my co-founder (who works part-time for Stonemaier) was looking to move his family to a new house. An idea occurred to me: Why not try to get a condo in my building? For the most part, they would live their lives and I would live mine, but the proximity would make playtesting so much easier.

It didn’t work out, but the idea has lingered with me. Part of it is that I love working from home. It’s super convenient, and despite some of the distractions, in terms of sheer volume I’m sure I get way more work done than if I had a separate office I had to travel to.

However, it’s not a particularly conducive solution to anyone else who works at or wants to visit Stonemaier’s offices. I mean, my bedroom is right there. 

So an idea I’ve pondered is if we ever grew to the point that we needed a more public office space, what if it was part office, part home? Not just for me, but for any employee?

While I enjoyed my freshman dorm experience, I picture this differently: More like apartments in a building that also has a central office. Employees could work at pretty much any time that works for them–a few hours in the morning, a few in the afternoon, and maybe a few more at night after the kids/cats go to bed. It could work for young, single folks who want to hang out with each other in their free time, but it would also give older hermits like me or family folks as much space as they need.

I think some people really value being able to draw a hard line between their work lives and their home lives, but I think part of that is based on the traditional 8-hour workday. The concept I’m describing would allow for complete flexibility of private work vs. public work vs. personal time.

I’m sure the effectiveness of this approach would vary widely based on the industry. Does it appeal to you? Would it work in your field?

8 thoughts on “Would You Want to Live at Work?”

  1. I either don’t work at all or I work 16 hours straight. I’d love to live with or next to my other game designer friends or playtesters but honestly, the industry doesn’t pay enough to most people to justify this. If a game startup had mega-potential for millions (which I guess is possible but rare for tabletop) then it would be fun to rough it with your team.


  2. People in my industry (manufacturing), as well as in mining, agriculture, logging, and other industries, have been doing this for decades–mostly in 3rd world countries and remote areas. They build bulk housing and workers migrate from their homes to work, some seasonally, some permanently. They work long hours and live on-site. It’s interesting that something considered a necessary evil in some industries has come full circle to seem potentially innovative or trendy in others.

  3. Joey: I wonder if the housing idea would actually be a solution for the problem you described regarding the payout a game designer/indie publisher receives. By consolidating resources into one building, it might save everyone a lot of money.

  4. Trev: Wow, I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re completely right! That makes me think it really could work in other industries too.

  5. My community has a nice co working space near downtown, many of us live within walking distance of the place, and although I don’t work out of there during regular business hours, I still like talking with people and having that water cooler like atmosphere with other people, even during the evening.

    I know in San Fransisco there are startup spaces that basically offer bunk bed rooms, basically dorms, and some apartment amenities so that a small business can rent out a room or two and get their business off the ground. But that is practically needed with the price of office space and living space in the city.

    I would say it depends on the work/life balance you want. The whole industry towns that are happening in China with 18 hour factory work days, I cringe at. However for startups that are passionate, that don’t require 18 hour days, but people still do it, the option to not have to commute between work and home can be a big bonus, I think its similar to how many startups start out of someones garage. The house has beds and a kitchen, and the office was in the garage.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Sean! It’s neat to hear that some companies are already doing this. Though, I agree that the Chinese factory example probably isn’t the best model to emulate. 🙂

  7. Hi Jamey.

    Oh yes, I have thought about it many times.

    I have a small consultancy business doing design and innovation. My wife is a key employee (so there is already some cohabitation…). Two of my very best friends also worked in the company at a point in time.

    I had a dream of us living together in a kind of large cohousing community.

    But then I had to layoff one of my friends as his work skills didn’t fit with the jobs we got. This was very unexpected as we thought we both knew each other very well – and also had a pretty good idea of what kind of work he would do.

    Later my other friend left the company because he wanted to focus on other types of projects than we got. Again very surprising for both of us, but as he learned about the business we were in he also learned that it didn’t fit his passions.

    This kinds of turnover of course happens all the time (although rarely with friends who work with you/for you).

    But I am so happy that we did not end up combining our private lives with work too much. They are still some of my very best friends. We have lots of fun together. And we are spared having awkward moments in our cohousing community.

    My dreams are not gone though. I can see it might work and might be fantastic if the right mix of people, activities and economical basis is achieved.

    A very good example that I was inspired from is the Niels Bohr Institute for Physics in Copenhagen. This has been one of the most productive institutes in the world (and still is) for groundbreaking physics research. Historically several of their best researchers lived on premise very close to each other. They ate together, worked together and lived so close that if any got a good idea they could share it immediately and reflect on it. This was part of their success formula (and what inspired me initially for having my dream).


  8. Jacob: Thanks so much for sharing your story–it’s a great cautionary tale of why it may not be the best idea to live where you work.


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