It started with Starbucks. One minute it was a coffee shop and the next it was the corner office for everyone from entrepreneurs and freelancers to people with side gigs and flexible workplaces.
Technological changes mean that far more people can work remotely than ever before. A recent Gallup survey found that 43 percent of Americans who are employed work remotely at least part of the time.
Anyone who works in a home office knows that while the flexibility can be beneficial, the downside is isolation. Workers today have embraced co-working spaces like WeWork and others where they can do their own thing in the company of others.
Developers have embraced this notion of co-working spaces and have created an updated version of the former “business center” – a common amenity in upscale apartments and condos.
“We noticed all the people in the lobby, the lounge and the sky decks in our buildings working and realized that it would be nice to have a designated place for them to work,” says Paul Zeger, a partner with Polaris Pacific, a consulting and sales firm for condo developers in seven cities in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.
Danny Fishman, managing partner at GAIA Real Estate in New York City, says his firm recently surveyed buyers to find out which building amenities they want. The number one request: a co-working space.
“Thirty percent of Millennials work from home and in cities like New York, where the living spaces tend to be small, these workers were using coffee shops until they got tired of them and started renting desk spaces for $1,500 or $2,000 per month,” says Fishman. “Now they’re saving money if they move into a condo with a co-working area.”
Hans Galland, senior vice president of Pacific Eagle, a global real estate company and developer of The Austin condo in San Francisco, says co-working spaces, introduced in hotels as well as condos, are designed to foster connection between residents, many of whom work from home but still want social interaction.
Evolution From Drab Business Centers to Cool Co-working Spaces
Business centers in condos in the past typically included a desk or two, a printer and sometimes a conference room, all in neutral beige, says Zegar. Co-working spaces typically offer a variety of seating options where people bring their laptops and tablets and phones.
“We actually offer multiple places where people can work, such as a lobby, a library, a lounge and a party room,” says Zegar. “We set up as many places as we can where people can work and then we augment that with a small business center where people can make copies and print things if they need to.”
At The Rockwell in San Francisco, for example, Zegar says there are about 10 spaces designed for co-working.
“Affluent people often have more than one home and need to work in different places,” says Zegar, “They don’t necessarily want to waste space in their condo on a home office or rent an office, so a co-working space is a good option for them to get some work done close to home.”
Co-working Spaces_Co-working spaces aren’t exclusively aimed to please the young and hip. At The Austin in San Francisco, Galland says, buyers are a mix of young people, mid-career professionals and empty-nesters who all use the lobby level co-working space, which includes multiple seating areas with Wi-Fi, a beverage station and access to a courtyard.
“The neighborhood has amenities such as several gyms and yoga studios, so we don’t have as much of that in the building,” says Galland. “We focused on the co-working space to foster connections between our residents. We have communal tables and small bistro tables so people have the choice of working right next to each other or separately within the same space.”
The Austin also has a purely social roof deck with a fire pit, grills and views of the San Francisco skyline.
“People need quiet spaces and yet want to feel like they are being social when they work,” says Fishman. “In our new buildings like Nine 52 in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, we put in a mix of furniture so people have options and can move around. We have long communal tables and high-top tables and low tables with comfortable seating and of course plenty of outlets and USB ports. We also have a conference room where people can schedule meetings.”
Fishman says the co-working space is exclusively designed for work so that people know they can go there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We have a separate party space that’s far enough away so that people know they can do a conference call without worrying about being in the middle of a craft beer tasting,” says Fishman.
Zegar says there an interesting psychological aspect to communal work spaces.
“The technology that makes it easy to work outside of an office also leaves people feeling more isolated,” says Zegar. “People need a sense of community and interaction with others that co-working spaces can satisfy.”
Ultimately, lobby areas and lounges are often underutilized spaces in condos. Galland says the trend toward making those spaces conducive for co-working transforms them into functional areas for both work and socializing.