Shared office space company offers solutions

Aileen Baxter has been working from her Winnetka home for the past eight years, and loves that she doesn’t have to deal with the one hour commute to and from her company’s office.

But the career coach for Deloitte Consulting recently had her third child, which she said made her cozy home office just too loud.

“It was getting very hard for me to separate home from work,” said Baxter. “It was difficult to focus.”

Coworkers, a new shared office space company solved Baxter’s problem. For the past six weeks, Baxter has been leasing shared office space in the company’s newly renovated building at the corner of Wilmette Avenue and Central Street in the heart of downtown Wilmette.

“The space is really inviting,” Baxter said. “It’s decorated nicely, it’s big, it has private areas for when I’m on the phone with clients, and it’s 10 minutes from my house.”

Owned by Wilmette residents, George Rafeedie and Mike Chookaszian, Coworkers is located on the second floor of 1167 Wilmette Avenue, the 100-year-old building that houses Al’s Meat Market, Dinner at Eight and Gilson’s on its first floor.

Completely renovated with hardwood floors, bright lighting and modern designer furniture, Coworkers, which charges its renters a monthly fee, is 2,200 square feet of shared and private offices, multiple conference rooms, a stylish waiting area for clients, a kitchenette, and an equipment room with a fax machine, copy machine, scanner, and printers.

“Our purpose of this is to help people be more fulfilled about their work life balance,” said Chookaszian, a commercial real estate developer and investor who owns the building, and who met Rafeedie three years ago while both happened to working on their computers at Fuel, the Wilmette restaurant located in the 1222 Washington Court building, which Chookaszian also owns.

“When I started my company I had an office downtown, but I realized I liked the flexibility of being able to work remotely,” said Rafeedie, who is the owner of Tell Your Story, his brand communications, marketing and public relations firm. “I started working out of Fuel, Rock House and other restaurants and coffee shops.

Rafeedie said he began inquiring about leasing space, which made him realize the need for office space where established professionals could work.

“In big cities, this type of format is exploding, but not in the suburbs,” said Rafeedie, who holds a graduate degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University.

According to the owners, Coworkers caters to three types of clients: people who aren’t required to work at their office everyday, but who don’t want to work from home, people who work from home full time, but whose kids might come home after school or camp, causing distractions, or people who have always been in a mobile work situation, who are tired of doing their work at Starbucks.

In addition to the quiet, professional environment, Chookaszian, who holds an MBA from Northwestern University said Coworkers is a great place to take advantage of networking.

Citing statistics from the website, Deskmag.com, Rafeedie said a recent study revealed that of men and women who work in shared office space, 82 percent said they were more motivated, 60 percent said they were more relaxed at home, and 50 percent reported higher incomes.

“Four kids between the ages of five and 12 and it’s summer,” said Mike Cox of Wilmette, a marketing and business development company executive who has been working at Coworkers for the past month and a half. “Working at home is impossible. I can really focus here. It’s quiet and it’s not only functional, but it’s a lot nicer than my home office.”

“I love my kids dearly, but I’m so much more productive here,” Baxter said.

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