Many have abandoned the home office, where dirty laundry or grass beckoning to be mowed are distracting taps on the shoulder; where a phone call interrupted by a barking dog can provoke embarrassed flights to the basement. There are countless reasons why the home can be a less than ideal place to earn a paycheck.
Likewise, the coffee shop comes with its own work derailment issues. Grinding beans, hissing milk steamers, loud music and boisterous storytellers can drown out a conversation - if not a thought. Arranging a meeting? Don't count on privacy. Babies crying, moms gossiping and baristas arguing over who' s on bathroom detail can steer even the most focused worker off task.
There is another option: co-working and shared offices. Several are operating in metro Detroit, giving locals an workplace alternative that can come with professional surroundings, opportunities to collaborate, socialize and network as well as pick up your mail - sorted if necessary. Some offer a receptionist to answer the phone and office supplies, many have conference rooms and meetings areas, and all have Wi-Fi. Each comes with its own decor vibe and mission, especially those that see themselves as business incubators.
It's not a new concept, but one that has finally found its footing in metro Detroit. For more than a decade cities such as New York and San Fran have been co-working and are raising the bar for the cool features that can come with a shared work environments. Metro Detroit has finally risen to the challenge, offering the region's growing population of mobile and work-from-home workers an alternative place to work. And if the US. Small Business Administration's claim that more than half of all businesses are based out of homes, it's a market and culture that's destined to grow.
So let us share the 411 on some of metro Detroit's shared work spaces. If you hear of more, please share on Metromode's Facebook page
609 Crooks Road
Troy, MI 48084
At a glance, Byte & Mortar looks like one big company's trendy digs, but it actually houses many businesses and entrepreneurs with a mixed arrangement of open, collaborative working space, semi-private desks and completely private offices reachable by hallways separate from the receptionist-manned main lobby. Customers can pay for the Byte alone - $59 for mail services, $119 for call services, which come with a professional receptionist, voicemail and other special features, or the mortar, a co-working membership for $159 that comes with space, all the amenities of an office or rent private offices at various prices and also receive janitorial service, anytime building access and other services such as photocopying and faxing. Conference rooms, video equipment, a lobby and receptionist come with membership.
"If you're happy in the facility you work in because it makes you feel good you're hopefully going to be more productive," says founder Daniel Haberman, an attorney and former nightclub owner.
Byte & Mortar, which was ranked #4 nationally by YFS - Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed - Magazine, is attracting users come for a mix or reasons, he says.
"In short, it's a little bit of everything. I think the common theme is the desire to have a proper workspace to use as an alternative or supplement to another workspace," he says.
31963 Eight Mile Road West
Metro Work Space opened in 2011 with the mission of creating a model "third place" for their members. Cofounders Todd and Bev Luhtanen offer a fully-supplied workspace (including paperclips, staplers and, of course, coffee) and then some. The decor is masculine office modern with black woods and dark leathers with pops of orange and green in mod, ergonomic chairs and a break room with an Elvis pinball machine in the corner.
Mail services, phone services, office space, conference and meeting areas are part of the packages, which can cost around $5 a day, they say. There are three levels of membership: $99 a month for the bronze, $129 for silver and $299 for gold with the amenities, building uses and special services increasing at each level. Private offices that can be outfitted with personal belongings from files and computers to family photos and other personal belongings come with the gold membership.
“Members love the feel of a coffee house with a more professional experience for them and their customers. Lots of networking happens here naturally, through relationships that members create with each other,” says Bev Luhtanen, cofounder of Metro Work Space.
Paper Street started in 2009 as a push to get the self-employed off their couches and away from their kitchen tables ...and also to educate them by bringing in experts to lead classes on topics to help build a business.
Founder Andy Didorosi created his DIY Small Business Incubator with this in mind: "We took a careful look at the barriers that stand in front of thinkers keeping them from becoming creators. We arrived on the same answer time and time again: Knowledge takes too long and space is too expensive using traditional methods."
Whether you're looking for an office, a design studio, an art space, or even room for photo shoots, Paper Street offers a casual space with an irreverent attitude and affordable prices.
$49 a month buys you a space with huge layout tables, Wi-Fi, power outlets, a staffed front desk, use of meeting space, locally fresh roasted coffee and print shop services. For $69 Plus Members also get a large storage locker for their gear and work supplies. $79 gives Premium Plus members all this, a private mailing address and 20 percent off classes.
Paper Street has expanded to a second location in Ferndale for its Motorworks co-workspace that invites gear heads to work in its auto bays and tools. It also has a Detroit location just for classes.
It's the education component that sets Paper Street apart from other shared workspaces. Paper Street brings in experts to teach classes such as web design.
"We stripped away all of these barriers and got down to the basics: knowledge and space. With our a la carte courses in design, tech, art, DIY and business, you can develop professional-grade skills on nights and weekends and on a tight budget," says Didorosi. "We’ll keep adding workspaces, classes and other resources until you can build, make, learn or start anything you can imagine right here in the Detroit area."
4444 Second Ave.
This highly specialized collaborative workspace is more about incubating "green collar jobs," that founders Tom and Peggy Brennan see as the next promising sector of the economy and the most important next generation career.
The Green Garage might also be the most interesting building of all the shared office spaces. It was built in 1920 -in what is now Midtown Detroit- in a former Model T showroom. Keeping with their belief in supporting sustainable practices, the Brennans' renovation focused on re-used, repurposed and environmentally conscious features. Iron arches, rich wood floors and exposed brick set the scene for the nearly 35 businesses in residence. The idea is to connect like-minded individuals who will share the space, meet, brainstorm and learn from one another.
It opened in the fall of 2011 and has a sustainability lab that monitor's the building's operation and energy use, useful information for some of the businesses incubating here. Regular meetings are a part of membership, which comes at different costs and under a variety of agreements.
"From green power to organic foods, to clean water, to hybrid cars. Detroit, and Michigan, need to be a part of this. We think this is how we can attract and retain the best and brightest to our region," Peggy Brennan says. "We want to do our part to help."
2727 Second Ave.
This simple, super casual shared workspace is being called A Super Duper Co-Working Space. It's been in operation for only six months and will have its grand opening Aug. 8. Originally an impromptu gathering spot for local freelancers, the members raised enough funds to improve the space and make it an office for other roving workers. Each month the roster of co-workers has grown, bringing with it more and more amenities and services.
It's a tight space located upstairs inside the Metropolitan Center for High Technology building in Midtown Detroit, but it's staffed by a friendly, positive group that loves Detroit, the self-employed, having fun with happy hours and hosted community events.
106 Second St.
This shared workspace with some unusual touches is in the process of unfolding in downtown Rochester and is the vision of Rob Ray, who says the ShareSpace Rochester will occupy about 2,000 - 5,000 square feet.
The floor plan will be primarily open with modular desks and chairs and a policy of encouraging members to organize it as they wish. There will be a lounge with couches and chairs and a "play-area" with LEGOS and other entrainment "to give your brain a break or get the creative-juices flowing," he says.
"There will be separate conference rooms, private phone rooms and "some serious square-footage of whiteboards."
Membership costs aren't set but could run $25-$150 per month, depending on services and supplies, including lockable file cabinets. An opening date hasn't yet been announced.
"This segment of workers keeps growing," Ray says. "It's more affordable than your own office and you pick up the social enterprise aspect of the co-working environment plus the resources we'll offer with conference rooms, copier, projector, coffee, Wi-Fi, the whole kit and caboodle."
Kim North Shine is a freelance writer and Development News Editor for Metromode.
All Photos by David Lewinski Photography