When working at home doesn’t work
BY KAREN BERKOWITZ
Angela Valavanis found she was too distracted by kids, laundry and dishes when she worked at home. She also missed the comaraderie of coworkers, a key reason she opened Creative Coworking in downtown Evanston. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Software developer Roman Fakhrazeyev tried working out of his Evanston home, but the father of a 2-year-old found there were too many distractions competing for his attention.
“It is hard to work with a child at home,” Fakhrazeyev said. “Even though I have a home office, it was ‘Honey, do this. Honey, do that.’ When you are working from home, it is too easy for the lines to get blurred.”
His wife came to the same conclusion and, in fact, was the one who started looking for a workplace outside the home. While searching online, they found Creative Coworking, a shared working space at 922 Davis St. in downtown Evanston that suited Fakhrazeyev’s needs perfectly.
Within the past 18 months, entrepreneurs have separately launched Creative Coworking and coLab Evanston to provide professional, yet casual, work space to people who might otherwise work at home or the neighborhood Starbucks. Workers can choose a variety of plans at different price points, from the use of a dedicated desk full-time, to occasional visits or rental of the conference room for meetings with clients.
Fakhrazeyev has a permanent desk but spends about half his time in a common area with lots of natural light.
“I can sit on the coach, put
my legs up on the table and work,” he said.
Coworking spaces have proved popular with freelance workers, consultants, entrepreneurs and even telecommuters for Fortune 500 companies who live far from the corporate office.
“I started the space, because I was working from home and it didn’t work for me,” said Angela Valavanis, co-owner of Creative Coworking with her husband, Stelios Valavanis, who runs a managed-services technology business.
“I was too distracted by kids, laundry and dishes. I also missed the camaraderie of having coworkers. I had worked in offices for 15-plus years. I missed that kind of environment.”
Eric Harper, who co-founded coLab Evanston at 900 Chicago Ave. with partner Miguel Wong, spent four years running two companies out of his home office in Evanston.
“It works fine for awhile, but for people who really derive energy from being around others, that only works for so long,” Harper said. “There comes a time when you really need a professional environment to get work done.”
Elizabeth Schmid, an editor for a company based in India that does eBook conversions, said she simply doesn’t have the space at home.
“My partner is also a telecommuter so we would be stepping on each other’s toes a bit,” said Schmid, who finds the space provides both solitude and social interaction, “the best of both worlds. I get to talk to people to keep from going crazy, and retreat to my desk and be quiet.”
Fakhrazeyev walks from home to his space at Creative Coworking, a 15-minute trek that helps keep him in shape. If he needs to hop on the Metra for a downtown meeting, he’s a minute away from the station and a 20-minute ride from downtown.
“This is a dream come true,” said Fakhrazeyev, pleased that he now can give work and family his undivided attention.