It’s easy for an office to suck.
In the corporate world, think Dilbert, where the office is characterized as a soul-crushing cubicle farm populated by distracting or under-performing coworkers and incompetent or self-interested bosses — just all-around self-perpetuating suck. A small business office can be just as bad. Maybe there is less room for failure, necessitating a higher level of office functionality, but many of the same frictions are there.
These frictions annoy people off so much that their frustration creates fallout. Instead of light-hearted socialization around the water cooler (or dinner table — we all know that what happens at work doesn’t always stay at work), you get awkward, agitated silence, or, just slightly better, a therapeutic release of steam. If you work alone or in a sufficiently small team, friction can easily grow from creating inefficiency to creating waste. Either way, it’s not ideal. In fact, it’s just bad: Bad for business and bad for people.
For the record, not all offices suck. A lot of fuss has been made about the workplaces designed by companies like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and for good reason. If you have the skill set and the temperament, surveys suggest that it’s much better to work at a top-tier tech company flush with cash than, say, RadioShack (NYSE:RSH), which was rated one of the worst places to work in 2013 by Glassdoor.
Unfortunately, most companies either lack the will or the resources to invest in their workplace — or, more broadly, to invest in culture, where there is arguably a larger ROI. The exceptions (top-tier tech companies, or firms like Bridgewater) are talent magnets, which is a competitive edge that’s hard to beat.
But offices can also suck for those outside the traditional corporate structure. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, bootstrap startups, and small businesses find themselves working out of basements, cafes, and garages, and often pining, somewhat ironically, for the conveniences of a traditional office — things like conference rooms, technology, and, above all else, community.
For many, the solution to this problem has been community workspaces. In their most basic form, workspaces serve as office space for rent, an on-demand desk and chair or conference room. However, while there is value here, vanilla workplaces often leave much to be desired. They satisfy a need for, say, a private meeting space or a place to call “work” that is not home or Starbucks, but not much else. If you are serious about your business, this may not be enough.
Enter Grind, a collaboration by a group of companies at the cutting edge of tech and design that promises to give wanting entrepreneurs and freelancers what they really need out of a workplace. Grind is a workplace that minimizes the frictions that so often make offices suck and, above all, champions community.
“Grind isn’t an office,” the company says, “it’s the antidote to offices.”
When we spoke to Grind co-founder and grill master Benjamin Dyett, he said, “The power of Grind comes from the diversity of the community. … No one here is paying me for a desk and a chair. If that were the case, this place would be empty.” But the place — three places, actually: two in New York and one in Chicago — isn’t empty. People from every corner of the self or remote employed use Grind as their office antidote.
You can visit the website if you want details about how it works, but here’s the executive summary: If you want to join Grind, you have to pay, and you have to play nice. The Grind community is curated, or members only, so trolls need not apply. The type of people who choose to participate in the Grind community appear to do so deliberately, with full intention not just to use those around them as resources, but to be a resource to those around them.