• Nicole Vasquez

Coworking Around Chicago: An Inside Look at The Co-Op, Level Office, and Second Shift

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

In the age of Airbnb and Uber, people are sharing their homes, their cars, and now they’re sharing workspaces. Chicago has seen a boom in “coworking spaces” due to the rapidly growing rate of remote workers, creative professionals, startups, and people who can work from anyplace with a solid WiFi signal.

Coworking spaces provide a solution to the isolation and distraction of working from home, offer an escape from fighting for a table at Starbucks, and are more affordable than renting your own office. Additionally, coworking spaces are known to be breeding grounds for cross-industry collaboration and networking that happens naturally due to daily interaction with other professionals.

Yet coworking is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Coworking spaces, like neighborhoods in Chicago, each have their own unique personality, environment, services, and amenities. A space’s ownership, location, and partnerships can also play a role in its offerings to members, and many are actively involved in their local communities.

For The New Wave Worker

The Commons Co-Op at the Virgin Hotel (203 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60601)

This extended hotel lobby elegantly masquerades as a workspace and temptingly blurs the line between office and playground.

Perfect For: Creative industry crew, fashion-forward entrepreneurs, and any professional who could spend a whole day working from a bar playing British rock without ordering a gin and tonic.

Not A Good Fit For: Evening workers. Since the Co-Op is an extension of the hotel lobby, there are nightly cocktail hours and a flood of hotel guests in search of hand-crafted cocktails and bar bites.

Environment: Although The Co-Op spans the entire second floor of the hotel, each area feels small and cozy allowing you to choose the environment that best fits your workstyle, or the vibe that matches your mood at the moment. With smooth high-back leather chairs, thick velvet curtains, and a large boardroom table with a couch as seating along one side, The Co-Op feels like a rockstar’s living room.

Unique Services: Co-Op members receive their very own branded coffee mug, which gets stored on-site for whenever they actually choose coffee over a cocktail during their visit.

The Co-Op also hosts complimentary, monthly networking events for its members…Beer Yoga being one of their recent offerings.

Unique Amenities: A cafe, and a fully stocked bar with plenty of outlets. No need for a standing desk, just slide the chair over and post up against the bar – back problems solved!

For those looking for quieter, fully-private meeting or event spaces, there are three large spaces on the third floor, all of which Co-Op members can book at discounted rates.

Notable Partnerships: In addition to their monthly member networking events, The Co-Op recently hosted Marketing Disrupted, a live monthly talk show series “bringing together disruptors from various industries to share their passion, stories, and experience around a particular topic, and help leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators conquer this new world of marketing.”

Ownership: The Co-Op is nestled into the flagship location of Virgin Hotels (Chicago being the first and only location in operation at the moment), which is part of the Virgin Group: as in the business culmination of billionaire/investor/philanthropist, Sir Richard Branson.

For more information visit: www.virginhotels.com | Coworking starting at: $55/month

For The Small Team With High Standards

Level Office (73 W. Monroe, Chicago IL 60603)

Contemporary, clean design and a well-balanced mix of private offices, open coworking, meeting spaces, and virtual offices, right in the heart of downtown.

Perfect for: Small businesses looking for private office space with a modern aesthetic, a downtown address, and a central location. Or, individual professionals looking for open coworking in a business casual atmosphere without sacrificing quality or customer service.

Environment: Stepping off the elevator into Level Office Monroe, you’re greeted by a stylish reception lounge on your left and a frontal view of their largest conference room, tastefully designed with contemporary sliding glass doors and brought alive with a large, colorful, reclaimed wood boardroom table.

Next, you’ll enter the main coworking area with private offices strategically placed along the righthand side, and an open hallway dividing the general workspace from private areas.

Continuing past the individual tables and turquoise couches, the workspace layout gently morphs to accommodate larger group worktables, and leads you to the a bright white kitchen with the same eye-catching wood accents in the boardroom, elegantly displayed along the large back wall.

This simple yet functional design of Level Office Monroe prevents isolation of members in private offices, by directing everyone down the same path towards the kitchen and restrooms, keeping traffic moving smoothly throughout the day and distractions at a minimum.

