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Boom in co-working spaces: Writing novels in an artists’ office

Boom in co-working spaces : Writing novels in an artists’ office

Those who find working from home too noisy, cramped or lonely can find more and more places of refuge in Bonn beyond the classic offices and libraries. Co-working spaces are flourishing, and even hotels now provide office rooms. Who works there? And why?

Author Christine Lehnen's workplace is not a classic office; her colleagues are artists, digital consultants or engineers. Every weekday she takes the train to a late nineteenth century building on Thomas-Mann-Straße, which housesthe Bonn branch of the co-working space Eutopia. More and more Bonners are exchanging their office or kitchen table for such shared offices, which remain open with hygiene regulations even during the pandemic. Co-working is a relatively new working model in Germany which originated in the USA. In Bonn, several smaller providers offer co-working spaces. What kind of people work there? And why? What alternatives are there?

Lehnen’s usual desk is in the so-called noisy room. “As an author, I benefit enormously from the coffee house atmosphere,” she says. A year ago, the novelist no longer wanted to work at home and was introduced to the co-working space through friends. “Now I don’t come home and think about work,” says the 30-year-old. Lehnen also discovered a colourful community of artists who exhibit their work there, as well as other self-employed people. “If you want to, you can meet interesting people here every day.” Her brother, a mechanical engineer at a company in Koblenz, no longer has to commute due to the pandemic and has also moved his home office to Eutopia.

Working from home has long been an issue for the self-employed

Damian Paderta has had a permanent workplace at Eutopia since 2019 in a room with three other people, but sometimes uses the common rooms too. “Sometimes I need inspiration and chance encounters,” says the digital consultant. The change of location is important for switching off. “For us self-employed people, this has always been an issue,” says the 38-year-old. Paderta feels comfortable working in the rooms and being part of the community. “A lot of co-working spaces are too slick and cold for me,” he says.

Eutopia currently has around 80 members, including students, self-employed people and the Institute for Education and Social Innovation at Alanus University. Memberships run for at least one month. The co-working space has now grown to three locations. “Demand is high,” says Jonathan Noack from Eutopia. This trend has not yet had an impact on office space in Bonn (see below).

Some have been forced to work from home due to the corona pandemic. For short-term refuge, some hotels in Bonn, such as the Collegium Leonium, offer their hotel rooms for working. “This is used increasingly by private individuals, the self-employed and freelancers. But we also have a managing director of an IT company as a regular guest,” says hotel director Ruth Winterwerp-van den Elzen.

Michael Schlößer’s Hotel Bonnox has made some rooms suitable for office use by guests who are in Bonn for longer periods on business. These rooms have a printer and an ergonomic desk chair. “Our office-only rooms have taken some time to set up due to our special model of long-term leasing. The concept is quite new and has to be understood first,” says Schlößer. But he is certain that the classic on-site office will increasingly give way to a flexible working environment.

Tatjana von Braun’s small co-working space ‘the studio’ in the former Bachschule is where people end up who find working from their homes too noisy, cramped or lonely. “I only have long-term tenants for at least half a year,” says the interior designer. The most diverse sectors come together here, for example two sales people, a press officer from the Chamber of Agriculture and two students.

As the libraries are closed, students like Lynn Sommerhoff are also renting space in co-working spaces. The 27-year-old is studying business law at Hagen distance learning university and describes herself as a library learner. Why? “When you get home, you’re done for the day,” says Sommerhoff. In addition, the library is a social meeting place.

During the exam period in the summer, she felt really stressed and shut in. She discovered the co-working space ‘the 9th’ whilst walking through the city. “Right now, I’m here every day,” Sommerhoff says. She pays 90 euros a month for her second home. She has been able to meet new people at the co-working space. They often have a beer together at the end of the week, says Sommerhoff.

“Our focus at the beginning was on young founders, but that has changed," says Cedric Teichmann, who set up ‘the 9th’ four years ago. At first, more self-employed people came, and for a long time they made up half of the users. After the first lockdown, new groups came - students and people who had had enough of working from home. There are no individual offices in Teichmann’s co-working space. “It's about the exchange. We are not an office service provider,” says Teichmann. “For example, there’s a graphic designer and a copywriter who swap ideas and sometimes collaborate.”

(Original text: Christine Ludewig, Translation: Caroline Kusch)