Interview with Massimo Carraro

Here is an interview with Massimo Carraro, founder of the Cowo® network and the first entrepreneur to open a co-working space in Italy, in 2008. Today he manages more than 100 between Italy and Switzerland and tells us about the most interesting aspects of working in shared spaces. 

http://askarchitecture.fr/2017/02/duplex-vue-mer-a-cassis/dscf1919 The work today is increasingly “widespread,” autonomous, disintermediated: could you tell us a positive and a negative aspect – from your point of view – of this global trend? 

The absolute most positive thing about the current work scenario is that we have finally gotten rid of the mental barriers that tie work organization to certain places. We finally understood-we had to understand it, because of the consequences of the pandemic-that you don’t have to be in a certain place, to do a certain job, there are different and more agile ways of managing work well. 

This has positive repercussions both on people’s lives, no longer forced into rigid and often unproductive habits (I’m thinking of time lost in traffic, schedules that don’t mesh well with children’s schedules…) and on the profit and loss accounts of companies, which are beginning to realize how much waste there is in maintaining gigantic real estate when productivity is not related to the square meters of the location but to the ability of people to be efficient, regardless of where they are. Of course, it all has to be considered with due balance and according to progressive steps, but I can tell you that there has been a momentous, massive change in the right direction.

As for the negative aspects … in itself, that work is more “liquid” does not necessarily have specific negative implications: these arise when situations and relationships are mismanaged and speculative, but these are ways that have always been present in the world of work, unfortunately.

vienne rencontre etudiante You founded a co-office chain that has more than 100 spaces throughout Italy: what is special about working in these environments, compared to the classic office or business center? 

Uh, I could tell you many things about this … I choose, however, to tell you one, which struck me as important immediately, when I started 14 years ago, and I still perceive it as fundamental today. The Coworking revolution works wonderfully on professional and human loneliness. A condition that many experience – just think of freelancers, or people who work exclusively online, or even small work teams, industrious but isolated in their “bubble.” 

incontri mi Do you think the Italian market is ready to collaborate with such “fluid” professionals, or is it still a priority in Italy – that is, more appreciated – to have your own company with your own office?  

It is no longer so fundamental, and – again – the change is very recent, coinciding with the pandemic period. 

Have you noticed how hearing a baby crying in the background of a work phone call is no longer seen as unacceptable, but is often greeted with understanding and empathy, with comments like “I’m on smart working too”? There it is: we are all realizing that smart working does not mean in an alienated dimension to one’s life. We are focusing on the things that really matter: talent, seriousness, skills. And like, by freeing ourselves from the bondage of the office, we’re starting to review a lot of other things, and I think we’re seeing them better.

So whether you have a landline number or a cell phone on your business card, it makes little difference now (also because business cards themselves, like so many other things, are no longer used!).

Covid undoubtedly impacted the operations of shared offices-how did you/were you able to recover and how did you adapt to this “new normal”?

Covid has been a kind of “reality check” of our project. I say this because we see Coworking in terms of Relationship, as well as the use of space. Well, our Coworking communities, precisely because they are set up in this way, have hardly suffered the impact of the pandemic, at least not in direct terms, of space cancellations or collapse of occupancy. 

Conversely, there have been virtuous cases of demonstrations of attachment and support, as in the cases where users and users still wanted to pay for the service even during the periods when they could not go to Coworking, in order to support their reference space; or even gestures of solidarity, as with Cowo® Managers who decided to donate some Coworking proceeds to humanitarian and social aid organizations set up to combat the consequences of the pandemic. 

How do they change-if they change-the social repercussions of working in co-offices in a big city like Milan or in a small town in the province? 

I have to tell you that the motivations for going to coworking are the same, in a metropolis as in a small town. 

The logics of work-those logics that make us seek contact, networking, support in a work dimension that is “smarter” because it is richer in options-are the same everywhere. The ubiquity of our network proves it!

How do you think your industry will evolve in the coming years?

I think there will be a very strong evolution in terms of numbers: more and more Coworking spaces are opening. Of course, not all of them offer what makes Coworking a place worth going to, which is a fruitful relationship that can enrich your workday. The spaces that know how to do this, however, will be the most successful, because it is the relationship that is the real added value, and it is something that cannot be invented or applied as a business practice; you have to get involved humanly and professionally.  

Can you recommend a book and/or movie that has helped you understand the current (or future) world of work?

Understanding the world of work…I don’t know if it’s something that comes through books, however, yes, I read books on this topic and I gladly tell you about them. I just read Alain de Botton’s “Lavorare piace,” and I liked it for its 360-degree approach, treated in a journalistic and literary style together. A very interesting work for the “corporate” world, also because of the way it is organized, is “Startupper in the Company,” written by an HR manager in banking, Roberto Battaglia. Indispensable, for those who instead deal with manufacturing SMEs, is “Futuro Artigiano” by Prof. Stefano Micelli, who won a Compasso d’Oro Award with this book. But the book on work that is most in my heart is undoubtedly Primo Levi’s “La chiave a stella”.

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