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01/01/2014

A New Kind of Grind

Within the next few years, close to half of America's workforce will have transitioned to independent labor, begging the question: Where will they all work?

By Erika Templeton and AnnMarie Martin
Photography by Matthew Olive

 
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    Dan Dengrove, a user at Grind’s Broadway location and founder and president of Brewla (Specialty Brewed Bars). View larger

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    The “team rooms” at Grind Broadway where larger groups can meet in a more private setting. View larger

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    The “team rooms” at Grind Broadway where larger groups can meet in a more private setting. View larger

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    A second, less dense open work area at Grind. View larger

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    There is a bank of smaller, phone-booth type stalls that allow for more private conversations. View larger

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    A display of monitors will soon allow tenants to feature their work. View larger

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    A reminder of days gone by sits by the entrance of Grind with an old Macintosh and keyboard, rotary phone, floppy disks and a clock forever stuck at five minutes to 5 o’clock View larger

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    There are a variety of rooms for different work situations including larger conference rooms and a quiet area featuring sound absorbing canvases and Vitra lounges. View larger

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    There are a variety of rooms for different work situations including larger conference rooms and a quiet area featuring sound absorbing canvases and Vitra lounges. View larger

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    A large open area is the first thing you see upon entering Grind, featuring tables in varied sizes with integrated outlets. This is where entrepreneurs of different markets can meet and collaborate. View larger

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    One of Fueled Collective’s many conference rooms, inspired by the British countryside. View larger

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    View larger

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    A snack wall at Fueled Collective is one of the many amenities Chawla hopes to improve upon in future iterations of the co-working space. In the future, he plans to have snacks provided by corporate sponsors. View larger

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    More casual spaces from Fueled Collective—above, a private conference room’s white-board shows evidence of many layers of meetings, and below, a cozy living room-like space sits front and center amid a sea of open plan desks. View larger

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    More casual spaces from Fueled Collective—above, a private conference room’s white-board shows evidence of many layers of meetings, and below, a cozy living room-like space sits front and center amid a sea of open plan desks. View larger

lesson 1
Designing a successful office share is about designing a culture as much as a space.

Grind—a co-working facility now with two locations in NYC and one in Chicago—opened its first set of doors in 2011 after co-founder Benjamin Dyett grew tired of his nomad-like existence as an independent real estate lawyer constantly searching for a home base.

Grind's original location on Park Avenue was designed by architect Vince Bandy, while its Broadway and Chicago locations were designed by Mesh Architectures in Brooklyn.

"You're talking about a group of people who have been isolated and ignored, because as small entrepreneurs or solo entrepreneurs, they were working from their homes or working in coffee shops," explains Dyett of his clients. "Where was a nice place to have a professional meeting? Starbucks. Or they're working in friends' offices, freeloading off people. Now Grind, at least, treats them like grownups. Some people call us co-working for adults, because it gives them a highly designed professional workspace."

"It's designed to be seamless and frictionless. Our mission is to fit into our members' lifestyle, not our members to fit into ours," he adds.

"Everything is just so easy," agrees user Aisling Keogh, marketing and events director for Irishcentral.com, inhabitants of one of the team rooms at Grind on Broadway. Members walk in, tap their card and are automatically charged with whatever membership fee they have. They can sit down, work and not have to worry about the minutiae such as paper in the copier or where to get coffee. "They don't have to think about any of this stuff," says Dyett. "Everything we do, we do keeping in mind to not get in the way of our members focusing on their work."

And besides ultra-high speed internet service, members also gain access to Agora, Grind's own private social network of sorts that helps members connect. Everyone has a profile page that showcases their headshot, what they do, and if they're looking for a specific expertise at Grind. Members can search through the database and reach out to one another. When a user enters Grind every morning, they are also registered into that system; a screen next to the coffee bar displays everyone who has checked in.

"You might find that someone you want to speak to is sitting right next to you," says Dyett.

For Rameet Chawla, founder of Fueled Collective, it is not just about creating a work environment, but curating a lifestyle.

"Fashion brands do it really well," he says, "because they're designing for a certain lifestyle—not for a certain person or a certain vertical. I'm designing this business for a certain type of professional lifestyle, where you can work here, you can work there, you can add value no matter where you are, you don't have to be stuck to a certain location."

It is a lifestyle Chawla knows firsthand. Before Fueled Collective, there was simply Fueled, a tech-savvy service provider aimed at helping start-ups get their businesses off the ground. Fueled Collective came out of Chawla's own desire to find a space that fit his professional and personal ethos. Now the small network of office spaces has become a completely sustainable branch of his business, and most of his tenants are either current or future potential clients.


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