Viktoria Heinzel – Rural Coworking and Academic Research

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Hello folks! We’re here with our 30th episode! And this time our guest is Viktoria Heinzel of the University of Stuttgart. She is a research assistant working at the research department for creative industries and media society.

She will be sharing about what they do – analyzing the critical industries and their impact on society and the economy. She will also be talking about the academic society’s interest in coworking and what is the difference of rural coworking to classic coworking setting.

 

What is the difference between classic coworking and rural coworking?

 

I mean, there are some differences because you have normally in rural areas for smaller coworking spaces, and they’re also a little cheaper than working spaces, and then they focus more on the know the single workers and small teams so you probably find more prospects and probably less bigger private office rooms to rent. 

And I think what is very different from when we have our unique concepts or business models that real quick is based on hallway.

 

What are the few business concepts for rural coworking?

 

Yeah, we actually we’ve. My research colleagues, we didn’t realize this, and we figured out I want to review different concepts and then, of course, this big bubble, others were a lot of kind of, I think, a taxonomy approach, work and we’re just envelope within the next year, but we figured out that you have the working a service, which is the classical approach.

So which you already know from urban, suburban spaces. And then we have a ”workcation”, which is a combination of working and vacation. So those concepts of trying to combine tourism aspects. 

With coworking, you probably have a state, which is now a hotel or running also cooking space in the rural area and he can go there and just relax and focus on work at the same time, you have nature around you and you can join the community and go out for a hike running or doing barbecue dinners, etc. 

So this is also an interesting concept vocation, and then also very specific in the public working thing where you have mobile, working spaces are looking at containers, travelling around in rural areas, and searching for interesting places where they can connect with the local community and to try to draw attention to the working model. So this is all free concepts we identified within the last year.

 

Links

 

Viktoria on Linkedin

Coworking Symposium

#SaveOurLocalCoworking – Save Our Local Coworking Sites

 

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Bernie J Mitchel 0:03  

Good afternoon. Good evening wherever you are, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to what I think is like the 30th episode of the Coworking Values Podcast, the highly informative podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. And every week, Zeljko and I interview someone from around the European coworking community about what’s happening. We have a lot of interviews, if you go back to our back episodes, we recorded at Coworking Europe and Coworking Co-living in Belgrade and then the COVID thing hit. So, we’ve been interviewing people about how they’re dealing with that in their cities and in their countries. So, there’s a lot of information on that in the show notes. And in the UK, we have ‘Save our local coworking’ campaign, and we’re going to publish this episode on Tuesday the 20 something and then the day after that is the Coworking Symposium, which we are crazily excited about. Originally, that was going to be about 70 people in Prague University. And it’s a mixture of academic people, a lot of the research group for collaborative spaces and the Coworking library. So all that gang, and then it was all those hardcore industry coworking people, and they were going to meet in person and we were going to have a big football match. But, now it’s turned into a very sophisticated online event. So, if you go to Coworking Symposium, there’s still time to sign up for your free ticket there. I’m nearly out breath. So, I’m going to let Zeljko introduce himself from Subotica Is that how you say it?

 

Željko Crnjaković 1:34  

No, actually, if I had known that you are going to mention the episode number, then I would prepare that for you. And if you’re going to mention my city, then I’m supposed to give you a pronunciation in that sense. But, you’re doing a really good job Bernie so far for 30 over episodes and I’m going to check that number after this Intro.

 

This episode is brought to you by Cobot, our leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out Cobot at cobolt.me and take your coworking management to the next level. 

 

So, good day to everyone and welcome to another Coworking Values podcast episode. As Bernie said, so the Coworking Symposium is going to be on the 27th, the episode is going to be on the 26th of May, so you still have time to go on coworkingsymposium.com and grab your ticket. And today, what do we have today for our listeners, Bernie?

 

Bernie J Mitchel 3:03  

We have Viktoria, how long have we known each other, Viktoria? Like four years now?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 3:12  

I guess we met each other on a coworking conference probably three years ago, but really got in contact last year in Barca in the European Coworking Conference. I think it was that moment. 

 

Bernie J Mitchel 3:23  

And most people would normally remember when they meet me, they have a little plaque made and stuff like that. 

