An expat translator fed up with the shortage of available outlets, fickle Wi-Fi connection, and endless rotation of coffee dates at her local café. A programmer struggling to maintain a productive work/life balance while freelancing from his living room. An entrepreneur dreading outfitting an office along with the rest of her new business. Unlikely though it may seem, each of these independent workers are likely to find a solution to their problems under the same roof.
Coworking combines the flexibility and independence of working from home with the professionalism and social outlets of a traditional office. More than just a middle ground, the combination also connects those who would otherwise work alone with new partners, clients, and friends.
A number of changes in professional work culture may account for the emergence of coworking. Technology’s impact on communication has levelled the limits of long-distance business relationships; working remotely is now much easier than before. One coworking business owner speculated that self-employment might be particularly attractive to Argentines because many lack faith in corporate stability after recent economic hardships. If large businesses no longer offer the same level of financial security—or are perceived as such– then more Argentines would turn to self-employment.
For whatever reason, coworking in Argentina is on the rise. According to a recent article by La Nación, the first coworking space in the country opened in Buenos Aires in 2007. In only five years, these spaces have flourished throughout the capital and spread across the country. Young people, foreigners, and members of the technology and creative industries are well represented among users.
Companies commonly offer the basics: desks and chairs, wireless internet, phones, printing, conference rooms, and kitchen items sufficient to heat up lunch. Usage plans, however, vary greatly from an hourly drop-in rate to annual contracts with many other configurations falling in the middle. (Given the range of options, please consult directly for specific plans and prices.) Facilities, location, community, size, and concept likewise run the gambit, so to help narrow down the options, here are the Indy’s top picks.
1. Urban Station
If in your opinion, the only thing wrong with the café around the corner its the erratic Wi-Fi connection, then Urban Station is for you. Its cosy, informal vibe is as close to a coffee shop as they come, while flexible drop-in plans and playful ambience make working feel less like a chore.
Urban Station’s Community Room is the grown-up version of your college library. Groups hunch over a single screen, conversing quietly, while clusters of laptop users work plugged into their headphones. Receptionists attend from behind a coffee bar. Like the clientele, the décor is upbeat and youthful, with bulletin boards full of business cards, secondary school-style lockers, and plenty of bright colours. Armchairs and communal tables enjoy abundant natural light beneath a two-story ceiling.
While quiet, it’s certainly busy enough to make taking a Skype call acceptable. Unlike our other picks, Urban Station plays unobtrusive music softly in the background. The second floor converts easily into an event space used for standard presentations as well as casting calls for models and actors.
Urban Station makes play as well as productivity a priority. The Palermo Soho location offers bikes for quick jaunts about the neighbourhood, while a San Telmo location, opening in mid-October, will offer a recreation room and a deck for cocktail parties and happy hours.
One unique upside of Urban Station is its flexible usage plans: dropping in and paying per hour is an option and plans can be used at any of their two (soon to be three) branches.
2. Céspedes Coworking
Doodled across the chalkboard in the Céspedes Coworking kitchen is the reminder, “Don’t stop playing.” Wise words for this small, artistic community committed to mutual respect and collective inspiration.
Céspedes calls home to a loft unit in a renovated Colegiales factory. The layout is open, aside from a single conference room, and small, with desk space for only 14. Although blonde wood tones dominate, touches like exposed brick and floor-to-ceiling graphite wall art give the space a creative feel. Expansive windows admit soft morning light from the east and provide impressive sunset views to the west.
Of the community, founder Paul Iribarne admits “an inclination towards the creative areas” and mentions architects, writers, graphic designers, filmmakers, translators, and journalists among the company’s typical clientele. Although all professions are welcome, compatibility is key (dependency upon frequent telephone use or visitors, for example, is vetted). For those whose projects dictate a schedule beyond the nine-to-five, 24-hour access is available.
Possibly the most distinct feature of Céspedes is its size. With room for only 14 and a minimum commitment of one month, coworkers are bound to get to know each other. They host asados, language conversation classes, cooking lessons and film viewings, often inspired and facilitated by the members themselves. “People feel very much a part of the place,” says Iribarne, “like they belong to something.”
