"Coworking" is a term relatively new in Azerbaijan. It is a style of work that involves a shared working environment for people who work independently, and also a community of such workers.
The first ever coworking space was launched in San Francisco in 2005. Computer programmer Brad Newberg who got tired of the lack of personal interaction at the office and was dissatisfied with the low productivity of his work at home started a coworking project as a non-commercial partnership and offered its potential participants workplaces, a free Wi-Fi, meditation breaks, joint meals and bike rides – all this in exchange for small monthly payments. The first European coworking sites appeared in London in 2005 and in Berlin in 2007 and they are still the world’s major coworking projects. For example, London’s The Hub has developed into an international network comprising 65 spaces on five continents. By 2007, the word "coworking" was already included in English dictionaries.
Very few years – from a historical perspective – have passed, and coworking has reached Azerbaijan. The first Azerbaijani coworking center organized by the COLAB. company opens on the first floor of the Port Baku Residence in December of 2016. The center’s manager Aishan Gulieva tells us about the COLAB. company and explains what coworking is all about.
Could you tell us in more detail about coworking?
Coworking is a model of work where independent participants share common space for their activities. Coworking can be considered as a space for joint work as well as a community encouraging the professional growth of freelancers, innovative entrepreneurs, and everybody who works independently.
The development of coworking brought about the evolution of the serviced office spaces. Earlier such spaces comprised small rooms and were mostly intended for major international corporations with a large network of representative offices. For example, a company wishes to open its office in a new country, so in the meantime, while it is busy with the registration, staff recruitment and preparation of its permanent office, it can use our serviced offices.
We took a step further and now we offer individual workspaces to be rented for different periods: from one day to a year, on the basis of a contract with flexible prolongation and termination conditions. In this way our coworking center can serve as a working platform for freelancers, small companies, and independent workers. And, most importantly, our center can be both a temporary office and a permanent workplace.
We do our best to make the workspace really comfortable. COLAB. uses the latest products from the leading manufacturers, including office furniture, flooring materials, and lighting. If you are a small company or a freelancer you would try save on these expenditures, but in our case there is no need to save. We create an office space that looks like A-class corporate premises and, at the same time, is attractive and spacious. Thus, we placed a retro motorbike at the entrance to our center; in the middle of the office there is lounge furniture; and some of the workplaces are located near the living tree whose crown reaches the 5-m high ceiling. COLAB. creates sophisticated A-class offices and makes them affordable for everybody.
You position the COLAB. coworking center as a universal solution suitable for an individual participant or for a company staffed with just a few people or even for a large corporation. How can all these, so different, market participants be able to use your center’s services?
There are quite a number of scenarios. Let’s consider some of them.
Suppose, you represent small or medium business. For example, you provide consulting for service industry and have a team of four people. You would like to get a prestigious address, a comfortable working environment, a place where you can invite your customers for a meeting. You would be happy to have an office space of class A or B of 40-50 square meters. But, as a rule, it is impossible to find such a small office area at top-class premises, so small companies have to pay extra, renting larger rooms than they really need. With us, you pay not per square meter, but according to the number of people and rented workplaces. The workplaces can be secured for certain participants, or you can use the ‘hotdesking’ system, which means that you come and take any desk vacant at the moment.
Another scenario: you are a trade company with a retail chain. Any company of this kind has its ‘behind-the-scenes’ personnel: financial manager, marketing consultant, brand manager. Why should you cut the expensive retail space to make room for your office? Isn’t it more expedient to place these workers at our center and to use the shop area appropriately?
Before launching any project, you have to answer a number of questions: where shall I find an office? How much would the rent cost? Will it require a complete overhaul or just minor repairs? Shall I have to buy furniture? Major investments in the project at its initial stage are likely to involve certain risks. For instance, to find a small office at top-level business center is a challenge, indeed.
With us, there are no barriers to launching your project: you pay the membership fee, sign a flexible-term contract, and after a few minutes you are already at your new place of work.
What other features of the coworking center are attractive for the customers?
Let’s assume you are a freelancer or an experienced consultant, you value the convenient working conditions, you would like to widen your business contacts or you are just reluctant to work alone. At our center, you will find like-minded people, colleagues, and business partners. Work, create, earn money, for that matter! Here you become part of an ecosystem and get a chance to share expertise and learn from each other, to verify your ideas in discussions with your colleagues.
You come to a full-scale office to do your work. Many people working from their homes lose self-discipline and businesslike mood. When you have to dress up, leave your house and come to the office you feel in a different way than when you work from home or even from a café. I think it is especially important for medium-age professionals with families, who would like to divide between their working time and the time spent with their family members.
At our center, you enjoy all the advantages of working at a major company: there is always someone nearby who would help you with a tricky software or give a helping hand on other issues, someone you could share the impressions of your last travel or discuss the latest technological achievements with.
Suppose you are a marketing consultant and your current task is to make a website for your client. You will most likely find an assistant among the members of our center, as well as a translator, a graphic designer, and a copywriter.
Our services are also interesting for companies that hire new workers for a specific project on a temporal basis. Imagine you have to seat ten workers you employ for only three months. For this period of time you will have to expand your office space or to squeeze them into the existing office thus putting to trouble your permanent employees. It would be much more convenient to rent ten working places at our center instead.
Another example: your HR department has to conduct interviews with prospective employees and does not wish to do it at your company’s office. In this case, you can buy a week’s access to our center and we will provide the background for these meetings.
How could you describe your responsibilities at the center?
My principal mission is to help the participants in realizing all the advantages we offer: the convenient workplace, the chance to hold meetings, and interesting events we organize to create a special atmosphere at the coworking center.
What can you say about the future plans of your center?
As you mentioned, this is the first of COLAB.’s coworking centers in Baku. Now construction and installation works are in progress at several other sites. We will be happy to tell you about them as soon as they are ready, which will happen in the near future.
Contact: +994 50 278 0072
We & WE( We & World Economics ), AZERBAIJANI MAGAZINE ON ECONOMICS, FINANCE AND BUSINESS
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