 

Željko Crnjaković 3:29  

I honestly cannot forget that moment? Yeah, I’m trying to forget it, but you know. So, we have Viktoria Heinzel, if I’m saying that correctly, and our topic for today is rural coworking. Viktoria, what do you do actually? So for all listeners.

 

Viktoria Heinzel 3:58  

Well, I’m a research assistant. And also PhD student at Stuttgart Media University. And there I’m working at the research department for creative industries and media society, we shortly call it CREAM. And there I’m working together with six other professors from different study programs, and in general we are analysing the creative industries and their impact on society and economy. And of course, we put a special focus on new working methods such as coworking, makerspaces, etc.

 

Željko Crnjaković 4:28  

Can I ask, before I go into the topic of rural coworking, I asked Manuel, I also asked him this question. So we have a lot of interest, and we see a lot of researchers and academics join the coworking conversation, especially in our podcast, so can you explain for the listeners who basically are from the academics to the actual coworking operators and users, so why is there such an interest in the academic society about coworking?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 5:02  

Well, I think it’s related to the increase in digitization, because work gets more flexible. And so people get to know that they can work from everywhere. And so this is related to the coworking scene because of course, you can just sit down there with a laptop and work on your projects. At the same time, you don’t want to be alone, you want to have kind of like a community, somebody to talk with, and you have this community factor and coworking spaces. So, I think it’s increasing and increasing digitization that gives us new possibilities. And this is, I think, the main reason why coworking is kind of exploding within the last year

 

Željko Crnjaković 5:39  

And what is the main difference between as we say, classic coworking and rural coworking?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 5:48  

There are some differences, because in rural areas you normally have more smaller coworking spaces, and they’re also a little cheaper than the urban coworking spaces, and they focus more on the single workers and small teams. So you probably find more flex desks and probably less big, private office rooms to rent. And I think what is very different from urban coworking spaces, you have more unique concepts or business models that, rural coworking are following. 

 

Željko Crnjaković 6:25  

So yeah, can you name a few of these business concepts?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 6:29  

Yeah, we actually, with my research colleagues, we did an analysis on this and we figured out three different concepts. And then of course, I think, a taxonomy of real coworking will just develop within the next years, but we figured out that you have the coworking as a service, which is the classical approach, which you already know from urban and suburban coworking spaces. And then you have workcation, which is combination of coworking and vacation. So those concepts have tried to combine tourism aspects with coworking. You probably have a former estate which is now a hotel running. Also, coworking spaces in rural area and you can go there and just relax and focus on your work. At the same time, you have nature around you and you can join the community and go out for a hike, running or doing barbecue dinners, etc. So this is also very interesting concept – workcation. And then also very specific is the pop-up coworking thing, where you have mobile coworking spaces that look like containers. Traveling around in rural areas and searching for interesting places where they can connect with the local community and to try to draw attention to the working model. So these are our three concepts we identified within the last few years.

 

Željko Crnjaković 7:56  

Wow, fantastic. I know that it’s very near and recent, have you had a chance to see or analyse or even just hear or glance, how did this pandemic, the COVID thing affect rural coworking spaces versus the urban ones? 

 

Viktoria Heinzel 8:27  

I haven’t visited a rural coworking space recently to see by myself, but I get in contact with a lot of people that are kind of running coworking spaces or trying to build up a network. And I think the most critical part is that the community is not that connected anymore right now. It kind of tried to focus it, and put on events on a virtual level and tried to connect, but still it’s very challenging for them. I think they learned a lot of things because they have to do this virtual cooperation all the time. The training of different tools. And they also learn how to work on a digital level.

 

Željko Crnjaković 9:19  

Do you think that our rural ones are more affected than the urban ones in the sense that maybe they had less expenses, but they rely more on travellers and nomads and spending from a tight community, while the urban ones have more expenses, but they can sling back faster or easier than rural ones?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 9:47  

Well, looking on a social perspective, I think that a lot of users of rural coworking spaces already have a connection to each other. They probably already have these close knit networks. And I think that the community part could work better through coworking spaces. So to keep or to save the community. I think this is a fact that would work better in rural coworking spaces. But of course, they don’t earn that much money. And on the economic perspective, I think that the urban coworking spaces, because of the money that they earn, they could also survive on this fact even more.

