Natalie Chan is part of Oxygen’s digital series "In Progress 52." In 2016, Oxygen's Very Real digital hub is featuring 52 of these outstanding women: that's one woman a week, for 52 weeks. Check out the series here.
Unlike the Baby Boomer generation, young workers aren’t expecting to be in one job—or even in one career—for the rest of their lives. Some don’t even see regular office hours in their futures. Work these days is often a hustle, especially in creative and tech industries, and more than ever, what we call our careers are more like fluid journeys of constant learning, change and growth. No one understands this better than Natalie Chan, the cofounder of Bat Haus.
Bat Haus is a communal working space in Brooklyn that gives people with freelance careers or those who are in start-up businesses the opportunity to not only be flexible, but to meet other like minded people. Whether flying solo or with a small team, Bat Haus is a community for those who are self-driven—and its' built on the idea that "creativity is fueled by the cross-pollination of ideas." We spoke to Natalie about her life-changing decision to start Bat Haus, the future of "work," and how even the most solitary careers still beat to a common pulse.
What made you want to start Bat Haus?
I am actually a homicide survivor for about 15 years. Passing by death made me understand how instant our lives are. Before Bat Haus, I had a full time job in the city, which became dull. When my business partner Cody told me about his need of having a communal workspace, it gave me the idea to start a coworking space. I jumped on it immediately. It has been four years since we opened the door, and it is the best decision I have ever made in my life.
How do young people think of their work environments differently from previous generations?
The main concern for contemporary workers is convenience and mobility. It is important for the young workforce to be able to carry their work with them, hence the unanimous requirement for internet service and telecommunications. Older generations workplaces' were more rooted on the other hand.
What are the biggest challenges facing the "freelance generation"?
Financial independence, opportunities, familial pressure, societal expectations and employment and schedule irregularities.
What is it about shared/open plan work spaces that promote both creativity and productivity?
Think of going to the gym. Now think of working out at home in the personal gym you've put together. Where do you find more discipline? By working around other people, one shoves off distractions that come there astray. One is more focused, more determined to outcompete others in their industry. The inclusion of freelancers among other people also invokes a sense of belonging to a like-minded community. The troubled artist can find solace and peace this way, by sharing ideas with those who beat to a common pulse. In this way, open plan co-working spaces have more in common with gyms and research institutions than with traditional office spaces.
What has been your favorite thing about running Bat Haus?
It is the people who work at Bat Haus. My single favorite thing to do in Bat Haus—besides efficient business management—is having lunch with Bat Hausers. We debate, talk about art, film, and whatnot. It is therefore important to me to keep an open mind about all the going-ons in this type of environment. Everyone here loves questioning the world around them, yet thrives in their self-created artistic universe. Apart from my clients, I love the nature of the business, which compels me to join the greater Bushwick community. Over the years, Bushwick went from being my primary address, to being my beloved home.
What are your plans for the future?
I will take each day one at a time. Whatever challenges each day may throw at me, I will deal with them best. In the long-term it is my interest to keep my business solvent and profitable, while staying true to my unwavering mission statement. I have not yet entertained the thought of expansion, but it is a distinct possibility. In the meantime, my short-term goals are to keep my clients happy, my cat fed, boyfriend grounded, and belly full.