Many of us resolve each New Year to make our workouts more productive. So why not resolve to work more productively as well? Whether you work in a busy office or at home, that’s often easier said than done.
A change of scenery can help, but where to go? The public library, you say? Well, sure, if you want to get old-school, and possibly fight the distraction of a man snoring in the next cubicle. (Yes, that happened.) Well, what about Starbucks or Firehook? Yeah, maybe, if you can find an electrical outlet and concentrate in the din. You might need something different.
I’m talking about a relatively new concept: Private “co-working” spaces, or as one refers to itself, a “productive space:” a blend of office, coffee shop and library, with the monthly fee structure of a gym membership. And Forest Hills is conveniently located near three of the most promising: Writers Room DC in Tenleytown, cove in Dupont Circle and Canvas Co/work, which is also in Dupont.
Writers Room DC, at 4000 Albemarle Street NW, was born two years ago when DC locals Charles Karelis and his son Alex Karelis were sitting in Starbucks watching people try to work. Instead of working, though, people were fighting for electrical outlets, looking up every time the barista threw the lever for a latté and packing up all their valuables for every bathroom break. It dawned on the duo that Starbucks was selling a product but a lot of customers were there for the space.
Why not, they mused, sell space as the product and offer coffee and snacks as a side benefit? And why not cater to writers in particular? They often work freelance or around full-time job schedules, and a consistently quiet space to work is a precious commodity. The Karelises should know – they are both writers. Other cities offer the type of space they envisioned – such as Writers Room NYC, the Brooklyn Writers Space, the Ditmas Workspace in South Brooklyn and Write by Night in Austin, Texas – but DC was lacking in that kind of amenity.
The Karelis father and son team decided to ask around and take the temperature of the city, to judge if the DC area would support a co-working space especially for writers. Six months and a hundred survey responses later, Writers Room DC was born, a dedicated space where writers of all stripes can rent a quiet, distraction-free space to work on their projects. The 4000 Albemarle Street NW location is a 30-second walk from the Tenleytown Metro station, no joke, and is on the fifth floor, so the temptation of people watching is lower than at a coffee shop.
Membership comes in the form of three-month or six-month packages, starting around $130 per month when you buy in bulk. What you receive for your membership fee is benefits both tangible and intangible. The main portion of the Writers Room’s square-footage is a dedicated quiet space with a pretty strict rule: No noise beyond the tapping of keys, the muffled turning of pages or the clink of a mug touching a desk. The writers even take care when opening and closing the door between the Quiet Room and the kitchenette, where they take breathers and help themselves to the complimentary coffee, tea and light snacks available.
Membership includes WiFi access, a bank of lockers for valuables, a table and chairs for communal procrastinating and a small side room with a printer and telephone, for the noisier parts of the writing life. In the Quiet Room, though, noise is banished and users of the 18 separated work stations expect all others to sit down, plug in and be silent, because that is exactly what they intend to do themselves.
Users of Writers Room DC report appreciating the more intangible benefits of their membership, including the opportunity to meet other writers, network and partake of the atmosphere of dedication to work. According to the official website: “Motivation and seriousness are highly contagious (Isn’t that why so many of us prefer to do our sit-ups at the gym?).”
The cove “productive space,” in Dupont Circle at 1730 Connecticut Avenue NW, uses some of the same concepts as the Writers Room DC, only with broader definitions. You buy the space and the rest of the package is free: coffee, tea, snacks, printing, WiFi internet connection and a sound-proof phone booth for making calls, plus a conference room that can be reserved for meetings or collaborations. The difference is that cove is open to all individuals who can decide where and when they work. This includes writers, freelancers and students, of course, but also extends to teleworkers and start-ups looking for collaboration space.
When asked to pin down what kinds of people are using cove, founder Adam Segal answers: “It would be like going into Starbucks and polling people about what they do.”
