In the past five years, coworking spaces have emerged as go-to places to set up shop for everything from freelancers to early-stage startups. These days you can find coworking options in cities from Fargo to San Francisco, and most offer a built-in community to connect with other entrepreneurs and change-makers – and sometimes even funders. The culture and decor of coworking spaces often reflect the vibe and fabric of their city. Most offer dedicated offices and free-range open desks where you and your laptop can camp for a day or more. While you can usually expect them bootstrapped with a mix of IKEA furniture, vintage furnishings and hip DIY pieces, coworking spaces are becoming more and more sophisticated and diverse as the market evolves.
From a business perspective, the majority of coworking owners lease space in a commercial office building and often are the bellweathers for gentrification or urban revitalization in a district. Most coworking owners are passionate about fostering community and providing vital resources for their city’s start-up scene. Some spaces are geared toward people from diverse industries and others are primarily focused on tech startups. The coworking business is very much a local operation, versus the chain/big-box approach of WeWork, a globally-focused chain offering well-appropriated offices and open desk amenities that more closely resemble a contemporary executive suite – with the added benefit of bottomless beer and programming. However, both shared workspace models offer the same advantage: a home-base for those not ready to lease their own offices or for remote workers who would rather not work from home.
The bootstrap approach is a badge of honor for most entrepreneurs. So why should members of these workspaces and communities expect anything more than a raw space with the core amenities of coffee, beer and meeting rooms, plus great networking and people? My belief is that the startup environment is the perfect place to foster both healthy work habits and cultures that will endure throughout the growth of a startup’s brand. It’s no secret that it’s difficult to be productive in most open-office environments, and that we often don’t put our health first when growing our businesses. Furthermore, we don’t demand better quality air and materials for our office buildings because most of us aren’t aware that sick building syndrome is still a thing!
As a society, we are just starting to understand how much our environments affect our quality of life. As a lifelong asthma sufferer, I spent most of my early adult life working in sick buildings and maxing out sick days. I had no idea that my asthma was environmentally-induced. Then in 2007, I started a position at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the non-profit that created the LEED rating system. Within six months of working in their LEED Platinum office, I no longer was using an inhaler and had more energy throughout the day. This was a huge epiphany for me and it turned me into a champion of their mission.
Ninety percent of our time is spent indoors, yet the indoor air quality in our office buildings is often toxic and the environment is not conducive to productivity or engagement. Most of us don’t realize that the typical 1:00 pm office headache can be avoided through proper ventilation and day-lighting. Think of the change we can make when every workspace is healthy, and when every child is attending a green school. Every person, regardless of their economic status deserves good health and to live and work in spaces that allow them to thrive.
I now live in Dallas, Texas, and we’re pioneering something that I believe can set the bar higher for the design of coworking and other entrepreneurial office environments. At GoodWork, we are developing a coworking offering that emphasizes wellness, sustainability and productivity. Our core belief is that in order for us all to be successful and thrive in our business and life, we must work in an environment that allows us to do our best work and get stuff done. We’re working with leading environmental architect Gary Olp of GGOArchitects and Gensler Dallas on optimizing the space so people can choose where they work based on the project or task at hand, get stuff done, and benefit from a LEED Platinum certification.
We are the anchor tenants at 1808, a building that will offer loft living, green space, a fitness room and the GoodWork community, with flexible office environments and work spaces. We’re also considering the WELL Building Standard as a way to infuse wellness deeper into the culture of our member businesses and tenants. I look forward to sharing stories about our people and lessons learned on this journey!
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