 

Željko Crnjaković 10:31  

Yeah. Okay, so I’m finished with bombarding you with questions that you may just be speculating. Can you tell us what the focus of your study in rural coworking was?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 10:46  

Well, we conducted different studies. First of all, we did a study in a place in Germany, and we were just focusing on the development of creative industry in this region. And then we were focusing on coworking as a promotion model for those creatives to get together and to grow the businesses. So this was kind of a thing that we’re doing. And yeah, we were looking on the social perspectives and economic perspectives, what kind of opportunities to do these rural coworking spaces bring to those people and those creatives. This was one thing, and then we just recently did a pre- study for a rural city called Freudenstadt, that which is in the middle of Black Forest. And this was very interesting because they already have a growing network of creative industries. And get to know the initiator, which is really burning for this program, and they started in 2015, and they met each other like three times a year, and share experiences etc. And now they’re at the point that they really want to have their own coworking space or like collaborative workspace where they can even work more tightly and this was like a pre-study we did before. And it is very interesting.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  12:15  

I was thinking, that one of the things that really got my attention earlier on, and we talked a lot at the Research Group for Collaborative Spaces in Leon and I’m hoping that what will happen as, I think it was on its way there, anyway I’d like to hear your opinion, but now people have stopped commuting so much. Every day for the last few weeks I’ve had some kind of conversation with people in our coworking co-living community, and they said, Oh, as soon as my city got locked down, that was like London or Paris or Berlin, we went somewhere. And, they’re either in suburbia and some people are in the country are like, I’ve just disconnected from the city. So I’m hoping that more coworking spaces, or let me say that another way – is the craze for going into town to do the same activity at a desk in town that you can do in the country or in suburbia, will happen. And I’m wondering if cities, like Zeljko’s like Subotica, which is just a population of 100,000 people, will see more coworking there, as opposed to a more sprawling metropolis like Belgrade.

 

Viktoria Heinzel 13:41  

Well, the current challenge is the social distancing and to keep the coworking space – as the community- alive, and to foster the cooperation on virtual level. And I think right now the time is coming where a lot of people and companies understand that the work that they have to do, can also be done on a digital level or virtual level. And they don’t have to be present all the time at the corporate workplace. So, as I’ve already said, I can imagine that more companies will expand their home office offers for their employees. And at the same time, the employees also learn to appreciate the increased flexibility in work organization from home. But still, I think the social isolation at home could force them to search a nearby coworking space or any space where they can sit and work together with other people. And, so the need for regional coworking spaces could definitely rise after the corona crisis. And I think more rural cities and municipalities should already start thinking about this and kind of creating opportunities for remote work in a collaborative workspace for the local community. And they could also start speaking to those companies and experts in bigger cities, where a lot of citizens from them are working at, and probably are traveling to everyday by car or train.

And this, of course, could also promote the relief of the transport infrastructure through less commuting every day. And of course, it would improve the quality of life through shorter commuting times. People would save a lot of time, and we’re talking here about a lot of part-time workers and among them, also a lot of mothers. So, I think this this could be a good thing. Also, if you use and implement those progressive home workspaces for citizens, you would increase the local added value and the production. So this would also be a very good aspect. And then if you look at a lot of regions and small cities, you have a lot of abandoned village centres or empty spaces, empty floor spaces, retail shops that are closed. It could be possible to reuse them to really utilize them, rather than just leave them empty. So all in all, I think group coworking could be a possible solution to avoid commuting, empty floor spaces and social isolation and instead, it can bring people together, spreading capacity.

 

Bernie J Mitchel 16:26  

When does the mind shift have to happen now? Is it in the local authority or people like us? Human beings who use a space or I mean, Zeljko runs one, or is it in the company? Or is it in the people who run the coworking spaces? I might be wrong here, I get the feeling that people who run a coworking space are now thinking, I don’t know if I’ve got the courage or I don’t know if I’m brave enough to open a co-working space just outside the city centre – if It doesn’t work… whereas if I’m in the city centre, it will work at some level.

 

Viktoria Heinzel 17:20  

Yeah, this mind shifting thing, I think it has to happen on several levels. I think it has to happen on the side of the city and the politicians, also, the representative from companies. Of course also the possible users, the participants from creative industries, freelancers, start-ups, I think everyone that is living in the rural space and now sees how work is also possible to work from your hometown, help your home space and you don’t have to travel every day to the next bigger city – they should tell their needs to the city. They should communicate a lot and then I think kind of a buttoned up thing can happen, so that people also force their city, and on the other side, the cities also have to see that, to pay attention to invest in that. I think everybody has to wake up on different levels.

 

Željko Crnjaković 18:17  

I’m going to weigh in on this because we run a space, we don’t consider ourselves rural because somebody says 100,000 people is not a village. In that sense. We had examples of real rural coworking like Mokrin, where you have a coworking space that’s landed as a spaceship in a village of 5000 people. But in that sense whether you’re in the centre or on the outskirts, it’s really a base of how you’re going to build your space, because the people who are coming into your space, are expecting a certain level of logistics in that sense. So whether they are coming to your space because they want to do meetings, or they want to have multiple options within the space? 

If you’re not in the – I’m going to say village centre –  like not the central Belgrade, if you’re thinking about smaller towns, we are in the centre of Subotica because everything happens in the centre, in the sense that if our members want to go out and eat something, it’s within 100 meters. If they want to go out and have a coffee or just stroll along or maybe see a friend and do a pause in their work. It’s within 100 meters. If we are somewhere on the outskirts, we would need to have, for example, a restaurant or a coffee shop within the space so that they have the logistics of them being outside of the centre or outside of the other segments of their life so that everything is there. Now, if you’re talking about going out of the centre of London, from zone one to zone four or five, it’s all about, making the same logistic connections within that part of that zone, my guess. And depending if the people want to meet with people in zone one, then there is no point in doing a coworking space in zone four. But if they are really remote workers without the actual necessity of having meetings in zone one, then it’s okay.

 

Viktoria Heinzel 20:44  

I think if you want to create a coworking space in a region or a city, I think you have to get in contact with those possible users and try to figure out what they need.  Probably I can also add a little bit on this project with Freudenstadt that I haven’t told before. But there was the regional city development, they came to us and they really want to know where those creative people or possible coworkers are or what branches do they work from? So, they asked us to conduct a pre-study which was separated in the quantitative part and the qualitative part. So we did an online survey with those creative people and possible coworkers in this rural region. And then we tried to focus on specific needs and kind of priorities that they have. So we were asking what kind of rooms do you need? What kind of infrastructure? What kind of specific workshop would you like to have? Do you need the coffee or lunch nearby? Because of course, you don’t have that much in your regions. And we asked, where should this workspace be situated? So we tried to figure out what those possible users really need within this space. And on the other side, we were also talking to representatives from politics and the regional industry, and tried to figure out what they their view is on this thing. And we then tried to figure out the more strategic and organizational perspective, like what could be the ideal operating model for this, and who should be involved from the very beginning in this co-creation part? What kind of community management do we need? Do we need somebody from the creatives or somebody from the town? Is it kind of like a top down or bottom up thing? And of course, we were also asking those representatives from the industry, what kind of expert and talents do they need in this region? Again, what kind of tasks do they want to attract to get back in this region and not to commute everyday probably in bigger cities? So, I think it’s interesting. I think you really have to get in touch with those possible users, and also those possible partners, because a lot of industries can support that financially because they’re interesting. You kind of have to take some careful steps to build up a real coworking space.

 

Bernie J Mitchel 23:20  

I work in a rural coworking space, and in a village or a city that as we’ve been talking about, and then this place is like – Zeljko mentioned- Mokrin House and there’s Coconat. There’s this idea which has sort of fallen flat in the water at the moment. This digital nomad, always on the move kind of thing. I think from a consumer or user point of view, what’s the difference in that?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 23:54  

I think I’m focusing on the on the users. You have a more varied age structure in rural coworking spaces. And the users are also very interdisciplinary. But still, they’re not only coming from the typical creative industries, because you probably also have people from teaching, from tourism, reaching out for this coworking space. So the target group are the users and rural coworking spaces are looking a little different than to those typical urban coworking spaces. This is a difference. And then as I said, you don’t have that much bigger session rooms or meeting rooms. You have more flex desks.

