Have yâ€™all heard of this phenomenon called â€œco-working?â€Â The idea is that just because you are a work-at-home entrepreneur doesnâ€™t mean you want to be cut off from all human contact.Â So instead of working at home, you work at an office building, renting space there along with several other entrepreneurs.Â And you can talk with them, socialize and share ideas, the way you ordinarily would with colleagues.
Apparently the co-working vibe has hit Atlanta hard.Â Just in the last six months or so, no fewer than three co-working businesses have opened up.Â They all have comparable rates: around $100 for a monthly membership, and around $30 to come just a handful of times.Â This week, Mark and I tried out all three.
Door #1: Ignition Alley
This place was decidedly promising, because they had a monthly website critique group.Â We showed up for their February meeting.Â We met a lot of nice, smart people.
The major problem with Ignition Alley was that it was cold.Â It had a very modern concrete nerd grunge thing going on, so there wasnâ€™t much insulation.Â And it was a cold, rainy day.Â Anyway, it turned out to be a major problem.Â We decided to work there for the day, but after an hour Mark called it quits.Â We’re planning to go back at least once to see if they’ve managed to fix their heat problem.
Door #2: 151 Locust
This place was a renovated house in downtown Decatur.Â It had a lot of perks: it’s close to our house, the seats are comfy, and also, free snacks!Â And I’m not talking just about Saltines and Doritos here.Â They had beer and wine in the fridge.Â All gratis.
The main downside was that while the other two places are open 24/7, 151 Locust only runs from 9 AM to 7 PM.Â Although I sort of think this could be seen as an upside, if you think about it.Â Because maybe it would give us the motivation we need to get out of the house early.Â Who wants to work past 7 anyway?
The second failing was that the community here was pretty much dead.Â I think the household setting is kind of working against them; it was nice to be able to wall ourselves off in a small room and talk privately, but it really exacerbates people’s natural tendency to leave each other alone.Â It was also a rainy day.Â “Maybe it’s dead today because it’s so rotten out,” I said.
“Who are these people who don’t work when it rains?” Mark said.Â I had to admit he had a point.
Door #3: Strongbox West
So Ignition Alley had a live community and a crappy setting, whereas 151 Locust had a dead community and luxe setting.Â Strongbox West was very comfortably in the middle, with a sorta comfy setting and a sorta interactive community.Â We wanted to think of it as a happy medium, but after a day there we both agreed that there was just nothing pulling us back to it.
(Just in case you’re curious, no, there’s no Strongbox East.)
In the end
I think all these co-working places are really fighting against each other.Â Put the community from all three in one place, and you’d have something great, but as is, they are all struggling a little bit.
Co-working is a weird thing.Â Everyone comes because they want to network and socialize with the other people–but at the same time, you often don’t say much more than hello to anyone because you’re naturally reluctant to interrupt their work.Â Co-working just doesn’t provide the natural opportunities to converse that an ordinary workplace does.
Mark and I decided that what these places really need is a structured lunch time.Â Nothing formal, mind you.Â But around noon a secretary could circulate with takeout menus, someone could move a couple of tables together, and people would naturally congregate and begin to form relationships.Â Which I think is what everyone there actually wants.