As explained in Chapter 2, coworkers make ideal sharing companions for a number of reasons. First and foremost, coworkers spend a lot of time together. Most of us spend nearly as many of our waking hours at work as we do at home. Many of the things we need at work are also things that others need and can easily be shared. Because we see our coworkers nearly every day, we can share not only the things we need at work, such as lunch or a car, but also things we use when we aren't working, like groceries, household items, and recreational equipment.
There are many ways that sharing at work can make your work life easier, more efficient, and less expensive.
Often, people need a car at work to go to appointments, attend lunch meetings, or run work-related errands. But some of those people probably don't need a car to get to work, and in fact would rather not drive if they had another way to get around during the day. If your job requires occasional driving during the workday, poll your coworkers to find out whether there's enough need and interest in sharing a car.
There are a number of options for carsharing at work. You could take turns bringing a car to work, try to find a coworker who drives to work but doesn't use the car during the day, or even try to get your employer to spring for a company car. See Chapter 10 for more on sharing a car.
You could set up a workplace bicycle sharing arrangement if you could use a bike for work-related appointments, errands, and lunch breaks. Or you could replace your 15-minute coffee break with a mile or two on the bike, guaranteed to bring you far more energy and well-being than coffee, cigarettes, and donuts combined! The sample agreement in Chapter 5 shows how a bike sharing arrangement might work.
As explained in Chapter 10, the benefits of carpooling—both for the riders and for the planet—are tremendous. The larger your workplace, the greater your chance of finding carpool partners. Send an email to everyone at work or post a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board. Everyone who is interested should provide the neighborhood or area where they live, whether they have a car, and their phone number(s). Once everyone has submitted their information, you can sort out the geography to see whether it makes sense to put together a carpool group or two.
Your employer might be quite pleased if you carpool. It frees up valuable parking spaces for everyone, including clients and customers. Employers who provide tax-free commuter vouchers or parking vouchers could provide similar incentives for carpoolers. Employers can also create designated parking for carpoolers (many university campuses have chosen to do this).
Coworkers make a great meal sharing group. Most of us have to eat lunch at work, and it's easy to get bored with nearby restaurants and our own leftovers. You can take turns bringing lunch (or preparing it at work, if your workplace has a kitchen). For more information on mealsharing with coworkers, see Chapter 8.
An affordable business suit is hard to come by, and both men and women often complain about the cost of building a work wardrobe for a professional job. You can cut expenses—and expand your fashion options—by buddying up with a coworker who shares your size and fashion sense. This works especially well in a workplace where employees dress down on a day-to-day basis, but throw on a formal suit for outside business meetings, calling on clients, doing press interviews, or appearing in court. You could even keep your shared outfits in a closet at work and have them dry cleaned or laundered near the office. And don't forget a nice shared briefcase for when you need to make a good impression.
You and your coworkers could join together to purchase items you might otherwise not be able to afford in the workplace (and could never get your employer to pay for), like an exercise machine, massage chair, espresso maker, masseuse or yoga teacher, blender for smoothies, drinking water filter, dishwasher and dishes, or television. You can also use your lunch hours to share skills, like teaching someone else to knit or play poker.
The workplace provides a rich source of sharing possibilities because it brings people together, often in large numbers, on a daily basis. As a result, workplaces are a convenient forum for building sharing relationships of all types, even to meet needs that aren't work related. Most people who work see coworkers daily, so it's very easy to hand shared items off to coworkers. You can even keep many shared items at work. Here are some ideas for sharing in the workplace that aren't related to work.
Share all types of goods with a coworker. Just as you can own durable goods with a neighbor or friend, you might be able to share them with a coworker. A pair of binoculars, camping equipment, luggage, folding chairs and tables, kitchen appliances you don't use every day (such as a crock pot, dehydrator, ice-cream maker, or bread machine), cookbooks, supplies for do-it-yourself chores (like painting equipment, a tile saw, or outdoor tools), and much more can be handed off at work.
Make collective purchases with coworkers. The workplace provides a ready group of potential partners for making collective purchases and benefiting from bulk buying discounts. You and your coworkers could make bulk purchases of anything from dog food to toilet paper, and have it delivered to the office. Collective buying saves money, time, transport, and packaging.
Purchase services with other employees. Negotiate a group discount and have a monthly dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off. Have a hairdresser come in for appointments in the office.
Share season tickets. Purchase season tickets for a sports team, theater, symphony, lecture series, opera, or theme park. Keep them at work with a signup sheet so people can reserve them in advance.
Share subscriptions. Share a copy of the daily paper; perhaps you can read it at home, then bring it in for a coworker to read during lunch. You can also share magazines, journals, and trade publications.
Start a general workplace sharing group. Have a lunchtime meeting and brainstorm ways to share more, whether at work or off the job. What things do you each want or need? What are ways you'd like to save money? Ways you could be more green? See Chapter 2 for more ideas and some helpful tools for brainstorming. After your meeting, create a workplace bulletin board or email list to make sharing connections.
Organize group projects or volunteer work. Schedule a blood drive at your workplace. Organize a group of coworkers to spend a few hours or a day volunteering at a local animal shelter, charity thrift store, or neighborhood clean-up project. Work together to decorate the office, paint a mural on your building, or care for a garden.