Time Out São Paulo

Office by the hour

Flexible working models and a growing army of freelancers make hot-desking handier than ever

Crammed schedules, office politics and suffocating cubicles: if reading that makes you tense, then relax – and lose the tie. Most office workers might still be tied to the old-school, physical office, but new working models are driving the old ways, at least for some, into welcome obsolescence.

Meet ‘co-working’: the chance to rent a spot in a collective office and hot desk your way around the world. It’s a lifeline to freelances, small companies and start-ups, which can have trouble with the costs of running a fixed office.

‘It’s a new idea here, and everywhere else as well,’ explains Fernanda Nudelman, who has been at the helm of hot-desking centre Ponto de Contato since 2008. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Nudelman, a publicist, worked her way through various agencies until she was able to snag an at-home gig. But what seemed at first to be a dream soon became a nightmare: ‘You’re isolated, with very little infrastructure,’ she recalls, ‘and without any one to bounce ideas off. You need enormous amounts of discipline.’

Nudelman opened the first Ponto de Contato in Pinheiros, and it worked so well that, in October, she opened a unit inside Galeria Ouro Fino on Rua Augusta. ‘It’s a collective and collaborative space in which everyone has their own projects, but the ideas intersect at times,’ she says. ‘I want to form a network: a lawyer who needs a web designer who needs an accountant who needs an architect. That’s the coolest thing about it.’

Cooperation, innovation and ideas that contribute to a sustainable future are at the heart of the philosophy of The Hub, another downtown hot-desking hotspot, with some 190 members. The Hub started out in London in 2005, and now has spaces in 20 cities worldwide. ‘The difference between The Hub and other collaborative offices is that we’re focused on social entrepreneurs. We offer support, structure and contacts for people who have ideas for a better world,’ explains operational manager Barbara Stutz. The Hub is home to projects in a wide variety of fields, for-profit and non-profit, including ace city tour guides Soul Sampa and a handful of interesting transport-related projects, like the Pocket Car, an ecologically-friendly mini-vehicle; and Green Mobility, which promotes the use of bicycles in big cities.

Adding fuel to the hot-desking fire, brand new JuntoSP, close to Avenida Paulista in Consolação, is the latest in São Paulo’s co-working options. Or with a more corporate take on the flexible working theme, Regus has a variety of plans for renting furnished offices in luxurious, well located buildings. But the virtual office has been attracting a lot of attention too. ‘It’s been gathering a lot of interest in Brazil, from freelancers to small firms,’ explains network director for Brazil, Janaina Nascimento.

If a lack of structure at home was one of the reasons that motivated Fernanda Nudelman to create Ponto de Contato, Regus’s ‘virtual office’ makes working at home easier: a receptionist takes calls and forwards them to the client’s home number. ‘People who call me would never imagine I might be watching the Champion’s League,’ says consultant Carlos Renato, with a laugh. ‘I don’t make a clear division between my personal and professional life. In a globalised world, you don’t necessarily need to be working commercial hours,’ he says. To him, working at home and with no fixed hours is the future. ‘It’s not just a passing trend. One of my partners, vice-president of one of the biggest financial institutions in the world, works from his home in Maringá, and no one would ever even suspect it. What could be better?’

  • Ponto de Contato is at Galeria Ouro Fino, Rua Augusta 2690, 3rd floor, Jardim Paulista (3509 2969, ptodecontato.com.br).
  • The Hub is at Rua Bela Cintra 409, Consolação (3539 8574, saopaulo.the-hub.net).
  • JuntoSP is at Rua Dona Antonia de Queirós 504, Conj. 13, Consolação (3159 8336, juntosp.wordpress.com).
  • Regus Brasil (0800 707 3487, regus.com.br) has locations all over the city.

By Ricardo Cruz
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