Unique Services: 3,000 sq. ft. of open coworking space, with an atrium-style ceiling and plenty of windows that allow natural light to fill the space.

Unique Amenities: A fully stocked kitchen with an uber-futuristic iPad-controlled coffee and espresso machine serving as your digital barista. Additionally, Level Office has bike racks and a shower room for urban cyclists.

Partnerships and Promotion: Having started out as a small business, Level Office proudly partnered with the Small Business Advocacy Council and continually works to create a supportive environment for its member businesses.

According to their manager Dalila Dzelil, Level encourages connection and collaboration amongst members, and is always enthusiastic about referring members to each other.

Have questions on how to file your taxes? “CPA Michael Caramagno’s door is always open.” says Dzelil.

Back problems? “Stop by the friendly chiropractor Peter McManus’s office for a consultation.”

Need that 1 millionth like on Instagram? “Just like Behindthechair!”

Ownership: After an exhaustive search for office space of his own that turned out less than successful, Bill Bennett founded Level Office in 2013, right here in Chicago. Since then, Level has opened 13 locations nationwide. At each of their locations, they have just one or two staff members on-site that manage the entire building from sales and marketing, to property and community management.

For more information visit: www.leveloffice.com | Coworking starting at: $199/month | Level Office on Monroe is also available on Deskpass

For The Logan Squarist & Nearby Residents

Second Shift (3432 W. Diversey, Floor 2, Chicago IL 60647)

Friendly, comfortable, community-focused coworking for individuals and small teams, conveniently located in Logan Square.

**Disclaimer: The author of this article is a Co-Founder of Second Shift. As such, all answers provided are direct quotes from Levi Baer, Community Manager and Co-Founder at Second Shift**

Perfect for:  Second Shift is the perfect workspace for remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small teams. We are not industry specific and actually prefer a diverse set of people and skills to add value to our collaborative community. We’re not a good fit for large teams that would dominate an open workspace and with collaboration as one of our values, we might not be a good fit for people that want to stay totally isolated and not get to know their neighbors.

Environment: We nailed our goal of a “comfortable/productive” feel! One member described our space as a place where you can get a lot of work done while wearing jeans and a t-shift.

Second Shift is nearly 5,000 sq. ft. of workspace with an unpretentious and welcoming environment. Features include lots of natural light and plants, bright but soothing colors, a large community kitchen, three breakout conference rooms, three phone booths, an “ideation station,” and an open space without echoes or noise distractions.

Unique Services:  A large part of our mission is to support, promote, and connect our members so we host member events 2-3x per month, such as member lunches, snack socials, game nights, and happy hours at nearby spots (to support other local businesses too). We also proudly feature our members on our Member Wall, and post about them on social media – we’re like their Mom, we always want to brag about all the great things they’re doing!

As part of our mission to drive social impact in our neighborhood, we have plans in the works to roll out community engagement/mentoring opportunities for our members as well.

Unique Amenities: We have an awesome board game wall, bike storage, and although we have an open floor plan we purposely built in a lot of private spaces for our members so that when they want privacy, or a super-quiet place, they have plenty of options.

We plan to evolve as a community, so as we grow we’ll be adding amenities in response to our members’ needs.

Partnerships: For us, community building doesn’t just happen internally. We’re looking forward to partnering with various organizations in the surrounding neighborhoods. Some of those partnerships will be for fun. For example, we’ve already teamed up with First Ascent climbing gym in Avondale to offer reciprocal discounts for our respective members. Other partnerships will be aimed at impact, such as creating mentoring programs with local schools and clubs.

Collaboration: Although we just launched, we’ve already seen members discussing starting a new school together!

Ownership: Second Shift is a partnership between Levi Baer and Nicole Vasquez, with Levi working as the community manager onsite. Nicole founded and operates The Shift, a coworking space in Uptown, and Levi is a teacher at DePaul University and founder of the entrepreneurial community Coffee & Conversation. Their networks, experience, work ethic, and drive have combined to create a space with community building at its heart.

For more information visit: www.secondshiftchicago.com | Coworking starting at: $145/month | Second Shift is also available on Deskpass

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