Thanks to technology, the concept of the office is transforming. Today's worker is no longer dependent on a laptop and a cubicle. All that's needed, in most cases, to accomplish a full day's work is a laptop, mobile phone, Wi-Fi, coffee and a bathroom. That's given rise to co-working spaces across the country in some unexpected places, like restaurants, hotels and even a brewery.
Mark Gilbreath, founder and CEO of LiquidSpace, an online network for listing and licensing flexible office space, says that he's seeing a variety of new options in the world of co-working (including a co-working boat). He points out that a co-working location isn't so much about the space, itself. Rather, it's about the opportunity to connect. “The fundamental essence of co-working is the human experience, of working in community with others," says Gilbreath. “As Wi-Fi has grown more readily available, and as professionals have tuned into the pleasures of co-working, myriad physical environments have embraced mobile workers seeking community. Libraries, hotels, restaurants during off hours, houseboats, seaside cabanas, airport lounges, growing companies with space to share, corporate offices and, yes, self-declared co-working spaces can all count themselves as a part of the co-working movement," he says.
Here are some oriented businesses that are finding new ways to reach different audiences by meeting their co-working needs—with a dose of hospitality.
Going Beyond the Hotel Lobby
The laptop-toting masses in Chicago have a new, free option when it comes to co-working: a living-room-like space called Between on the second floor of the ACME Hotel Company, a quirky boutique hotel in Chicago. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi, free coffee, free snacks, power outlets galore and comfy couches are available to anyone looking for a space to work, says ACME Hotel sales and marketing director Brent Hinton.
The co-working area is normally an evening bar (called Bodega), but it sat empty during the day. “The idea came about, how do we get more people up there? How do we give back to the community a little bit?" says Hinton. The hotel decided a communal work space would be a welcome offering to the locals who have been supportive of the hotel (and its on-site bars and bakery).
—Preston Pesek, co-founder and CEO, Spacious
He adds that the hotel also benefits from the space being used, because it draws Chicagoans in. “It really helps with the overall ambiance and feel of the hotel," he says.
Brewing Up a Scene
In Covington, Kentucky, hops, barley, and coffee set the smelltrack at Braxton Brewing Company, which doubles as an all-day co-working space. CEO Jake Rouse says his brewery team's background was in the tech industry, and the design of the taproom was inspired by the communal feel of a coffeehouse, so opening a co-working space seemed like a logical addition “When we started looking around at what we could do with our space, it became really clear to us that there was a huge opportunity to turn this into a co-working space. Right now, as I do this interview in the taproom, we've got probably 25 people in here having donuts, having coffee, working on their laptops," says Rouse.
Rouse says that when the brewery opened in 2015, Covington was “a city that was on the up and up, but needed a little bit of a boost." The goal in launching the co-working space was to foster a sense of community and to give residents a place to get together and work during the day. Now, when Rouse looks around the neighborhood, he sees a startup accelerator across the street and condos in development nearby. “We've really been a catalyst for this brief Renaissance that's happening here in Covington, and part of that was committing to opening up early so we could embrace the local business and creative communities," he says. “It's allowed us to continue to foster that community that we're going for. It's been really special."
The co-working has also been a testing ground for another line of revenue: Starter Coffee. The brewery partners with a local coffee roaster to create the coffee brand, and it's available by the cup or by the bag at the co-working space throughout the day. “The coffee line has turned into a pretty significant business," says Rouse. “It's allowed us to invest in a full-time person to run our coffee program." Because of that, the Braxton Brewing Company has plans to expand the coffee line in 2018.
Putting Available Space to Use
Preston Pesek was working in commercial real estate in New York City when he noticed an inefficiency: Hundreds of beautiful restaurant spaces in prime locations were sitting unused until dinner service began. He had an idea: What if he were to offer a service that transforms restaurants into co-working spaces by day, thereby allowing restaurant owners an additional income stream and giving laptop carrying workers an entirely new network of on-the-go office options?
With that, he co-founded Spacious, along with Chris Smothers (Preston is also CEO and Smothers is CTO). For $95 a month, Spacious members have daytime access to the all restaurant participants in New York (15, with more being added each month), and they'll also have access to locations in other cities as the service expands. It's about to launch in San Francisco and has a number of other cities lined up for 2018. “It's a network of spaces that gives you access to pockets of activity around the whole city, as opposed to just one co-working space," says Pesek.
It works like this: Spacious installs a dedicated Wi-Fi network in each location and staffs every space with two employees who set it up in the morning (Spacious provide coffee, water and power cables) and break it down at the end of the day in time for dinner service. In turn, the restaurant receives a monthly payment that's based on its capacity and traffic. And when dinner service begins, the restaurant may already be filled potential customers. “It's pretty natural for someone to transition to order a drink at the bar at the end of the workday," says Pesek.
Looking ahead, Pesek says he believes the future of workspaces will involve fewer fixed offices as workers become more liberated by technology. “I'm a CEO with about 20 full-time corporate employees and about 65 part-time employees, and my work station sits in a backpack. I can drop into any Spacious location and be connected and productive and communicate with my whole team," he says. “As long as you have a good Wi-Fi network and a place to plug your device in, you should be good to go pretty much anywhere."