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Corporations Picking Up Bill for Co-Working

August 14, 2008
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Chris Jurney loves his job as a senior programmer of video games with Relic Entertainment. So when he moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Philadelphia because of his wife’s work, he was worried that he might not be able to return to his job.

But after a stint at a sister company, Jurney was thrilled that his bosses at Relic said he could come back to work for them and telecommute from his home in Philadelphia. But as many teleworkers soon realize, working from home can quickly lose its appeal.

“I was going totally stir crazy,” Jurney says.

The 31-year-old pitched a new idea to his boss. He found a place called Independents Hall just 30 minutes from his home, where he could share office space, have his own desk, free Internet, a conference room and all the coffee he could drink for $275 a month.

Relic agreed to foot the bill in order to keep Jurney productive and happy, says Tarrnie Williams, general manager at the company.

“Chris had worked with us for a number of years, and in the video game industry it’s really hard to find truly excellent senior talent,” Williams says.

Co-working spaces have been around for a long time, but traditionally they have been the domain of entrepreneurs and freelancers. However, owners of co-working spaces say they are seeing more corporate teleworkers coming in, and in more than a few instances, they are getting their employers to foot the bill.

“We have a handful of people here who work at large companies that are far away and are paying for their employees to work here,” says Miguel McKelvey, owner of Green Desk, a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York.

Co-working is an attractive option for teleworkers in urban areas like San Francisco and New York, where employees may live in apartments that are too small for home offices, observers say.

And for employers like Relic, paying monthly fees that can range from $200 to $450 a month isn’t a huge cost, considering how hard it is to find specialists in certain fields, particularly technology, says Rose Stanley, practice leader, professional development at WorldatWork.

“Some employers may decide to subsidize part of it if it means keeping those employees,” she says.

Jurney says that co-working allows him to also brainstorm a bit with other programmers at Independents Hall—which he wouldn’t have been able to do working from home.

“It’s a pretty creative space,” he says.

To make sure that Jurney still feels connected to his colleagues at Relic, the company has placed a video camera on his old desk in Vancouver, where he works one week a month.

“So when you get in every morning, you can walk by his desk and say, ‘Hey, Chris,’ and there he is,” Williams says. “We want him to feel as included as possible.”

Whether company-paid co-working becomes a trend remains to be seen, but it’s a great thing for companies to know about, Stanley says.

“I think it will pick up as more companies become aware of this option,” she says. “It seems like these sites are popping up everywhere.”

—Jessica Marquez

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