3 Reasons to Focus on Coworking

3 Reasons to Focus on Coworking

A million reasons exist to cowork. A million reasons exist to work at home. In the grand scheme of things, you are fully capable of starting your business from the cozy embrace of your favorite armchair. But to save yourself hours of gazing at the walls and wishing for inspiration, take moment to consider these 3 reasons to focus on coworking.

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10 Ways to Better Communicate with Your Employees

10 Ways to Better Communicate with Your Employees

Whether you’re a corporate giant towering over the masses or a new startup barely crawling, you communicate every single day. With your spouse as you leave for work, with commuters on the train, with the guy you buy your hot dog from. But mostly, you communicate with your employees.

Here is a list of tips for interacting with all employees, both in your building and out in the world.

Working Together

In the Office

– Pay attention to body language. Take note of a person’s equilibrium state (at lunch or just hanging out) and when they’re working. Learn to recognize stress levels and reactions so you know when you should approach them and when you might want to hold off.

– Schedule ‘non-transactional’ meeting time. Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, make it clear to your employees that they are more to you than request-granting machines. We don’t recommend becoming best friends, but business has a better chance of thriving when employees know they can talk to you as a person, not just a boss.

– Communicate in writing. Email, text message, Post-It, whatever- write it out and include dates and times that the request was made. This is important so that the employee knows what’s expected and you know what was said. It also allows you to send messages without pulling them away from their work stations.

Working Solo


– Use voice and video calls occasionally to establish a more personal connection. Meaning can often be misconstrued in the written word, and what may seem to you as the writer might be interpreted as all hell about to break loose to your reader.

– Don’t be afraid to use emojis or gifs to get your point across. Though you might think it feels silly at first, some people are just bad at wording in emails. A well-placed emoji (in reasonable quantities) can completely shoot the conversation over to the other side of the emotional spectrum.

– Utilize systems like Slack, HipChat, Viber, Flowdock, Campfire, or Skype to keep in contact. Some bosses fear the outlet for wandering minds, but these chat platforms allow employees to talk to each other in real time. Not only can it address emergency issues immediately, but the fluidity can foster better relationships than the turtle-pace of emails. Establish a codeword that exclusively means: “please don’t get offended, but I need to focus my undivided attention on this task right now.” Suggestions: ‘pirate ship,’ ‘hammer time,’ or ‘magnifying glass.’

*Sandbox Suites recently started using Slack as our main means of off-site communication. We can categorize our discussions into groups such as ‘marketing’ or ‘general’ and easily search all conversations for that one line from last Tuesday morning. (Their emoji selection is also pretty fantastic.)

– Limit industry jargon. Using acronyms and slang may make things more efficient for you, but for the employee, it may put a drag on productivity if they’re trying to figure out what the heck “Supes in the weeds this mrn, get TAJR report on M’s ASAP” means.

Blog, both

– Make sure everyone knows the lines of communication are open. Employees who are afraid to disappoint or anger their bosses are less likely to communicate information. Reward them for good ideas and encourage them to ask questions. Projects take a lot less time when a wrong direction gets nipped in the bud.

– Use simple words and avoid unnecessary repetition. Nobody likes a dead horse, and nobody likes to hear it beaten.

WatchKit Workshops: Learn to build apps for WATCH

WatchKit Workshops at Sandbox-Learn to build apps for WATCH- December 16

RSVP here!

Like the iPhone and iPad that came before it, the Apple Watch is a whole new platform for users, which will hit the market in the spring of 2015.

On Thanksgiving, Apple released WatchKit, the software development kit (SDK) that will allow developers to build apps for the Watch. That same week, our meetup group held a hackathon where 33 teams built and presented their ideas. A few fun ones: an app that shows you when it will stop raining outside and an app that changes the speed of the music based on how hard you’re exercising. The developers who are there early have the most to gain should their app catch on.

However, in true iStyle, there are currently several limitations on what we as developers can do. We don’t have access to the hardware sensors yet, and a Watch app isn’t standalone — the code actually lives on the iPhone.

But I see these limitations as a form of focus. In the words of  interactive designer and front end developer, Jason Weaver, it is a bit like giving an artist three crayons and seeing what they can create. For one thing, when Apple announced the Watch on stage, the company showcased several partners that are using the SDK to do awesome things. The popular website Pinterest is a good example. Their app will tap you on the wrist you when you’re near a spot you’ve favorited and give you walking directions to get there. So imagine you’re in San Francisco and you’re near the Painted Ladies; one subtle tap and you’re on your way to see the picture in real life.

Another great use is an airplane app that you can use mid-flight to ask, “Where am I?” The dictation feature of the Watch will convert your voice into text and send a signal to an API. Because the airline knows your flight number, they can then send back the result to the watch —“30,000 feet.” So cool!

Everybody’s a beginner at this stuff, but through the meetup group we’re working to become a resource so that anyone can learn. We have a couple of events coming up at Sandbox Suites, including December 16th when we’ll be in Sunnyvale for Hello WatchKit. This event will provide an overview of the concepts and then cover the nitty-gritty details like working with API data. There will also be a more in-depth Bootcamp in both Sandbox Silicon Valley and Sandbox Union Square in San Francisco in January.

Ben Morrow is a developer, author, and hackathon organizer. With the Apple Watch community, he’s been teaching tools and techniques for the past six months and is ready to launch apps when the new device is released. Find more video and code at http://happy.watch­ →

Berkeley Hosts Tax Tips for Self-Employed

Didn’t get a chance to catch our Tax Tips for the Self-Employed event at Union Square this past Tuesday? Don’t worry – we’ve got another one coming up in Berkeley next Tuesday, January 31st. If you’re self-employed, don’t miss this chance to learn how to get the most out of this tax season.


