Katie Jacobs finds companionship and inspiration at Hanoi’s co-working hub, ClickSpace.
My dog Marmalade and I have taken to having long conversations in my home office. I sit down with a cup of tea, her with the latest bone she’s working on, and we discuss work. Sure the talks are kind of one-sided, but her eyes tell me what she’s thinking – unfortunately they are usually saying “let’s go for a walk” or “feed me” rather than “great article” or “that chapter needs more work.”
I love my work. It affords me ultimate freedom and every week I learn a little more about Hanoi and Vietnam. But there are days, when my entire to-do list involves desk work, that I miss the interaction and stimulation of an office environment. That was until I discovered Hanoi’s very own co-working venue, ClickSpace, and realised I was not the only independent worker to feel this way.
From the outside ClickSpace looks like any other house in Hanoi’s Tay Ho area. But inside the pale yellow exterior, the building has been transformed into three floors of office space where anyone and everyone, no matter their profession, can rent a desk and get to work. “Co-working is a social activity,” says ClickSpace founder Jason Lusk, “and Hanoi-based freelancers and entrepreneurs are discovering co-working in a big way.” It allows independent workers, like myself, the opportunity to be part of a group.
With increasing numbers of jobs offered online, many people around the world are finding they miss the companionship and inspiration of an office environment. “You don’t join a co-working centre because you need a desk. You co-work because you enjoy meeting interesting new people, finding new collaborators, eating lunch with new friends, and – most importantly – feeling some peer pressure to get some work done,” explains Lusk.
After a quick introduction from Hai Anh, ClickSpace’s bubbly operations manager, I make my way up to the second floor. The “productive area” Hai Anh explained. Surveying the large room filled with desks, power outlets and Wi-Fi signs, I set up at an empty space near the window. Except for the sounds of clacking keyboards and the whir of the air-conditioner, my workmates are quiet.
The great thing about freelancing is that you can make your own hours, and as long as you meet deadlines, nobody cares when or where you work. There is no one hovering over your shoulder making sure you don’t slack off – although on the flipside there’s no one hovering over your shoulder stopping you from slacking off. On the introductory tour, Hai Anh showed me a large kitchen where people can hang out and drink, and I briefly contemplated checking out the beer-stocked fridge, but decided that’s a slippery slope at 11am. Opting to wait until ClickSpace’s weekly Friday happy hour that evening, there was nothing else for me to do but work.
On a break in the small outdoor area that doubles as scooter parking, I chat to a few people casually standing around sipping Diet Coke. “I’ve been working at ClickSpace for about three months now,” says Cuong Ha, the managing director of Insight Frog, a new responsible tourism group. “It really cuts down on start-up costs and gives us a place to work together until we’re more established.” When I arrived earlier that day, three members of the Insight Frog team were holding a meeting on the couches of the ground floor.
One of my favourite things about working as freelancer in Hanoi is all the interesting people I meet. As cliché as that sounds I really feel that the city is a hive of creativity and constant inspiration. Spending a day at ClickSpace reinforced this feeling. Lusk agrees: “Hanoi is brimming with software engineers. It has thousands of creative workers. Moreover, it has become a top destination for foreigners and digital nomads who like the city’s chic, gritty energy.” I left ClickSpace that afternoon not only feeling decidedly cheerier than I do after a day in my home office, but also feeling more productive. I guess my long chats with Marmalade will be coming to an end.