Why would anyone ever want to work all day in a room full of strangers? Coworking is the concept of renting shared business space ranging from a spot at a table shared with other itinerant workers concentrating on their own projects, to a dedicated desk or a private office. If that setup sounds weird, consider that the new virtual economy revolves more around community than it does specific locations.
Many companies encourage their employees to work remotely rather than commuting to an office in another city, but working from home can be a lonely proposition. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain focus surrounded by a dog that’s pestering to go out for a walk, and that knitting project at the end of the sofa is begging to be finished, and you can almost hear the grass growing outside, and it would only take a half hour to mow it. The next thing you know, it’s dark, and you haven’t actually accomplished anything for your job today.
Some startup companies don’t have the wherewithal to lease their own dedicated office space early in their development, and rapid growth might require adding employees and desks quickly, so the flexibility of renting shared space makes a lot of sense. Even starving artists and professional writers who enjoy the romanticism of working creatively in the vibe of a cozy coffee shop sometimes reconsider when they add up their drink tabs at the end of the month and realize that they have been subsisting on nothing but pastries and caffeine.
There are many advantages to taking part in a coworking environment, from having a dedicated reception desk to take messages or accept packages for you, to the opportunity to schedule time in shared meeting rooms for brainstorming sessions or client presentations. Most often, coworking participants point to the benefits of the creative energy of multiple people sharing a room or a table as they concentrate on their own individual pursuits at different points of development. The opportunities to network with your fellow coworkers and share expertise and enthusiasm can be the difference between success and failure in some ventures. Coworkers also rave about how coming in to an office even just a couple of times per week helps to maintain a work/life balance by offering opportunities to share in the stresses of business and offering perspective to remind them that they’re not alone in their travails. That’s not even to mention that many of the coworking spaces offer unlimited quality coffee as an amenity, and some even roll out coolers of beer and wine for end-of-week happy hours!
Ready to take the leap? Here are some of the coolest coworking spaces across the South!
5 Fabulous Coworking Spaces in the South
GoodWork | Dallas, TX
In a town as big as Dallas, you could spend half your day commuting to and from work and to meetings, so why do that every day if you don’t have to? GoodWork caters to businesses and entrepreneurs who have flexible space needs. They offer many different membership categories from 10-day passes for people working on a limited project or who are testing the waters in a new venture, to what they call a “side hustle” pass allowing access to the work space on weekends and during the evening so that entrepreneurs can have a dedicated place to go to concentrate on projects outside of their day gigs. They even offer special pricing for students and teachers who want to meet or develop ideas outside of the classroom.
For more mature businesses, GoodWork offers full office suites for 1-4 employees in a room, dedicated desks or a “free range” pass that includes 24/7 access to the work space, lounges, shaded outdoor courtyards to clear your head and use of conference rooms for meetings. Other amenities include phone booths to make calls in private without distraction, a café, fitness room with showers and lockers, bike racks and “kid-friendly zones” in case you need to bring your child with you for a day while you work. Most of all GoodWork strives to bring together a community of workers sharing in an atmosphere of interaction and collaboration. They are also strong believers in sustainability, including their LEED Gold-rated building featuring plenty of daylight, excellent indoor air quality and green spaces.
Strongbox West | Atlanta, GA
Strongbox West describes itself as “Atlanta’s biggest and most badass coworking space,” and at almost 50,000 square feet, it’s hard to disagree. With so much room under one roof, they can offer all sorts of flexible membership plans for single proprietors who only need a place to lay their laptop for a couple days a month, to office suites that can hold up to 10 permanent workers. The massive scale also allows Strongbox West to charge really affordable rates, down to just $15 for a day pass to allow visitors to grab a seat and borrow some Wi-Fi.
A wide variety of tenants means that businesses often take advantage of the expertise of their neighbors to grow their own businesses or to share referrals. The walls are covered with funky art, and the decor is whimsical and colorful to stoke creativity. Plus, it’s a very dog-friendly environment so you can bring your pooch to work with you. (Provided he’s a good dog.)
The Mothership | Durham, NC
The Mothership was formed by combining two previous businesses, Mercury Studio and The Makery. The former was a coworking space that created an environment where freelancers could work alongside artists in a creative atmosphere, while the latter was more of a gallery and studio for indie artisans. Together they have formed a powerhouse where creative types of all ilks can combine resources, share encouragement and support each other’s ventures in an atmosphere that they call “a culture of radical acceptance.”
Members benefit from access to traditional office space, individual desk carrels, shared tables and also the opportunity to pay extra for use of art studios with their own private entrances. They also offer a basic café membership with access to all the common work areas plus a private storage locker. Perhaps the most novel benefit for members of The Mothership community is the attached shop, which features more than 30 retail spaces outfitted and maintained by a curated group of North Carolina artisans and merchants selling local vinyl, vintage clothing, handmade homeware, jewelry, textiles and more.
Mantle. City Club + Inc.ubator | Jackson, MS
Located in Jackson’s hip and historic Fondren neighborhood, Mantle takes advantage of the creative vibe of the area thanks to the influx of restaurants, galleries and music venues that have popped up as part of a revitalization effort. Mantle offers a host of amenities under one roof, including traditional flexible coworking space opportunities, but also executive suites that are more posh than your standard startup accommodations.
The office area also serves as a business incubator, offering advice and educational classes to young companies, as well as access to venture capital, legal services and other strategic partnerships. More concrete benefits include hi-tech equipped conference rooms, a stocked kitchen and “virtual office” amenities such as telephone and mail services for companies that aren’t necessarily looking for a physical address yet.
Mantle also offers workout facilities and serves as a city club for members, with a library, bar cart and opportunities for social gatherings and private events. The city club is considered to be the living room of their work community, and Mantle expects their members to treat it as if it were their own home.
theCO | Jackson, TN
theCo is short for “The Coalescence,” an intentional bringing together of entrepreneurs, artists, makers and computer coders in a downtown workspace. Members believe that community found in gathering professionals from many different disciplines creates a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts. They hope that this can act as a catalyst for further technological development in West Tennessee.
More than just a collection of conference rooms, cubicles and shared tables (although it does have plenty of those), theCo is a complete makerspace offering access to all sorts of equipment for tinkerers working on new inventions or fledgling businesses looking to build product prototypes. Builder amenities range from 3D printers to laser cutters and enough power tools to fill a hardware store.
theCo also offers classes to equip budding entrepreneurs with the tools needed to convert their great ideas into actual businesses. At any point during the development of a new venture, theCo can also match entrepreneurs with industry mentors to share their experience and help move everyone to the next level.
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