“Locked in a little room, by myself, with nobody to talk to, nobody to share ideas with, no one to work with, no life force,” recalls Benjamin Dyett of his life as a freelancer. With no decent place to work, he often found himself working alone and in a vacuum, bouncing from one windowless office to another. “I felt more lonely than when I worked from home.”
And that is when Dyett and a few friends came up with the idea of Grind, a sleek New York nerve center made exclusively for the power freelancer. And to walk into the space is to kiss any notion of “windowless office” goodbye. Located on the second floor of 419 Park Avenue South in Manhattan’s bustling Gramercy district, natural light pours through huge windows, while four-seater tables and ergonomic seats invite people to come together in an airily vast professional environment devoid of cliques, cubicles or compartments. Dyett fashioned Grind to be the polar opposite of the soul-crushing coffins he found himself in previously; the most isolated workers can become is at a table-for-two behind removable blinds. Wired throughout for WiFi and broadband; with copiers, scanners, faxes, and a coffee bar standing at the ready; and with meeting rooms tucked discreetly to the side, Grind very quickly coalesces itself into the dream workspace of Generation X. Freelancers of all generations have finally been given a home-court advantage when meeting clients.
At first glance, Grind gives a greater impression of being a cafeteria or the atrium of a college dorm than an office, and is just as communal. Touchy-feely community, explains Dyett, is the point. “We’re a collaborative workspace; if everybody here was an app developer, it would be a competitive workspace.”
Collaboration is the heart and soul of Grind. Whether by signing up on the company website or via referral, Dyett and his team curate the membership (Grind is members-only) to be proactively symbiotic. The skills of one “Grindist” can be synched with those of another: The website designer in desperate search for a copywriter is never more than one degree of separation distant, and the Grind team works to bring complementary parties together if required. Members get their own digital profile page listing their abilities and a card that is a veritable key to the kingdom. Flash it at the Grind Gallery and your uploaded portfolio will appear on a wall of monitors for viewing.
Then there is “Rethink.” Explains Noreen Chadha, Experience Director at Grind, “This is a monthly morning speaker series we do for our members, but also free to anyone. We have a discussion, there’s some Q&A, a nice breakfast and coffee. It’s a way for people to be introduced to someone from various industries.”
Moreover, Grind, in partnership with Skillshare.com, hosts classes covering subjects ranging from nutrition to "how to market your brand", from "how to work in Excel" to "how to be a better writer."
Expect the Grind experience to soon be sharpened by working collaborations with Behance.net, Coolhunting.com, Magicandmight.com and Breakfastny.com, as the team behind this innovative workplace looks to building a bright future. With plans to expand into Los Angeles, Chicago and D.C., Dyett is committed to reinventing the freelance work zone.
“Grind is casual and fluid,” he says. “From schedules to seating to people exchanging ideas and expertise, we want the environment to flow.”
And if success is any measure, it certainly has.