Mike Woycheck | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mike Woycheck


Alloy 26 is a co-working space in Nova Place on Pittsburgh's North Side that touts itself as the second largest co-working space in the U.S.

The Mistake:

I didn’t realize the importance of providing a variety of spaces where people could work. It was something I had to experience to learn.

Early in my career, I worked in a traditional office environment filled with office cubes and small rooms. The workplace was a mundane experience – moving around meant going to the water cooler. Your desk was your workspace and the epicenter of your universe.

That has changed. As the program manager at Innovation Works at AlphaLab from 2008 to 2013, a tech accelerator, we worked hard to create a co-working component, which evolved as we lived in the space. AlphaLab had desks and individual offices, floating white boards and a highly flexible workspace. But looking back, I could have done a lot more cool stuff had I been more aware of the benefits of diversifying the space.

From there I went to work at Google Pittsburgh. The experience changed my perception of the benefits of a varied working environment.

What I learned is people are inspired if they can move around.

The Lesson:

People need spaces that offer opportunities for inspiration, collaboration and a change of internal scenery. I began to see this when I went into the offices of other local tech startups like NoWait and Duolingo as well as Google Pittsburgh.

What I learned is people are inspired if they can move around. The desk is no longer the sole area that constitutes where we work. Coffee shops help because they change the scenery, but people don’t want to work in coffee shops, either. They prefer to be among people they know.

Google creates a large environment with lots of smaller areas with different scenery. One space may have a lot of white boards. Another has chairs or a hammock and comfortable furniture where you aren’t hunched over a desk. Spaces like these at Google – a company that has been doing this for 15 years – work because they shake things up.

What I’ve come to realize is offering an opportunity to move from a couch to a standing desk overlooking Bakery Square helps people change their perspective.

Opportunities for stimulation encourage productivity. You don’t have to have the resources of a company like Google to accomplish this. This is something we are trying to engender at Alloy 26. It’s a bit of an art. I’m now looking into creating spaces that offer utility and benefits while making our workforce happier. People thrive in spaces where they are offered variety.

Follow Alloy 26 on Twitter at @alloy26 and Mike Woycheck ​at @woycheck.

​Image courtesy of Mike Woycheck

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