Home Bru Graft Café: my go-to coworking space in Durban
There are days when I crave human contact. I love the solitude of my home during the weekdays. Me, the cats, the dogs and the silence. But it’s also quite an isolating existence.
After working in an open-plan newsroom for close on 20 years, some things cannot be replaced. Popping my head over the partition for some advice on a headline with my colleague, mundane conversations at the coffee machine, morning diary meetings … human interaction feeds the brain and the soul.
As a freelancer, I enjoy being my own boss. I enjoy choosing when, how and for how long I work on any given day. I love that I can sleep in on a Monday and even take the afternoon off for lunch with a friend or an activity at my children’s school.
But working from home comes with its own challenges, not least of which is the sense of isolation.
Isolation and distraction
As much as I love my cat and the fact that he has a permanent spot on my desk, Zeke spends more time demanding attention and headbutts than letting me work. Then there is the allure of what my fridge or pantry holds in the way of snacks. Fruit, juices, crisps, popcorn, chocolate, biscuits – everything is fair game when I am at home. Distractions (have I told you about my love-hate relationship with Netflix?) can set me off course so easily and then I find myself burning the candle on both ends to meet deadlines.
For years, I headed off to a coffee shop when I was overwhelmed by the boredom and isolation of working from home. But there was the problem of finding a quiet spot with a plug point if I needed it. Then there was the general hustle and bustle of a restaurant that could be as distracting as Zeke. Not to mention slow wifi that keeps dropping if you are idle for a short time. And most annoying for me was the suppressed resentment I felt that I was working while everyone else was socialising.
Coffee shops are great for a meeting, they’re great to combine a meeting and a bit of downtime. But they do not offer a lasting solution for someone who wants to get work done while having the amenities of an office available to him/her as well as the relaxed environment of a coffee shop.
And this is where the coworking space comes in.
Coworking is the future
It’s a growing phenomenon in major South African cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town. And it is high time Durban sees the value of such workspaces.
It’s no longer a matter of IF it happens, but rather WHEN. As the gig economy becomes more alluring, so the idea of coworking will grow and become more entrenched.
There are many types of coworking environments. What these spaces all have in common though is a sense of community and collaboration. Expect networking, socialising, collaborating and support. A good combination of people in a coworking space can easily grow a tribe that co-exists and supports each other in many ways.
While Durban is slow on the uptake, there are a few coworking spaces out there and each of them is unique and with its own value.
Home Bru Graft Café
I’ve been working on and off in the café area of Home Bru Graft Café in uMhlanga for about a year. Even though the café is always busy and out on a terrace, it is not as rowdy and busy as a normal café. In fact, there is a distinct sense of purpose and business in the air. It may be because of the type of people that Home Bru attracts – more often than not, the café is filled with people on their laptops doing pretty much what I’ve gone there to do. Sometimes people gather for a meeting. And sometimes a local running club stops by for breakfast.
For the most part, the café area of Home Bru has been a wonderful office space for me. But every now and then I want a more privacy. And in winter I prefer working indoors rather than out (even if this is Durban!).
The Home Bru Workspace is a fantastic alternative. It’s a lovely double volume area with subdued but optimal lighting that allows for you to work with ease and in comfort. There were four other people, who are regulars at the workspace, sharing the space with me. We chatted a bit but were able to get down to work as well.
I was struck by the friendliness of the baristas. They knew exactly which workstation was a favourite for the regulars, they knew which coffee or tea that person wanted and even when to bring in the next one.
Toyah Carazzo is a freelancer who creates e-learning content for a company based in Amsterdam. As a new mum, she’s found working from home and having a baby to contend with can be challenging. So she heads to Home Bru at least once a week to get in quality time at the virtual office. For her, it’s the reliability of stable wifi and the quiet of the workspace that has her returning.
“Having a baby and working from home is challenging. I find that while I’m here I can concentrate and have a productive day,” she says.
After working in this space for a day I understood what she meant. Carla-Leigh Ziady is the manager at Home Bru and is passionate about the coworking space. “The cafe area and inside workstations complement each other,” she says.
“Our staff pride themselves on knowing the regulars at our workstations – we are determined to create a family vibe at the cafe and at the workstations too.”
I got this. By the time I left, even I felt I was part of a tribe. Yes, we worked independently and spoke very little. But a shared purpose created a sense of community in a way I cannot really explain.
And if you’re looking for a space to accommodate more people and a bit of chatter, you can opt for their meeting or board rooms, which are enclosed spaces that allow for you to talk freely. They come equipped with a whiteboard, TV and the necessary connections to do presentations.
While coworking is by its very nature a communal activity, it’s also important to be mindful of others sharing the space. Talking on your cell phone while others are trying to work is, of course, not on. Home Bru has fantastic little cubicles you can use precisely for this. For me, this was very convenient. I do all my business on the phone or via Skype. The cubicles are comfortable and in close proximity to the workstations so it isn’t an inconvenience to move about.
Home Bru opens early … very early. You can begin working from 6am and once you’ve booked the day, you need only leave at 4pm Monday to Friday. It’s also open on a Saturday. At R165 for the day, as well as three exceptional coffees, wifi and a partitioned workstation of your own, this isn’t going to break the bank. There are other pricing options for you to choose from – it all depends on your needs and budget.
- Read why I believe coworking spaces are the future here.