Working from home is the envy of many cubicle-corralled professionals, but it's easy to overlook the challenges that come with being able to work in your jammies.

Working from home is the envy of many cubicle-corralled professionals, but it's easy to overlook the challenges that come with being able to work in your jammies.

"I had been working at home for a few years and it was kind of starting to set in, I was really feeling lonely," said Neal Roberts, who runs his own marketing agency.

Reacting to obstacles he and other independent professionals faced, Roberts and his wife opened a co-working space in German Village two months ago. Qwirk, a communal workspace, provides its members the resources of a traditional office - like printers, mail service and a kitchen - along with the water-cooler talk that follows. In exchange, users pay a daily or monthly fee for a desk.

Qwirk was the first of its kind to open in the city, but it's not a new idea - co-working is already well established on the coasts. After local bloggers talked up the concept for over a year, co-working spaces are popping up all over town.

"It's not about the desk. It's about supporting people and helping build a community through networking," said David Hunegnaw, creator of Sandbox Columbus.

Sandbox is open for co-working but is still undergoing renovations. When it's finished, it'll feature home-y perks like a laundry facility, shower and bicycles for errands, plus a sandpit with a hammock for R&R. The white-walled space is designed to be open and airy, just like the exchange of ideas inside.

Johnny Davis, who recently moved his earth-friendly product development company to Sandbox, said he relishes the varied expertise of his new co-workers.

"You have all the answers to your questions a shout away," said Davis, who made the choice to relocate the two-man business he helped found after working from a living room for some time.

For others, though, entrepreneurship is something forced into their laps thanks to the recession. Daniel Barham was let go from his job when his law firm downsized, so he chose to pursue a career as a sole practitioner. After working at home and from coffee shops, he was happy to find an office at Qwirk.

"What a lot of people don't realize is when you work at home, work is always there. You're always tempted to answer that phone," he said.

Qwirk consists entirely of offices - a draw for professionals like Barham, who require privacy. Inside are 14 rooms, each with two desks. There's also a conference room equipped for video chat and a lounge with a PlayStation 3.

Before the summer is over, at least three more operational co-working spaces are slated to open in Columbus: Corkboard, Indie House and Sandbox Gahanna.

Indie House will focus on creative professionals, while Sandbox Gahanna will feature a kids-friendly approach to attract working parents. Membership between the Sandbox locations will be transferable, and a Granville location is also in the future, Hunegnaw said.

Corkboard creator Bryce Glass is considered by Roberts and several others to be the one who got the co-working ball rolling in Columbus. Glass first organized a meet-up to talk about the concept in November 2007. He's a little surprised how much it's grown, but pleased.

"The more options that are out there, the more types of communities will form, which I think will be good for people," Glass said.