Do You Need an Office in the Common House?

We have an office at Takoma Village in Washington DC. We are one of the larger communities with 43 households and almost 100 residents. Smaller communities may need only a corner of a room but I can’t imagine not having a central place for business records, etc.

Not all our records are in our office because many are online. Minutes and financial reports are also distributed via email. All our records are supposed to be on the website, but as website manager I haven’t yet accomplished this. We are considering a professional property management website to store documents and replace the website so more people can post information. We will still need an office.

In the office we have:

A filing cabinet for Facilities Team invoices, information packets, bids, etc.

A filing cabinet for Admin Team mostly with old files.

Two locked key boxes — one for the CH keys and one for keys to the units.

DVD and VCR movies that people borrow.

Paper cutter, 3-hole punch, binder maker (the plastic report cover binders).

A table and chairs for working and for small meetings.

A book case for containers of guest room linens.

Bins for construction drawings and the old flip chart pages from meetings.

The stand for the flip charts and extra flip chart pads.

A desk top computer and a printer/fax/copier. Some people use it regularly in addition to their laptops or phones. Some don’t have printers and use this one. (In 2000, it was the primary home computer for many people.) Others use it for back up when theirs are broken or they want to check their email when they are in the CH. It can also be used to show website information in small meetings.

A telephone which is listed as our public number, with extensions in the dining room and kids play room. We could have an extension in all rooms but these are the main places where we want an emergency phone to call 911 or for children to call home. There is also an extension in the guest rooms, but with cell phones I doubt if many guests use it. The office phone is attached to the printer/fax/copier and to an answering machine for people who call for information.

Storage for paper for the computer and printer cartridges. Dictionary, yellow pages, other information sources and references. Pencils, scissors, pencil sharpener, stapler, etc.

Bookcase with the closeout binders from initial construction and furnishing. Has all the information on the products used and the sources. Often the prices. Product handbooks. These are a gold mine of information. After 15 years we consult them often when replacing things.

In the desk for the computer, we have drawers that hold odds and ends that the tech pod saves (cords, spare switches, etc.). The book for checking out guest room keys and putting in checks to pay for use. A drawer for odds and ends and in which lost phones and keys are placed so they are in a locked room.

The office is also temporary storage for current projects. Right now inserts to be installed in the kitchen cabinets. A box of our worked-enough puzzles to be sent to a puzzle club. Paint and fabric samples from refurbishing.

We use the workshop for storage of alcohol and R-rated movies because there is less in and out and the door is less likely to be left open. One reason to lock the office is security for the computer (a big issue in 2000 when they were more valuable for resale) and to limit teens access to R-rated websites.

It sounds like a lot of stuff but it isn’t a big room. 8’x 10’ ? I can’t imagine how a community could function collaboratively without a central office or at least an office corner of a larger room.