Leo Burnett's Design Department Pilots Deskpass

Chicago Team Adopts Flexible Workspace Outside Headquarters

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Space is one of the 25-plus locations Deskpass members can work from.
Space is one of the 25-plus locations Deskpass members can work from. Credit: Space

Tired of the office and uninspired at home? There's an app for that, and Leo Burnett's using it.

The agency's design department has signed on with Deskpass, which will allow its creative team of 20 to work somewhere other than the office for the day.

Deskpass is the brainchild of Sam Rosen and Patrick Griffin, who are cofounders of One Design Company. The application works like a gym membership, where members pay a monthly rate of $200 to access a network of independently run coworking spaces throughout Chicago.

Many of the coworking spaces featured in Deskpass, which launches Wednesday, have large open floor plans, modern furnishings and art.

Take Space for example: it's a three floor, 25,000-square-foot warehouse located in downtown Chicago that's just across the street from the Trump Tower. While the second floor is filled with enough cubicles to make any accountant feel at home, the fifth floor is much more open, sporting exposed brick, wood beams and plenty of light.

"Leo Burnett's design department has a pretty traditional office space," Mr. Rosen said. "But because it is such a creative group, the team is looking for alternative places to work for a different perspective or to change things up. They think we are on to something and we want to work with them to see how they use the system."

Mr. Rosen and his business partner opened what many consider to be Chicago's first dedicated workspace in 2008 with The Coop. The 5,500 square foot business was eventually sold in 2012 to California-based NextSpace for an undisclosed amount.

And while the business operates under its new owner's name, it's still home to freelancers, startups and so-called "solopreneurs."

Since The Coop first opened its doors, more than 100 other coworking spaces have entered the Chicago market. All in all, there are about 2,220 coworking spaces in the world, Mr. Rosen said.

"The current real estate landscape of office space is broken and most people don't realize that," Mr. Rosen said. "I don't think coworking spaces will replace the traditional brick-and-mortar office, but they will significantly change it."

There are some 15 million workers who identify themselves as self-employed, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to continue to grow through 2020.

"Coworking spaces will change rigid contracts to fast moving, agile transactions," he added. "The office space isn't going anywhere, but commitments to a 10-or five-year lease will radically change in our life."

So what's the difference between Deskpass and other flexible workspaces like Regus? Regus has a similar service, but offers 10 visits for $329 versus Deskpass' monthly rate of $200. Regus also does not have a mobile app to secure spaces.

Alisa Wolfson, exec VP-head of design at Leo Burnett, said she plans to use Deskpass so she can "augment an already good situation" with her team's current workspace.

"One of the ways we would use Deskpass is as a reward for someone who had given the agency a lot from an hour standpoint or someone who needs to get some creativity," Ms. Wolfson said. "I know I get inspiration when I work off site. I think it is healthy, but this isn't something we would use every day."

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