Coworking Offers Employees More Than Office Space

Coworking promises to improve productivity while improving work-life balance. Whether you're an enterprise with remote employees who want a professional work environment or a start-up firm too small for your own office, you can benefit from coworking.

By Matthew Heusser
Wed, December 05, 2012

CIO — The three classic places to work are typically a dedicated office, home office or a coffee shop. All involve tradeoffs: The office has its set of interruptions, home can be lonely (and, for some workers, unproductive) and coffee shops offer the appearance of a social atmosphere without the practice of actually getting work done.

Today, however, companies are exploring a new strategy called coworking. Let's explore what that means and see if it's something you might want to try.

With coworking, a collection of individuals from different companies share a large space that generally offers an open workspace plan, Internet access and power.

Most people doing coworking are knowledge-workers—the programmers, designers, writers and testers who can work with a laptop just about anywhere. Because they are working in similar domains, coworkers can bounce ideas off each other, trade expertise requests, network and even form virtual project teams to solve one-week, one-day or one-hour projects.

Analysis: For Tech Staffers, Working Remotely Requires More Than Wi-Fi and a Desk

"When people work together, they bump into each other, they ask questions," says Aaron Schaap, founder of The Factory, a coworking space in West Michigan. "From that idea, what we really sell is not space, but serendipity. You happen to get a desk, but the amount of people you bump into is surprising and unplanned."

To learn more, I picked up my laptop and cell phone and tried working out of The Factory for a few days.

Enter The Factory: A Place to Work—and Join a Community

Located on the fourth floor of Grand Rapids' downtown Leonard Building (also known as the San Chez Building due to the success of the San Chez Bistro), The Factory has 5,000 square feet of open-plan office space. This includes two conference rooms, a meeting room, community space for eating and meeting, and plenty of desks and desk areas. After opening an expansion in 2011, the factory grew from 12 regular members to 55.

Aaron Schaap, founder of The factory
The Factory founder Aaron Schaap in the heart of his "enterprise."

Membership has different levels. A day pass is $20, or you can get a 10-visit "punch card" for $150. Two visits a week is $75 per month. For $150 per month, you can work out of it every day of the week; for $275, you get a mailbox, your own desk, first priority for booking conference rooms and a key in case you plan to come in early or stay late.

Schaap explains that the goal is not to sell desk space or accommodations but, rather, to recruit people who want to belong to a community. "We have community lunches on Wednesday. We have a community mailing list. Or you might just bump into someone at coffee and have a good conversation," he says. To keep the community active, The Factory offers use of its space at night to groups such as the Grand Rapids Web Developers Group, StartUpWeekend and even CodeForAmerica.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies