The idea of `The Squatted Office´ touches me because of several issues; first, it continues my theme of Forbidden Places. It also comes close as to the personal experience I have on being offered (the now almost a rule) part-time work and work contracts of 3-6 months, and the problem of expensive housing costs in relation to wages. But the idea and the fact of working only part-time also describes the feeling of freedom you get from being able (albeit economically barely) to not dedicate your entire life to work controlled by somebody else, and the freedom of not being dictated by the mindless squirrel wheel.
Mind you, as this article shows, the time not working for your bread is not spent idle, this time gives one the opportunity to work and study something that really interest you without fear of not following the company agenda. One is free to concentrate on what one loves, and interests of love are seldom treated lightly. This kind of passionate work is much more productive than work done only for money.
Progressive working environments are starting to grasp the idea of “working for love” slowly. There are some books (that immediately became cult books) on the issue, for example “The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida” a book that keeps coming up on seminars time after time. One can hear the cry in the air for a solution from companies and government on what to do when educated people will not dance after the same steps employers have made them dance the past years. What will companies do, when money is not any more the primus motor of the creative class they need so badly?
`The squatted office´ is also close at heart because it brings to mind a friend of mine who as early as the 1970-80´s turned his government work place into something that I could now call a “creative nest” (…or borderline “anarchist nest”). Imagine one of those city bureaus of monotonous facades and people in cubicles (koppikonttori), and suddenly one cubicle with a grand piano in it, music, books not directly related to the work being studied, and an employee not following the 9-17 time scheme. Of course in those days in ultra-conservative small town Finland it was bound to create a lot of stir…well, in most of the Finnish governmental offices it would still do that, when even trying to get the time card coded not to call security after 20.00 is impossible. The rise of the creative class has not by far yet entered our governing institutions.
The issues brought forward by the article touch also on many flaming themes in our society. Not long ago, the press announced that manly because of high housing costs, to be able to live in Helsinki, a family needs to earn minimum 3000 euros/month. This exceeds the earnings of many. Could squatting your work place be part of a solution? If you feel at home on your work place, if you also could bring family and friends there, spend time and cook there, could it replace some of the costly space in your big home?
Employers should take a close look on the concept of work attached living (tulevaisuuden työsuhdeasunto). //aito
Romantic Stories from the Revolution in the Attic
This just in from our friends in Bulgaria. We thought it was worth sharing here as an Eastern European counterpoint to the article about squatting one’s workplace that appeared in the first issue of Rolling Thunder.
This story starts a little before the end of my last term in the university. I’d spent four really crazy years in the students’ hostels in the well known “Students’ Town” in Sofia. The end of the term was coming and my life in the students’ hostel was about to end, too. I had to find a new place for living very fast if I wanted to stay in Sofia. I thought over a lot of options for renting, but all the rents were very expensive for me. I was working for a web page at that time. The job was pretty nice—I used to write news and concert reports, prepare photos, and do kind of a primitive book-keeping at the office. The best thing was that I had one or two free weeks every month and I was able to travel all around the country during this time, but the bad thing was that my salary was very low. It appeared that if I wanted to rent a lodging I had to find more “serious” and well-paid job. For me this was like putting a chain around myself and working the whole month only to get enough money to pay my rent and food, and hopefully to save some money to enjoy the weekends. I didn’t like this idea at all, because I didn’t want to sell my leisure time for a wage.
Then a great idea dawned on me. I thought of squatting my workplace. My boss was living abroad and he was staying in Bulgaria only for some periods of time. I had nothing to lose, so I decided to try it. The office was an attic with two rooms and an anteroom. I had little baggage in Sofia at that time, because my future was unclear and after I left the students’ hostel I was sleeping at the homes of my friends. With my backpack, I was like a snail with my home on my back. So I quietly moved in my office and hid my stuff in a cardboard box. >continue