By Mike Brown
The longer you sit sedentary in a cubicle farm, the faster your motivation approaches zero. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I was desperately craving a change of scenery so six months ago I applied to my employer’s "Work from Home" program. My superiors graciously accepted my request on a trial basis despite my status as a “junior engineer” in the company (bureaucracy at its finest). I spent a day at Workbar Boston and fell in love with the environment, the flexibility, and the people I met there. Once my employer caught wind that I was working from an alternative office, however, they immediately revoked my privileges. I quit that job a few months later.
Since then I have been “self-employed” (read: running a startup on nothing but hopes and dreams) and working at a variety of coworking spaces throughout Boston. They’ve all been great experiences, but I’ve settled in on an unlikely candidate where I now spend almost all of my time: a rock climbing gym.
Brooklyn Boulders is a rock climbing gym in Somerville, Massachusetts that also has a coworking space. Among other things, I’m a rock climber, so this place is really a fusion of work and play for me. If I’m waiting for a conference call or if I’m getting stuck on a difficult issue, I go crush through a few climbs or do a few pull-ups and get back to work with a refreshed mind.
The climbing gym scene isn’t for everyone, but it is my new favorite example of the many coworking opportunities in Boston. I like them all for the same reasons: the environment, the melting pot of people, the low overhead, the community engagement, and the beer/coffee/fun; all of which have dramatically improved my work day.
- The Environment – After leaving my desk job, I spent a few weeks cruising local coffee shops, but I was largely unenthused about spending 8-10 hours (or 12-14 hours) cramped at a tiny table, surrounded by hipsters and grad students with mediocre wifi to boot. When I started coworking, I really began to appreciate what it meant to have a professional workspace. Even though I didn’t have a dedicated desk, the environment screams “Get-Work-Done” in a way that coffee shops and cubicles just can’t match. Also, trying to have a meeting with more than one person in a coffee shop is not only difficult; it’s also not professional. For the past few months, I’ve been sharing comfortable, open-layout office space with professionals from different industries…and that’s pretty awesome.
- The Melting Pot - Unlike traditional workplaces where everyone is working for the same company, it’s refreshing to work alongside people from different industries and backgrounds. In the past two months, I’ve worked alongside professional athletes, adventure filmmakers, DJ’s, PhD students, architects, and more. Additionally, many people are from different countries including England, Russia, Croatia, and Ukraine. In my last job, I worked in a small room with nine male mechanical engineers who lived in Western Massachusetts. They were all talented, but it wasn’t exactly a diverse crew. As a young engineer who is trying to start a business, I’m finding a lot of value in meeting a wide range of professionals. I’ve seen more cool projects in the past three months while coworking than I’ve seen in the past three years…and that’s pretty awesome.
- Low Overhead – Coworking requires very little thought, effort, and money on the part of the worker. In exchange for reasonable monthly (or daily) rates, you don’t have to worry about leases, printers, wifi, paying bills, coffee, furniture, projectors or anything else that comes with having your own office. Good coworking spaces take care of these details for you, saving valuable brainpower that you can use for more exciting and meaningful things. Ultimately, I pay less for coworking each month than I paid for my commuting costs to my old job…and that’s pretty awesome.
- Community Engagement – The coworking spaces I’ve been to are consistently running different events to support their community. The events have ranged from fundraising, to filing trademarks, to hackathons, to choosing the right founders, and even taboo topics like how to kill your startup. At the climbing gym coworking space, there are multiple yoga classes every day and the gym routinely hosts large events focused on music, art or outdoor gear. As someone trying to enter the outdoor industry, the community support from the gym has been invaluable for my business, my fitness level, and my sanity. I've found a community to keep me focused while having fun...and that's pretty awesome.
- Beer, Coffee, and Fun – The more time I spend in the Boston startup scene, the more I see the focus on beer, coffee and fun (not to mention a crazy amount of hard work). Every coworking space I’ve been to provides free coffee. Win! Many of them sponsor weekly happy hours with free beer. Also a win! In general, they are a more fun place to work. Triple win! I firmly believe that beer, coffee, and fun help to stimulate networking, creativity, and happiness…and that’s pretty awesome.
Coworking in Boston
There are more than a dozen coworking spaces in Boston. Some are for startup companies like the Cambridge Innovation Center; some are for fitness enthusiasts like Brooklyn Boulders Somerville; and some are for freelancers and other independent professionals like Workbar. Others worth checking out are Intrepid Labs, Collaboratory 4.0, Encandle, Exponential, Geek Offices, Koa Labs, Oficio, and Space with a Soul.