The recent grand opening of the second cove location, in Logan Circle at 1624 14th Street NW, brought out a crowd of mostly Millennials, but plenty of older workers too. One couple even joined the happy hour with twin babies strapped to their chests. Perhaps the next generation of cove members?
The key word at cove is productivity. It’s simply a place for those who seek the best of all working environments: the dedication to common goals of an office, the moderate quiet of a library, the stimulation of a coffee shop and the convenience of a home office. Segal decided how cove would tick through observing his own working style. He has worked in a cubicle and worked from home, but found neither style suited him. He couldn’t be productive at home and he hated being trapped in his cubicle, so he started thinking of how to create a space that would work for him.
“It’s not a substitute for the coffee shop and home office,” Segal says. “It’s like a gym. We’re catering to different work styles. Cove is a place to be productive, with company!”
Providing networking opportunities is also an important goal of the cove team. Segal says one cove member came in to get some copy written and walked out with a big new contract, after a brand new cove member happened to see his name and job title on the list of who was “coving” that day and exclaimed that he had been searching for a good copywriter. Segal made the introduction and both cove members walked away feeling lucky.
Cove members can choose from three monthly payment packages – “the less regular,” “the near regular,” and “the regular.” The first package offers 8 hours at cove’s open desk spaces, plus one hour in the conference room, for $24 a month. The second comes with 20 desk hours and two conference room hours for $56 per month. The third package, at $124 dollars per month, allows you to “cove” in the desk spaces for 50 hours and use the conference room for four hours. The plans are flexible as well, so there’s no need to dash out when you’ve used your last hour; subsequent hours will be billed at the same hourly rate you’re already paying.
The other co-working space in Dupont Circle is Canvas Co/work at 1203 19th Street NW. The 6,000-square-foot space on the 3rd floor opened in 2012 with the idea of providing a venue for tiny tech start-ups, freelancers and other workers with flexible schedules to focus on work, but also form into a unique community of creative professionals.
Canvas Co/work founders Alex Giron and Martin Ringlein wanted to remedy the problem they saw in DC of too few places where creative professionals could work without paying exorbitant rent for office space and individual WiFi access. Now the Canvas community is growing. Seeing that their space was filling quickly and selling out, Giron and Ringlein undertook a renovation that created fourteen more work spaces.
Canvas Co/work’s friendly attitude toward both groups and individuals is what separates it from the more widespread co-working concept of UberOffices, also in Dupont Circle. UberOffices caters almost exclusively to small companies, and often attracts tech start-ups instead of individuals working for themselves.
Since Canvas Co/work places importance on building community, there is no stringent quiet rule such as the one in the Writers Room DC, because fostering collaboration is the first step to building a sense of cohesion. Canvas takes further steps by organizing activities and events periodically, allowing members a chance to meet and network with other creative professionals with work styles like their own. The space will even transform into a gallery periodically, showcasing local art. Events in the past few months included a TechBreakfast at the beginning of the Canvas work day, a workshop titled “DC Web Women” and the Sassy DC Meetup for users of the SAS software suite for systems analytics. Giron and Ringlein are open to all sorts of events, presentations and group meetings, as long as they are relevant to Canvas members.
It’s not all work and no play at Canvas Co/work, though. The staff and members have been known to hold Ping Pong Smackdowns after business hours!
Membership at Canvas Co/work comes in the form of a choice of six packages, ranging from $30 for a single day to the most-popular “Full” package, which brings unlimited 24/7 access, your own desk where you can leave your desktop computer, 10 hours to use the conference room and even the right to use Canvas as your business mailing address, all for $600 a month. If you were to use Canvas as your full-time office space, the price per hour would average to roughly $3.75 for most packages.
So, how about joining a co-working space instead of resolving – maybe for the fifth or 25th year in a row – to join a gym? Sure, you need some exercise, but how about strapping your laptop to your back, jogging to the Writers Room DC, cove or Canvas Co/work and making some serious tracks on your projects? Problem solved.
If you have checked out one of these places, know of another or have picked a favorite, leave a comment and join the discussion!