December 05, 2012, 4:58 PM — 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.
"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.
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.