Last year I joined one of the hottest global shared offices for a multitude of reasons, but primarily to embed myself in the daily activities of many of my clients. One of the main reasons was to understand the appeal of moving to a shared office, as it is no secret that they are a booming part of the world of office space. There are a multitude of coworking spaces opening in the Chicago area, providing almost limitless options based on neighborhood, building type and industry. The private offices (approximately seventy five square feet “SF”) were rented for $700 per month, or $112 per SF per year. This price was fairly common with many of the other coworking options in Chicago.
Over the months of working hand-in-hand with technology firms, start-ups and other small offices, I slowly started to gather what all of the hype was about. I cannot deny local craft beers on tap and assessable nutrition/performance based eats were one of the main perks. But beyond the lifestyle forming habits, there was a sense of local community that is sometimes a challenge to find in a city of 3M people — a community where shared business is common, and energy in the business world is regularly present. I wanted to understand the source of this collaboration, and as I monitored the community engagement I came to the conclusion that the space itself had the majority impact on the social culture I was witnessing. The number of “open” and “shared” spaces forced individuals to work in an environment that was driven by social engagement (see photo below). It is now no surprise to me that space designated to motivate collaborative, energetic performance is becoming more of a trend in not just the shared offices, but also the traditional office buildings in Chicago, making it a possibility for a start-up, tech firm, or even established business to set up their own front door.
I suppose the experience above is expected by most people at this point, however, I was surprised to find a handful of operating problems that seemed to be challenges on an ongoing basis. Some of the issues include: the space would be without wifi from time to time. Packages and other mail sometime didn’t make it from the front check-in to their final destination (this was especially problematic with messenger service). I also noticed that the staff was forced to interact with the companies, or tenants, which at times was an unauthentic.
Overall I was pleased with my experience with coworking and it may be the right fit for many groups. Although I do think $112/SF is a high price to pay for some Kind bars and Chicago brews, when the average rent in Chicago is in the mid $30’s/SF.