 

Bernie J Mitchel 24:49  

We talked a little bit, just before we started recording and we said what are you working on at the moment and you listed like 300 things. In the next six months, what is really exciting for you about this area, because there’s a combination of what you’re already researching. And I felt like when we were in Leon together, and we were talking with the other people about rural coworking, people were starting to get it and people are suddenly starting, not suddenly, but people are starting to realize that making the effort to find people in your local area like you is worth it because then you miss out on all the commuting stuff. I can’t remember the names but there are three guys that had started a space and they were trying to talk people in their area into not commuting, and then COVID hit and everyone’s changed the way they work and remote work is like the new normal. Now what do you think can happen next? What would you like, as Viktoria, for society to do next?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 25:59  

Next project, we are already working, as I told you, with this rural city of Freudenstadt, and right now, we already wanted to start opening up the coworking space or build the concept and stuff like that, and we were kind of stuck through the Corona crisis.  I really want to continue this project because we did so much research, we did so much workshops on this theme. So I really hope that we will start with this soon, if it’s possible to meet each other again. So this is one thing, but on the research part, I’m also interested in how the space and coworkers are going through this crisis and how they are looking in the next month. And also the Corona crisis kind of messed up my own research theme of the PhD. 

So now I have to change my topic and my focus, and I will analyse the virtual cooperation of coworkers and coworking spaces, and therefore I’m very interested in how the queue and work processes on a virtual level look like, and how they coordinate? How do they communicate? And what kind of specific tools do they use? And I’m very curious to get information from community managers on how the community spirit still survives. Because in our earlier studies, we were always fascinated about the value of community in the working scene. And we identified that it is a critical success factor for coworking spaces. So I would be interested to get to know how this is promoted right now. What kind of events and meetings are taking place on the virtual level to foster this team spirit in this community, which is kind of a very important thing for the coworking scene.

 

Bernie J Mitchel 27:43  

Ladies and gentlemen, Maria and Starvos, who run Cube coworking in Athens are very into that. They’ve been trying a few different platforms on how to work. So if you are a community manager – because this one of the things we love to do in the Coworking Assembly- and one of the biggest reasons we were huge fans of Marko’s Coworking Symposium is because we know a lot of academic people looking around for people to research. And a lot of people who never even knew that there was a possibility of research going on. So if you’re a community manager, I’d like to have a conversation about that, please get in touch with us or get in touch with Viktoria directly. And one of the things coming forward on the Coworking Library is the idea to find spaces that would like to be researched. Find people that would like to be researched, and match them up with academics that are doing that research. I’ve actually had three emails today, which said, oh, hi, we’re doing some research on coworking spaces. And nowadays, I just send them to the Coworking Library because a lot of people who are starting research don’t know that so much has already happened. So, is there anything you’d like to shout out or draw attention to or advertise, Viktoria, before we close for today?

 

Viktoria Heinzel 29:09  

I would like more people to open up rural coworking spaces, to be brave to do this. And I will share some advice what to pay attention on. First of all, they really have to get in touch with other coworking appropriators, both in rural and urban areas as early as possible, just to learn about existing spaces, how they work. Then they really have to build up a strong network of partners, because the collaborative development with different stakeholders is very essential to build up this coworking space and let it work out and then of course, get in touch with the creatives and all the people that could be a possible users or could make use of the space. Try to develop a way to measure version, because within each area, there’s a specific regional mentality that needs to be embraced in the physical design and the content design of the space. Be open to everyone and communicate a lot to constantly remain present at the top of mind. And don’t lose patience, because the convincing part is probably the toughest one and the most time consuming one. So these are my recommendations if you want to open up the rural coworking space.

 

Bernie J Mitchel 30:27  

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Viktoria for all that time. And there’s a blog post lurking around on the European Coworking Assembly website. So head to that, sign up for our exciting weekly email newsletter where we gather all the stories around the European Coworking Assembly. If you’re listening to this on Tuesday, make sure you turn up on the day after for the Coworking Symposium. If you are a UK based coworking space or make a space or collaborative workspace, whatever you like to describe yourself with, a room people doing stuff together. Please head to saveourlocalcoworking.co.uk and join in there. The European Coworking Assembly has partnered with lots of people around the UK and we’re just about to launch the UK Coworking Assembly, and we’re working to get every coworking space in the UK on the same platform together to just reboot the economy. That’s how big we’re playing these days. Željko, any words for our listeners before we head off into the sunset?

 

Željko Crnjaković 31:34  

I think you just summarized everything up. I want to thank Viktoria for giving her time for this podcast. It was a pleasure having you here. And for everybody else, visit coworkingassembly.eu and subscribe to our newsletter. And subscribe to the podcast also. Talk to you on the next episode.



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