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We can work it out: Factory Forty

14:11 04/04/2013
Factory Forty offers shared workspace - complete with chickens and vintage furniture

While most people leave the house to go to work, a growing number of independents and freelancers work from home. As comfortable and convenient as spending the entire day in your home office may sound, it can also be isolating, limited daily interactions with other people. Or, with a lot of distractions around (laundry, TV, children), it can be less productive than you think.

Co-working spaces are becoming an ever-more popular alternative. Providing you with desks, internet access, coffee and the camaraderie of other members, they give you an office away from home.

Factory Forty recently opened in the Brussels commune of Forest, in the building where Brussels fashion designer Oliver Strelli used to work. Now a few companies share the premises; one of them is founder David Sdika, who launched the knitwear label Chauncey with his partner.

“When we started five years ago, we mainly worked from home,” Sdika says. “I often spent the day behind my computer, still wearing my pyjamas. We soon realised that working from home really blurs the boundaries between work and life. Renting an office somewhere else wasn’t really a solution, as it’s quite a commitment to sign a three-year lease when you’re not on a stable income.”

Sdika started looking for co-working spaces in Brussels but didn’t find what he was looking for. “Most of the spaces were aimed at certain financial profiles or made for start-up companies,” he says. “But I was looking for a creatively stimulating environment, something a bit like the Google office in San Francisco, where employees are treated to vivid colours and plenty to inspire them as well as relax them.”

A chance to network

That’s how the idea for Factory Forty was born. “The name refers to the industrial location in Forest and the street number,” Sdika says. “I like how the plain facade differs from what you’ll find inside. There’s a lounge on the ground floor, as well as a large open space that can be rented out for events. And the biggest asset is the garden, where we’ve got a vegetable patch and chickens.”

The co-working space is on the first floor. Plug in into one of the many desks or go for a smaller office with a door. “With vintage furniture in all sorts of colours, lamps and plants, I’ve tried to make the decor different from what people would have at home, and at the same time appealing to creative people such as journalists and graphic designers.”

Sharing your work space with a group of people you don’t know might sound confusing, but Sdika compares it to working in a library. “Everybody is quiet and busy,” he assures. “I noticed I work a lot harder when I’m surrounded by other people than I did when working alone at home.”

Another advantage is the possibility to network. “You might, for instance, be looking for somebody to help you with a website or a text that needs writing. The lounge or the garden are perfect for networking, having a smoke or relaxing with some coffee.”

So far, reactions to Factory Forty have all been positive. Sdika intends to improve the space with the feedback he gets from co-workers. He also plans to organise afterwork activities including barbecues and yoga sessions. “Everybody has got to work,” he adds. “But we’ll try to make the work conditions for people without an office as nice as possible.”

This article first appeared in Flanders Today

Written by Katrien Lindemans