For more information on Céspedes, click here.
3. Areatres workplace
Crisp white with green accents. Touches of brushed aluminium. Small potted bamboo shoots. Areatres’ clean look hints at how hassle-free working here is. Spatial options vary from the unusually small to the unusually large, yet no matter the scale, the fine points are in place. Areatres’ meticulous attention to detail allows you to get back to… well, work.
Areatres’ spaces include several unique options. From “1.5-person desks”, which offer four walls and a desk large enough for a single person and a perching visitor, to a presentation room large enough to accommodate up to 120 people, it has the market locked on scale. A private office suite offers common desk space, several small conference rooms, and a private kitchen and bathroom. This ‘office within an office’ gives larger companies all the perks of their own facility without any of the logistical hassle.
Areatres prioritises attention to detail and high-quality service, offering tech support, translation services, or event catering as requested, “We’re kind of a combination between a front desk and a concierge,” says Guillermina Providenti, Areatres Community Manager.
The company stands out for its interest in environmental sustainability and community involvement. Thoughtful details like rainwater use, worm composting, and battery recycling demonstrate an eco-friendly mentality. Areatres has been known to offer use of its spaces to local non-profit organisations and its kitchens collect donations for causes such as a local hospital and animal rescue.
Community building efforts that started with “Sushi Fridays” have now developed into regular picnics, soccer games, happy hours and other activities designed to bring people together away from their laptops.
4. The Office
If the name conjures images of Ricky Gervais or Michael Scott, forget it. Palermo’s The Office is anything but antics.
Sophisticated black and beige is the hallmark of The Office’s sleek design. Rows of 46 individual desks extend to the back of the room, with skylights spilling prized sunshine down on the coworkers. Unlike other coworking companies, whose spaces bear greater resemblance to dining tables than cubicles, desks are divided to provide more personal space.
But what really distinguishes The Office from its counterparts is its upscale, traditional style. From the understated entrance to the neutral décor, the facility seems to reference the classiest of corporate boardrooms, ideal for those wanting to impress clients. There is no communal kitchen, no community bulletin board, and no patio furniture. As such, the noise level is essentially non-existent and everything has a thoroughly down-to-business polish. The Office caters perfectly to those less keen on casual collaboration and who prefer to work in a classic office setting.
Membership at The Office also includes discounts at local restaurants, a Spanish school, and at all P Hotels, one of which is conveniently located next door. For those who conduct business internationally, The Office’s extra perks could facilitate travel logistics.
Less than a month old, The Office is a newcomer to Buenos Aires’ coworking landscape. Those who prefer a solitary work style, travel often, or work with high-end clients will welcome an option that embraces a new model while maintaining classic professionalism.
For more information on The Office, click here.
5. Workstation Microcentro
Workstation describes their typical client as a young Argentine working in the technology industry, perhaps as a developer, programmer, or entrepreneur. Maybe that’s why Workstation emits a somewhat Google-esque vibe: techy, energetic, social.
Outfitted exclusively in minimalist blue, yellow, green, and red against white, the layout includes a balance between open space and private offices. A large cafeteria area encourages collaboration and social connection on an everyday basis. With no less than 14 private offices for 2-20 employees, Workstation is another great option for companies looking for starter office space.
For those located on the northern side of the city, Workstation allows you to use each of their centres equally (the other is located in Belgrano), making a schlep into the city centre less onerous.
From a brief tour through the Microcentro location, the number of conversations held in English is striking. Because it only opened last July, it is hard to say if the Anglophone trend will persist, but for now, Workstation Microcentro might be a good choice for English-speakers staying in the country temporarily or who prefer to avoid the challenge of a foreign language.
Workstation Microcentro will be hosting Freelancer Week 2012 from 25th-28th September in which the public is welcome to both work and attend workshops on elements on effective freelance work (given in Spanish) for free. To top it off, stick around until the end for gifts, promotions, and raffles.