Eric Erhardt, JD & LLM, has worked as a tax professional since 1998. At Stallcup & Voie, Eric specializes on tax returns for individuals with Schedule C (sole-proprietor), closely held corporations, partnerships, LLC, foreign partnerships and foreign diregarded entities. Check out Stallcup & Voie at www.StallcupandVoie.com.

 He’ll discuss:

  • Deductions: home office, auto expenses and how to calculate
  • Documentation: what you need to keep for your records
  • Sole-proprietor: general mechanics of Schedule C

When: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PT)

Where: Sandbox Suites, 1900 Addison St. Suite 200, Berkeley, CA


6:30-7 Refreshments & networking

7-8:30 Talk + Q&A

8:30-9 Networking


Tickets are $10 in advance and FREE for Sandbox Suites members. RSVP here to reserve your spot. Space is limited so be sure to reserve early.

Please note: $20 tickets may be available at the door. 

Member Spotlight: Tracy Grogan

The summer brought several new members to Sandbox Suites Berkeley, one of whom is writing his first murder mystery novel.

Tracy Grogan, former marketing executive and longtime Cisco Systems employee, took a break from killing off characters and sat down for a member interview. Although Tracy assures us that we are not featured in his first novel, we think we’ve made a convincing argument to put a hit out on us in his second 🙂

What do you say when people ask you what do you do for a living?
I tell people that I imagine myself to be a writer. I explain that I took a healthy early retirement incentive that provides me time to consider and execute my next moves. My girlfriend has been incredibly supportive of me taking some time to see if I have what it takes to be a writer. It’s a job that requires diligence and dedication. That’s why I rented office space.

I took the weekend off after my last day of employment and began the writing job at 6am the following Monday. My routine was to work from 6am to 6 or 7pm. Having a fixed routine, and a separate space with other people around, enabled me to avoid the trap of sleeping in a little bit more each day or getting distracted by the stereo or yard work.

Can you tell us anything about this book you are writing?
It’s a mystery that incorporates activities that I have been devoted to for many years: travel and scuba diving.

Have you always longed to pen books?
I’ve had the basic concept for two books kicking around in my brain for about 10 years. I had promised myself to try writing them but never had a solid block of time to dedicate to the task.

How did you first come across the concept of “coworking”?
I have actually been in a coworking environment for over 3 years. My former employer, Cisco Systems, is a pioneer in the concept. They have a number of buildings built for that purpose. They look very much like Sandbox Suites – there are areas for private work, small group interaction, large group meetings, and even areas for chilling out. Based on your needs for the moment or day, you might pick any space you require. Some are on an ad-hoc basis and others are reserved.

I initially resisted the concept, going as far as responding to preliminary surveys that I would work from home every single day if they implemented the system. On my third day of working in the coworking environment, I contacted the survey team to ask if I could change my answer: I was a believer. I experienced a total reversal, commuting almost every day to the office; I found coworking to be energizing and incredibly productive.

So what led you to Sandbox Suites?
I had initially looked at renting a private office, but found them too expensive. Then I found Sandbox Suites. I signed up for a one-day trial and, by the end of the day, had signed up for a monthly plan. Your execution of the concept was exactly what I needed.

Have you interacted much with the other folks coworking at Sandbox Suites?
Yes, absolutely. One of the key concepts in coworking, in my mind, is having a constant degree of activity around you. It becomes white noise and is not at all distracting. But you are aware of what others are doing in the common areas (not so in the more private spaces). So, you end up picking up bits and pieces of conversation. You find commonalities. You and your co-workers share tips, experiences or just shoot the breeze.

What is your favorite thing about Sandbox Suites?
To be honest, after 15 years of working in a Silicon Valley campus where food options were limited, I love the fact that I can walk from either the Berkeley or Union Square office to any of hundreds of great restaurants for lunch.

So which location is your favorite?
I’ve only used the Berkeley and Union Square offices. I prefer Berkeley due to its proximity to BART (and the aforementioned restaurants), the general vibe and, of course, our rocking office managers Sarah and Jacqui (who now each owe me 20$ for the unsolicited plug).

What’s going on in the next 6 months for you?
I spent two months writing the first draft of my book. I’ve now gotten feedback from my nine reviewers and will begin work on the next draft – right after I get back from a scubadiving trip to Indonesia….

As well, my former employer provided a very comprehensive package of “transition consulting” services to help retirees plan for the next step. Although I hope that I have found my new career, I will work in parallel with these consultants as I finish my manuscript, engage an agent, find my publisher, and celebrate the publication of my first book. Then I’ll treat everybody in the Berkeley office to pizza.

We look forward to that!

Sneak Preview of Sandbox South Park

Painting, furniture building and cleanup is under way in the new South Park office in preparation for Opening Day | Startup Waffle party on Sept. 7.

Last week, some lucky companies got to put dibs on the private offices and I’m excited to report that we have a great group anchoring Sandbox Suites South Park, including Ayopa Games, Promethium Marketing, Red Giant Software, RockIT Recruiting, Analyte Health, Sparta Consulting Group, M2Media360, Cherry.com and a few other great companies.

After more than a month of listening to drilling, polishing and hammering, it was awesome to finally have new members running around! And even better to hear how much they loved the colorful private offices:

We’re opening the private desk waiting list, so if you’d like first dibs on a dedicated desk or a cluster for your team, write us a note – info@sandboxsuites.com.

For conference rooms, we’ll have 4 different sizes seating from 4 to 12 people. If you’re not a member, you’ll be able to rent meeting rooms in South Park after Sept. 12. Here’s a fun meeting room for 6 that we just finished:

Can’t wait to see you all in September!!

Creative design from the South

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