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Coworking Spaces: Interview with Workbar’s Bill Jacobson

As part of our #TakeBack60 campaign, we’re exploring some nontraditional, fun spaces that can help workers get productive. A few months ago, we highlighted the Top 10 Coolest Working Spaces in the US. We decided to reach out to a few of the spaces to learn more about what makes them so unique.

Using iMeet, I recently met with Bill Jacobson, Co-founder and CEO of Workbar. We discussed how Workbar first started and chatted about some of its unique features.

LL: How did you come up with the idea for Workbar?

Bill: In the mid-90s, I subleased office space for my tech startup company. I received an email informing me that the main tenant who I was subleasing from was moving out and taking everything.

Overnight, I went from subleasing a small office to squatting in a large, empty one.  I began to think of different ways we could effectively use all of the extra space. At that time, I wanted to work with more people. My company consisted of only about four individuals and I felt additional people would help create a more dynamic and collaborative environment.

I spoke to the building’s landlord and pitched the idea of turning the place into a coworking space. We opened the first Workbar location a few months later.

LL: How have you designed the office space?

Bill: There are a variety of professionals that all have different needs and work styles. At Workbar, we try to cater to all of them.

Our Workbar Cambridge location is divided into four different work zones: the Café, the Commons, the Switchboard and the Study. Depending on what you need to accomplish, you can choose which room will help you be most productive.

The Café

Many people enjoy working in a café type setting—so we’ve created our own. This section has conference rooms and phone rooms. There’s even a food bar where professionals are welcome to help themselves. This space is also often repurposed for our various events.

The Commons

One of our most popular sections, this space is designed with group work in mind.This is great when you and a small team need to work together on projects or brainstorm ideas.

The Switchboard

If you’re communicating with an external audience, this is the space for you. Host or attend conference calls or virtual meetings in your own private space.

The Study

Just like it sounds, you can find some peace in quiet in this section. If you’re working alone this is where you need to be.

All of these spaces have a mixture of unassigned seats and team rooms so you can move from room to room depending on your needs. If you need something a bit more stable, you can also get a permanent desk in the Commons, Switchboard or the Study.

This setup allows our members to have the professionalism of a corporate office with some added flexibility.

LL: Is there a specific type of professional you are trying to target?

Bill: We believe a diverse membership can help produce positive results. We have individuals who work in a variety of industries and company sizes. Our professionals include freelancers, start-ups and even remote employees who work for larger enterprises.

LL: What is so unique about Workbar?

Bill: In addition to our Workbar locations, we also have what we call OuterSpaces. OuterSpaces is a network of about 15 established companies located throughout the Boston and Cambridge areas that offer our members access to their unused office space. This helps give our members even more variety when selecting their preferred location.

We’ve also taken this a step further and created a program called Centers of Excellence. This is an industry focused program that is hosted by our company partners. For example, we’ve teamed up with Digital Credit Union (DCU) to create the “DCU Financial Services Center of Excellence”. To participate, members must be a startup company within the financial services industry. Workbar members who qualify can work out of DCU’s office and have the opportunity to receive mentorship and access to DCU’s high-level management. We’re also doing similar programs within the Sales and Marketing industries as well.

LL: How do you see these coworking spaces evolving over the next few years?

Bill: I see a trend towards these larger coworking spaces, but I think we need more. I don’t want to commute 45 minutes to work, but I want to go further than my bedroom.

Here at Workbar we’re trying to solve that problem. By creating an extensive network of smaller spaces that are still closely connected to the main workspace, members are able to eliminate long commutes and still have access to the large network of professionals. It’s really the best of both worlds.

To learn more about Workbar check out their web site at http://workbar.com

 

About Lorna Love

Originally from Florida, Lorna moved to Atlanta to join the PGi team. In between trying to get used to Atlanta traffic and the crazy weather, she spends her free time playing with her dog, Mylo. Lorna enjoys writing about online collaboration tools and meeting tips.

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