A solitary worker standing before a computer screen, sipping on a half-finished latte. Parking lot greetings. Coffee shops in front of offices, thriving along busy highways. Shops near fellow entrepreneurs in customer-facing roles — and not working just for the company.
Whatever you call it, more and more companies are creating co-working spaces where teams and workers can collaborate and connect with one another.
More than 20 companies, including LendEDU, BlipFactory, Affinity Labs, MailHaus and Story, have opened co-working spaces in the New York area. Others are opening around the United States, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Denver.
These companies say they’re not looking to acquire current employees — despite the growing number of jobs that have been created in the past decade — but are all about bringing employees closer together. It’s a bargain — these co-working spaces typically offer rates of $15 to $30 per person for some hour-long group events and as little as $8 for a coffee and a book. And it appears to be paying off.
Studies have found that millennials would rather work together to create creative work than work for one single boss.
American Express Co. is one of several companies that have opened co-working spaces to help bring workers together. Started in 2010, American Express Co.’s Concierge Service Program has “helped hundreds of individuals get a job or start a business, while mentoring 10,000 professionals across the U.S.,” according to American Express’s website.
As American Express saw a surge in requests for its services from entrepreneurs, it realized there was an opportunity to leverage its loyal customers for the next generation.
“Our goal was to create a space that nurtured and encouraged companies to grow, while recruiting candidates from around the country,” said Sandy Rutstein, the president of Concierge Services.
In a time of tightening budgets and declining client retention, coworking spaces can offer the added benefit of creating more revenue for companies that often have been unable to afford employee salaries. Coworking spaces “provide a new revenue stream that can provide funding for hiring that previously was out of reach to those on a small to medium income,” said Jason Miller, a managing director at Bragman Nyman Cafarelli.
Companies have discovered that they can recruit on an almost equal footing with large tech firms that offer cash incentives. “And people prefer our people over their peers at companies where they work directly with a group of young people who have no tolerance for the political discourse you’d find at a typical eight-hour coffee meeting,” Rutstein said.
For a co-working space to thrive, it needs to offer more than the 20 percent membership fee it charges members. It needs to provide one-on-one mentorship, employee mobility, a wide range of resources to clients and an accessible work environment.
“Seventy-five percent of our coworking members come from small businesses, with a median annual revenue of $7,000,” said Brian Dippel, co-founder of North Fork Coworking. “In the past, we have seen a significant cohort of customers using co-working as a way to make their businesses become more sustainable.”
For some employees, coworking spaces are a viable alternative to working at a full-time office. “I wouldn’t be able to maintain my relationship with my family as a result of not having the ability to commute daily without incurring additional debt from commuting,” said Dippel. “And my family works long days and the rent I pay wouldn’t allow me to maintain my full-time job.”
Work-life balance has become an important point of conversation when businesses and workers think about co-working spaces. Amanda Lee, an owner and manager of Flywheel, a 30,000-square-foot coworking space that serves the New York City metro area, said that the space has benefited from working with residents to keep the facility at ease.
“When we started, we prioritized serving the needs of those who were active employees,” Lee said. “It also allows us to explore new business ideas with our current tenants.”