Friday Find: cove

When I started my freelance career 10 years ago, my "office" was a desk in the middle of our dining room (#notoptimal). So when we moved, one of my key requirements for our new home was a dedicated office with a door. I'm blessed to have said office, but now one of my biggest challenges is that unless I have meetings, I lack both adult human contact and transition time to shift from work to family mode. Don’t get me wrong, in general, I love not having to commute, but some days, the lack of transition time is definitely a problem.

I’ve fantasized about an external office but the reality is: 1) I don't want to commit to exorbitant rent (especially since I have a dedicated home office); and 2) I don’t want to commute every day. So when cove invited me to test drive their productivity space, I was intrigued. This DC-based startup currently offers Boston-area locations on Newbury Street and in Union Square, Somerville (with a couple more locations forthcoming!). I visited the Somerville location on Monday and it was pretty rad. If you’ve been pondering a workspace option, here are 8 reasons why I think you should consider cove.

1. Starbucks is not an office. Let me just say it plainly, everyone jokes about their Starbucks office but Starbucks is not an office! On more than one occasion I've found myself grumpy with nowhere to sit with my kids because all the freelancers are hogging tables for hours on end while nursing their one coffee. But more critically, I recently read a rather terrifying article about what identity thieves can glean from unsecured wifi. The wifi at cove is free and secure.

2. If coffee is a lure, cove has it (along with other productivity essentials). cove offers unlimited coffee (in Somerville it’s from neighboring Fortissimo Coffeehouse -- YUM!) and other beverages. They also offer the aforementioned wifi, as well as printing, scanning, and plenty of outlets. There also happened to be donuts the day I was there (though that’s not an everyday thing).

3. And speaking of donuts. The Union Square location is within steps of Bloc 11 Cafe and Union Square Donuts. It was so nice to break out and grab lunch at Bloc 11 (the Harper salad is delicious). I didn’t actually eat donuts on Monday (#oversight), but I will next time.

4. It's where grownups work. I’ve only ever worked in one other coworking space (while out in Los Angeles on business) and at that location there was a decidedly young party vibe that made me feel, well, OLD. cove is a place for grownups -- it’s library quiet and people are respectful.

5. Though it's library quiet you can still talk. cove offers a variety of seating -- bar height, single desks, and four-tops, but if you need to talk there's a conference room you can reserve and also call boxes (i.e., phone booths). One improvement would be a reservation system for the call boxes; they’re currently first come, first serve (with a 30-minute limit), which I suspect tends to work out, but I had a moment of anxiety when both call boxes were full and I needed to jump on a conference call. It did, however, all work out -- I asked if I could use the conference room, which they said was fine, and then someone ended up exiting one of the call boxes.

6. Pre-commitment visiting options + flexible membership plans. If you want to go test cove out, the first visit is free, and you can also purchase non-member day passes. Otherwise, cove offers 3 membership plans: 1) "burst" ($59/month for 1.5 hours/day); 2) "steady" ($89/month for 4 hours/day); and 3) "all in" ($249/month unlimited access). Time is tracked by swiping via an app as you enter and leave the building so, for example, if you go make a donut run, your time is paused until you return. Hours are Sunday 9am - 11pm, Monday - Thursday 8am - 11pm, Friday 8am - 8pm, and Saturday 9am - 8pm (locations are staffed during all business hours).

7. It's crazy affordable. Compared to a couple of other well-known coworking spaces, cove is crazy affordable. For example, at the time of this writing, We Work’s lowest priced option is $45/month for 1 day per month and the next membership level is $350/month. YIKES. Workbar is $30/day with the next level being $125/month for 5 days/month. I asked cove how they are able to maintain such affordable rates and they noted the shared economy (no dedicated offices or desks) + the fact that they forego offering perks that are nice (e.g., free lunch every day, beer on tap, full kitchen) but that are not necessary to most people every day and drive up membership costs.

8. Inspires killer productivity. I’m a pretty productive person, but one of the downfalls of working out of a home office is the temptation of home things, whether it’s household chores (which I’m pretty good at tuning out) or other more fun distractions. Working at cove kept me laser focused on work. Right now I’m contemplating a “steady” membership because I think that even if I worked there 1-2 times a week for 4 hour stints it would be a pretty awesome way to laser focus on some big consulting projects I have coming down the pike.

SUMMARY: cove is an awesome solution if you're looking for a quiet, well appointed, affordable space to get things done. My two wish list items would be a scheduling system for the call boxes to avoid conference call panic, and also some kind of system (under desk lockers?) to secure valuables if you just need to step away from your desk briefly. Otherwise, it's awesome and I highly recommend you check it out!

Disclosure: This post reflects an editorial partnership with cove. All opinions and storytelling about the space are, of course, my own!