Community, Essays, Work

Coworking with a little help from my friends

When I got my first serious office job, I believed the old adage of work-life separation was the key to a healthy social life. From 9-5, I was just a worker bee. When I left the office, the real Sarah would emerge again. I figured this was how you avoid work dramas, stay productive, and protect your free time from evil “work talk.”

Of course, this was total bullshit. I happened to be working at a company where the vast majority of employees were my age and had lived overseas, and we had so many experiences in common. Among my coworkers I found a bike commute buddy, a roommate, ski buddy, and some of the best friends I’ve had in my adult life.

fun at work

Having holiday fun with my old web development team.

Now I’ve been freelancing for over two years, and while I deeply enjoy the freedom of self-employment, it gets friggin’ lonely. I mean, Twitter is fun and all, but nothing can replace the buzzing energy of being in a collaborative work environment. So it makes sense that lately I get super excited to get out of bed and work on Groundwork! I mean, I get REALLY excited. Even when we’re just meeting to talk about blogs and hashtags.

And then I realize it. Of course I’m thrilled! I am going to work with a friend.

Robert Krulwich, co-creator of one of my favorite shows RadioLab, sums it up wonderfully in a commencement speech he delivered to the Berkley School of Journalism:

…think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.

Yes! It isn’t making friends that makes the traditional workplace unproductive and dysfunctional. It is the structure of the workplace itself. It is the fact that we are usually slapped together into a team, told what to do, and encouraged to meet metrics rather than to make something meaningful. How hard is it to thrive when you are not doing something you love, surrounded by people you love?

Sarah-Athanas-Dena-Haden

Me and Groundwork co-founder, Dena Haden, back in middle school.

We are seeing that traditional work models are providing us with less and less return. This is actually awesome. We are so lucky! The entrepreneur lifestyle is no longer something that crazy people do but a complete and total necessity. Now is our time. We can create our own rules, work with our friends, and (gasp!) feel really excited to get up and go to work every morning. In fact, I am convinced that these seemingly small things are key to the type of revolutionary change that will save our economy.

So as Dena and I were cracking up about hashtagging a selfie of our Groundwork! meeting (It was all in the name of marketing, people!) I knew that I was doing exactly what I should be doing. Forget the work-life balance! Think instead about working on something that you love so much, you don’t care when it becomes a part of your life.

I’ll leave you with a few more words from Krulwich:

If you can… fall in love, with the work, with people you work with, with your dreams and their dreams. Whatever it was that got you to this school, don’t let it go. Whatever kept you here, don’t let that go. Believe in your friends. Believe that what you and your friends have to say… that the way you’re saying it – is something new in the world.

And if you don’t have any friends who want to collaborate, come join us at Groundwork! and meet some folks. We’re creating a coworking space for the economy of the future.

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Sarah

Co-founder at Groundwork!
Sarah lived all over South America, produced a documentary about Patagonia, and worked in digital marketing for a decade before settling in New Bedford to start Groundwork! She loves running a coworking space because she gets to meet the coolest people in the world.
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