Coworking Spaces – the Working Environment beyond Shared Offices

Coworking is a buzzword. It also sounds very trendy, or maybe already obsolete. In a city like Brussels, the hub of Europe, shared offices are a normal part of urban life. While most of these places combine working and networking, it is rather challenging to provide a distinctive work atmosphere and something more than physical spaces where people can work. 

Portrait of Factory Forty today, with its founder David Stika, French expat in Belgium

Going back to the beginnings, coworking is a movement that started in 2006 in Europe. It spread quickly, together with the proliferation of the individual activities of bloggers, developers, consultants, micro-businesses, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other independent workers. David was at that time a freelancer working from home, and he soon discovered a collaborative space during a visit to Berlin. Once the idea of no longer working at home was settled in his mind, David started to look for a real coworking space. After an unsuccessful search, the young freelancer decided to develop his own approach to the coworking concept. “I wanted a place open to everyone, where I would not feel different from the others or isolated from them”, he notes.

Factory Forty – a family affair with chickens and a vegetable garden

The main characteristic of Factory Forty is that of being a family business with a highly homelike atmosphere: David’s family, including his parents (who have moved to Brussels), run the coworking space. For David, the most important thing was to create at Factory Forty what he likes the most: a varied ecosystem, with chickens, a vegetable garden, or even a beehouse. “I need to be connected to nature”, he says.

Despite being a business, Factory Forty seems to have first of all a human-oriented approach. Every co-worker is known by his/her name, and there are no closing hours. Moreover, there are no contracts, no minimum period to rent an office or an open space, and no security deposit to pay. It’s one of the leading principles at Factory Forty, doing things naturally and sincerely. “If it’s only about marketing and profit, it will not work. We are doing things that we would like to find in other places as well. And I need to experience humanity”, adds David.
Compared to other coworking establishments, Factory Forty resembles events and collaborative spaces, individual or shared. Everyone meets everyone, there are synergies, and relaxing moments happen, with ping-pong games or taking selfies with the house rooster. There are resemblances to a bed & breakfast formula for a range of different professionals and even students coming to study during the summer for important exams. All of the approximately 200 co-workers who participate in Factory Forty are benefitting from a high level of flexibility and the ability to organise their work in a place where they feel comfortable.

Being a people-oriented person, David is an attentive listener to his co-workers’ recommendations to improve the services and the work environment. He is also an observer of the smallest details. In this sense, he noticed that the independent workers at Factory Forty were growing their activities not necessarily thanks to networking or synergies, but simply thanks to working better daily. David has taken care, therefore, to gather a considerable collection of adaptors and chargers for laptops and mobile phones just in case someone ever needs one.
Even if he agrees that it’s cheaper to work from home, David doesn’t believe that working at home is efficient. “I’ve experienced it myself, while working at home we become crazy. It’s important to exit the comfort zone”. Regarding his plans for Factory Forty, David wants to keep it as it is: a family-run place allowing interaction among co-workers and where confidence is the growth driver.

Photos: FactoryForty 

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