Hey Anika, thanks for speaking with me! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and CU.Office?
Hi Sam, thanks for having us!
We are Ruben and Anika and we are the founders of the CU.Office.
Ruben studied urban development where he specialized in shareconomy. Later he became co-founder of several digital agencies and worked for the research project “Sandkasten”, which is a web platform for student and employee participation at TU Braunschweig.
He now wants to implement the idea and concept of this participation platform into the CU.Office project.
In the CU.Office he is mainly responsible for the community management and for managing the addítional projects and events.
I, Anika, am a former clothing engineer and now work as a freelance texter and also as a part-time customer care specialist at Too Good To Go.
Too Good To Go is an anti-food waste app where you can purchase surplus food from your local stores.
At the CU.Office I am mainly responsible for the office and sustainability management and also for the creative work and conception.
The CU.Office is a small-scale minimal waste co-working space located in the Brüsseler Kiez in Berlin-Wedding. With this collaborative project we want to address the topics sustainability, new work and participation. We aim to raise awareness for sustainability and mindfulness in the (co-)work environment.
Why do you think sustainability is important for coworking spaces to develop?
We do not only need to make more environmentally friendly decisions in our private life, but also in our work environment, where we spend most of our day time.
Offices are usually not the most eco-friendly environment, especially digital work means a lot of energy consumption. But also the paperwork and the office kitchen and sanitary rooms are big factors.
We want to find out how we can change that by being a trendsetter in creating a holistic sustainable work environment. The currently popular new work model often revolves around self-awareness, better communication and new business structures. All of which are important topics for us as well. But it often misses out to include the environmental factor. We want to change that.
How do you incorporate your values into your work?
As a part-time freelance texter I am choosing my business partners very carefully, making sure that they have the same values and make good products and no bullshit. I think I am safe to say that all of them are social and eco-friendly companies or agencies. With Too Good To Go, which is a certified B Corp, I have the - for me - best possible employer at my side.
Ruben is currently founding a cooperative which wants to make the digital and creative work industry a safer space for freelancers and small agencies with better work conditions, fair payment and a focus on inclusion and diversity.
What’s it been like to open during a pandemic?
Getting creative when designing the concept and the physical work during the renovation of the space were a much needed change to the home office situation and everyday life during the pandemic.
We also felt that there is a need for a space like this. We quickly found out that most of the people who came to us were couples with children who needed to get out of the home office for a more focused work environment and who then took turns in doing the childcare and in working at our co-working space.
Or they were freelancers or remote workers who wanted to have a space where they can come occasionally which is close to their homes and who enjoy meeting like minded people and to be part of something new.
But of course it was also a financial risk. Right now we are at 50% of the estimated number of memberships, only because we can only use 50% of the working desks, in order to comply with the hygiene concept and to maintain a safe work environment.
There is still no official guideline for co-working spaces, but we think we established a good routine and a space where everybody can feel safe.
Since we are only using half the capacity, the project is still not cost-covering. But since this is not our main job, we can keep it running without worrying that much. We are totally aware of our privilege to have this opportunity and are very grateful that we can go on with this project.
But of course we cannot wait to share our space with even more great people and to start projects and make events together.
What initiatives or projects are you looking forward to?
We have a lot of ideas for pop-up and fund-raising events in the pipeline. One idea is to bring “Futter Teresa”, a foodsharing café concept we first created in Braunschweig in cooperation with the TU, to Berlin and to serve meals from rescued food once a week in our office space - like a Kiez canteen.
Aside from that we are also in contact with many great organisations, local creatives and producers and are looking forward to doing some cool stuff together.
Plus we want to create more content for social media which tackles the before mentioned topics.
How can our readers connect with CU.Office online?
They can contact us via our website www.cu-office.berlin, where they can also read more about our concept and membership model, via Facebook or Instagram or simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to getting in touch with them!