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VillageOffice: Work where you live  

Photo: John Patrick Walder
Photo: John Patrick Walder

Reducing commuter traffic and advocating decentralised working: this is what VillageOffice is aiming to achieve with its coworking spaces, which are located close to where working people live. The first VillageOffice space has now been opened at the Kunzwerk in Unterwindisch.

Home offices are booming – but those who have tried it know that it’s not always possible to concentrate on work at home. Nevertheless, many people would still prefer that over a long commute to the office. Another option is coworking spaces, which offer workstations with the necessary infrastructure.

However, most of these coworking spaces are located in large cities, which doesn’t much help those who do not live in large centres. The is where the idea of the VillageOffice comes in: over the next few years, the cooperative will build up a network of approximately 1000 coworking spaces in small towns and country villages, all of which will be accessible on foot within 15 minutes from where people live. To this end, existing coworking spaces will be tied into the network, new partners will be gained and VillageOffice’s own flagship spaces will be opened.

Photo: John Patrick Walder
Photo: John Patrick Walder

Starting at the root cause

“We want to strengthen local communities and give them back their sense of purpose,” explains co-founder Dave Brühlmeier. “And we will achieve that if people stop commuting away from their home town every day to spend the day somewhere else.”

This idea of advocating decentralised working and reducing commuter traffic is what caught the attention of Engagement Migros. Project Manager Leila Hauri-Stieger says: “It is a sustainable mobility concept that starts at the root cause instead of just fighting symptoms.” In other words, with the fact that many people no longer live where they work.

The first VillageOffice flagship space has now been festively opened together with its partner HIAG Immobilien – at the Kunzareal in Unterwindisch, just 12 minutes by bus from Brugg’s train station. Emilie Etesi, the manager of this new VillageOffice, is already pleased to have – just shortly after having opened and without a major advertising campaign – four new signed contracts: “We are obviously meeting a need,” she says. There are 15 workstations that can been rented for anywhere from a single day to months or years.

“We place great importance on a feeling of community.”

In the middle of the space there is a large wooden structure with padded seating on top – a comfortable lounge that also offers an option for brainstorming meetings. The main floor also has space to kick back and relax. “Unfortunately, there is no kitchen,” says Etesi. There will be kitchens at other locations, like the one in Solothurn that is scheduled to open in May, because: “Cooking meals together strengthens the feeling of community that is very important to us.”

But there is a coffee machine and even a water bowl for dogs on one of the shelves – right next to the toys and colouring utensils for kids, in case they need to come along to the office. “The Kunzwerk is also currently a place for us to learn,” says Etesi. “We’re suddenly noticing what’s missing: a phone booth for confidential conversations, for example.” This is now being built. 

Photo: John Patrick Walder
Photo: John Patrick Walder

Exciting for globalised companies

Now that VillageOffice’s first space has opened, the people behind the concept are especially also looking to attract large, international businesses. “We think that our idea could be very exciting for globalised companies,” explains Etesi. Another interesting partner for the space in Unterwindisch might be the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, many of whose institutes are directly adjacent to the Brugg train station.

VillageOffice also always works with local partners to set up and equip its spaces. In Unterwindisch, for example, the local carpenter made the interior furnishings, and the food for the opening was supplied by local businesses. “Tying in the community is very important to us,” says Emilie Etesi. “Because our concept will only really work once we have been accepted.”