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A New Guide to Chicago’s Co-Working Spaces

Because the camping-out-at-Starbucks thing can only work for so long.

The Shift, with locations in Uptown and Logan Square, offers spots for people not eager to commute into downtown.   Photo: Courtesy of The Shift

If you’re a freelancer, independent contractor, or a work-from-home type who isn’t cut out for working from your actual home, you’re likely a regular at neighborhood coffee shops. That setup can work—until you need a quiet place to conduct calls without milk being frothed in the background.

Then, it’s time to consider co-working spaces, the phenomenon of office spaces shared among independent workers (who now make up 20 to 30 percent of the workforce, according to a report from McKinsey).

Here are six of Chicago’s best.

WeWork

WeWork is undoubtedly the biggest player in the industry, with locations all around the world including six here in Chicago, in the Loop, River North, and Fulton Market. It runs like the well-oiled machine you’d expect: each floor has a printer, there are conference rooms and private phone booths on site, and the workspaces are designed around hip living-room-style lounges that promote mingling among members.

Coolest feature: A WeWork membership comes with perks at partner companies, like Zipcar, that you’d expect to find at a corporate gig.

Cost: Desks start at $350 a month; offices start at $700 a month

The Shift

The No. 1 thing that stands out about Nicole Vasquez’s three-year-old The Shift: It’s not downtown, so North Siders can work from Uptown and eliminate the trek to the Loop. A second location, aptly called Second Shift, also recently opened in Logan Square. Both have what you need to “get shift done,” as their motto goes. Expect standard desks and a relaxed coffee-shop vibe, plus extras like standing desks and exercise balls for those who can manage to shoot off emails while balancing.

Coolest feature: The focus on community. There are free networking events and member show-and-tells every two weeks. Vasquez also promotes members’ businesses on site and online.

Cost: $145 a month for group table seating; $295 a month for a dedicated desk and mail service ($325 at Second Shift)

Creative Coworking

Creative Coworking will soon expand from its original Evanston location to a second space in Edgewater’s Colvin House. Forget about stuffy corporate vibes here. The space feels like you’re working in someone’s home (albeit a well-equipped one) and doubles as an art gallery featuring work by local artists. The Evanston location spreads its meeting rooms and desks across a few floors (plus a rooftop), with dedicated quiet and collaboration zones. 

Coolest feature: Interns are ready to help with tasks like social media, website support, and designing marketing materials.

Cost: Visit the Evanston location three times a month for $50 ($75 in Edgewater); $250 a month for unlimited membership ($300 in Edgewater); $500 a month and up for a private office ($1,000 in Edgewater)

Space

The lofty River North Space by Doejo offers 24/7 access, printing services (first 20 pages a month are complimentary), and conference rooms for up to 18 people that you can book via an app. There’s also always Bow Truss coffee brewing, and the office has bike racks so you don’t have to worry about locking up in busy River North.

Coolest feature: Lunch-and-learns that are general enough to be relevant across industries. Two recent sessions covered daily nutrition and conquering sales fears.

Cost: $20 for a day pass; $199 a month for open seating; $399 for a dedicated desk; $999+ for a private office

Level Office

The local company’s gone national but counts three offices here (number four—in River North—is expected to open this fall). Most of the memberships come with access to any location, which means you can pull up to a desk if you happen to be traveling to cities such as Seattle, Denver, and Dallas. The stylish, modern spaces are stocked with healthy snacks, fancy coffee makers, and the usual printing services.

Coolest feature: There’s local beer on tap in the break room.

Cost: $99 a month; $199+ for a dedicated desk; $349+ for a private office; $2,999+ for an office suite

Brooklyn Boulders

Not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you need to get work done, but the West Loop climbing facility also counts a workspace in its 25,000 square feet. The working area has free WiFi and overlooks the climbing wall—a welcome distraction if procrastination is part of your process. At the end of the day, though, it’s still a gym, so don’t expect it to be library-esque.

Coolest feature: Did we mention that your breaks can be spent rappelling instead of standing awkwardly by the water cooler?

Cost: $125 a month, plus a $100 activation fee, for access to workout classes, equipment, and co-working space

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