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Third-Space Work Sites in St. Louis Give Office-Less a Place for Creativity and Professionalism

Locations in places such as downtown St. Louis City, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and Chesterfield provide a physical working space and other business services.

A dog barking in the background when you're trying to take a business call. A pile of laundry that seems to be calling your name. A dearth of room on the dining room table. These are just a few things that might make you rethink your decision to work from home. , I discussed the benefits and challenges of working from St. Louis Bread Company. But a cafe or coffee shop may not be quite the right ambience for your professional life.

This week, I learned a new phrase: the third space. Not home, not office: a physical or virtual location in which you can function professionally.

The Three Cs: Coolness, Collaboration and Creativity

I learned about St. Louis Coworking on Twitter. Intrigued by its very name, I visited its website and learned more. It is a space on the 11th floor of the Shell Building in downtown St. Louis City where, for a monthly fee, you can set up shop at your own desk.  

The "coworking" part of the establishment is plain to see when you walk through the doors: There are no interior walls in this loft space. The rows of adjacent desks are designed to give each person plenty of room to work—even add desk accessories, plants and family pictures. But you also can chat with your neighbor or work quietly, knowing you are not alone.

St. Louis Coworking offers drop-in and day rates, but some clients choose to make the space their permanent headquarters. Such is the case with Boom Reactive, a company that provides clients with social-media management, video and web production.

Jon Becker and Shaun Hautly work at adjacent desks, keeping normal office hours (9 to 5) Monday through Friday. Becker, who lives in Webster Groves, said productivity is high and opportunities for collaboration abound in this third space. He pointed to lunches with fellow St. Louis Coworking clients where ideas and inspiration are on the table.

"We can bounce ideas off of each other," Becker said. "It helps to be able to talk to people who are outside of your immediate business about things that you're doing. It give a fresh, outside perspective on what's going on."

Becker added that having a familiar address in downtown St. Louis is a plus, for convenience and cache. 

"We can say, 'I am in the Shell Building.' The Shell Building is a name that has a lot of recognition amongst a lot of people. So it's cool to have that address," Becker said. It's an ideal place for new business owners to find moral and professional support, he said.

Hautly used to run Boom Reactive from home. He said stepping into St. Louis Coworking each day gets him into a working "zone."

"I know I'm working from the minute I get here to the minute I leave. It's not like I sit around and take a long lunch and end up watching TV or something like that," Hautly said.

He added that having an office helps keep his work and personal life in their places.

"Work became very integrated into life, and that's not always a good situation," he said.

Hautly shared an example of the collaboration that can come from sharing a third space. Boom Reactive has bid on video projects for Van Leuven Communications, a public relations firm that also has a permanent shingle hanging at St. Louis Coworking. In turn, Van Leuven does PR for the space itself. Account executive Leah Almeling, one of two Van Leuven employees in the St. Louis office, said some kinds of business simply need a professional space. 

"We have to keep track of our billable hours for our clients," Almeling said. "When you're here, you feel like you can segment your time better. It's just hard to work at home because there are so many distractions. When you're here, you know that you're working, but it still can be fun."

Fun may be the operative word in this third space. While there, I spotted Hautly's skateboard. Becker had one eye on a project and another on his March Madness bracket. The industrial, loft motif will certainly appeal to younger, creative types and may not attract the suit-and-briefcase crowd.

St. Louis Coworking features include:

  • receptionist and secretarial services
  • local and long distance phone
  • high-speed Internet
  • conference room
  • lounge area
  • kitchen
  • communal seating and work "drop-in" area
  • rates for daily or monthly use

The Three Pss: Professional, Private and Personal

Regus caught my attention through its television commercials: They depict men and women in suits working in what appear to be very typical corporate offices. The company, which is worldwide, calls itself "the new way to work."

There are three Regus Centre facilities in the St. Louis area: in , and Maryland Heights. I checked out the Maryland Heights space, which is on the .

First impressions are important, and the Regus receptionist knows her stuff. She rose to greet me by name as I came through the glass doors into the waiting area. Area team leader Margaret Heath gave me the grand tour: more than 40 private offices of varying sizes; large and small conference rooms; a kitchen I wish I had at home; and a comfortable business lounge. 

Heath said Regus clients at Westport Plaza include professionals from the fields of finance, insurance and technology, as well as corporate recruiters, mortgage brokers, software developers and consultants. As in the case of St. Louis Coworking, Heath said customers like what an impressive address says about their companies.

"Clients will tend to want to be here because they love Westport. This is a very prominent building," Heath said. "Especially if they have meetings or want take clients to a nice lunch or dinner, the amenities are just great here. Everyone knows where Westport, the gold tower, is."

Whereas the typical client at St. Louis Coworking might value a casual, creative vibe, people who use Regus might be seeking a more discreet and private space without the overhead.

"They can have the Class A image that they need for their company without the big footprint," Heath said. "They don't have to do the long-term leases, they don't have to take on more space that what they need."

Accountant Janice Roberg can walk to Regus at Westport from her home in Maryland Heights. She works there year-round and hires another accountant during tax season, who also works at Regus. Roberg had the barking dog problem I mentioned earlier in this article. 

"I don't know why," she said. "But my dog hates the IRS." 

The pooch has a habit of loudly barking whenever Roberg is on the telephone with the Internal Revenue Service. But that's not the only reason she's at Regus.

"I wanted to have a professional office," Roberg said. "A real office, where people can find me."

And when they can't find her?

"Even if I'm not here, somebody's answering my phone." That's key, Roberg said, when panicked clients are searching for tax help. 

While at Regus, I actually used an office briefly—to do a phone interview with a Regus executive in New York. (Full disclosure: I learned the term "third space" from a Regus representative). The office had a large, clean desk and a round table in the corner. There was a great view, which is highly conducive to working—at least for me.

Vice President Scott Nelles told me that Regus got its foot in the "third space" door back in the 1980s, when an increasing number of companies were thinking globally, and even entrepreneurs were spending more time on the road.

Some things have changed, Neles said, while others haven't. Even in a wireless world, corporations and their customers like personal attention. 

“That is one of the most defining things about Regus," Neles said. "You have the absolute sense of being treated professionally.”

Both St. Louis Coworking and Regus offer "virtual offices" as well: business support such as phone-answering, a physical address, and even mail-forwarding and other services. For Regus, it is part of being a leader in the third-space world.

“We’re trying to be a driving force in changing the way people work; looking at their office as not even necessarily a place that you go to," he said.

Regus features:

  • receptionist and secretarial service
  • 24/7 access (Regus staff is on-site during business hours)
  • high-speed Internet
  • security and housekeeping
  • IT support
  • Video communications suite
  • National and global access to Regus Centres 
  • Rates allow daily or monthly use

Other Third Space Options

  • Westplex Coworking. Based in O'Fallon, for now this initiative is online only. Check out the Facebook page.
  • Nebula Coworking. This place is on Cherokee Street in St. Louis.

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