The idea of a home office sounds ideal – work from the couch, the kitchen, even the bed in pajamas or sweats. That perfect scenario diminishes quickly when you add kids, no real space to work or lack of human interaction.
Coffee shops seem like the next best thing for working away from the home office – and I tried that during my week away from work. They have their own set of issues – expensive coffee, noise and lack of seating.
Co-working offers an alternative solution to home, coffee shop or traditional office. It provides strong WiFi, a desk, coffee and companionship. For many places, a month’s worth of coffee shop and lunch receipts equals a co-working membership in town.
I visited eight co-working spaces in December and January with the hope of learning about each company and how the co-working culture works. I spent the day at each space, and when it was time to leave, I found myself saying, “I love this one.” I fell in love with each space for different reasons – the networking, the friendship, the quiet.
Here are the highlights of my experience:
- Community managers are the resident advisors (RAs) of the co-working world. They make sure members are comfortable and have all that they need. They plan events and help members get to know one another. I connected with each one – they were all friendly, helpful and genuinely interested in what I was doing with the story. I visited two other co-working companies at the suggestion of other community managers – they seem to have their own supportive network.
- I didn’t expect to make the connections I did at the co-working spaces. I ran into people I knew, reconnected with old friends and left with multiple story ideas.
- Certain days are busier for co-working. Mondays and Fridays may be quieter. Visit on a Wednesday to truly gauge the level of noise and community interaction.
- I made the mistake of thinking that I’d go out to lunch with people from the co-working spaces, but most people bring lunch from home.
- Parking can be an issue for an Uptown location unless you plan to take public transportation. Most others have plenty of free parking. I took the bus for the Uptown locations.
- Day passes ($20-$35) can break the monotony of working from home if you don’t want to commit to a contract.
- Most spaces will let you try it out for the day to get a feel for the space. I highly recommend this!
- Each location had security – locked doors and only members have access codes or cards.
- WiFi security is taken seriously. There are passwords and special WiFi for visitors, like me.
Costs listed below are all per month. The three membership levels offered most often are co-working, designated desk and designated office. Co-working members are promised a desk, table or couch in the community area. Members with a designated desk have a specific desk for their use. A designated office typically comes furnished; size of office determines cost.
Companies offer standard amenities such as coffee, tea, printing, conference rooms, mail service, phone booths, networking events and a kitchen as part of the monthly membership costs. Standing desks, couches and tables are available at most of the places I visited. Contracts and 24/7 access varied by company.
I worked with the owners and community managers to find a day for my visit. Overall, this was an awesome experience – I met so many new people, saw the benefits of co-working for one-person to multi-person companies and got to work in really cool spaces throughout the city.
Location: 933 Louise Ave., Suite 101 (Belmont neighborhood)
Costs: Co-working: $149; dedicated desk: $249; dedicated office: $500+ with waitlist right now; day pass: $20
Unique amenity: They have five bicycles for members to check out for free.
Companies include: Asterisk Creative, Nomad Digital Marketing, National Kidney Foundation
Vibe: I was greeted at the door by Erin Breeden, the community manager and a fellow writer. This was a huge surprise and an unexpected bonus. We spent the day working at the same table – talking about story ideas and projects. Throughout the day, other writers and friends came through the front door – the community vibe was strong here.
Locations: 809 W. Hill St., Suite C (Third Ward); 2128 Remount Rd., Suite B (West Charlotte); 1776 Statesville Ave. (Camp North End)
Costs: Co-working: $124; dedicated desks: $250+; dedicated office: $699+; day passes: $20
Unique Amenity: Co-working members can work at any of the three locations.
Companies include: SkillPop, The Waggle Company, HoneyFi, Rabbu, 704shop, Digi-Bridge
Vibe: I visited the Third Ward location and loved the old building – exposed brick, windows, tables, couches and out-of-the-way places for quiet work. I was lucky to spend most of my day with Well-Run Media and left with several story ideas.
Location: 1000 North Carolina Music Factory Blvd. (AvidXchange Music Factory)
Costs: Co-working: $99; dedicated desk: $199; dedicated office: $349-$1999; day pass: no charge for trial day
Unique Amenity: Unlimited conference room use with online booking
Companies include: BrewPublik, etaGlobal, Big House Marketing, Marketing Talent Charlotte, BrightDime
Vibe: Owner Tyler Ford takes a strong interest in the folks who work in the space – I’d even say he’s proud of their work. He gave me a tour of both campuses within NC Music Factory. Industry is a quiet space with a calming atmosphere – lots of nooks and crannies for privacy. I normally prefer no music, but whatever was playing was great. I had lunch at La Revolucion with an editor from another publication located next door to Industry.
Location: 101 S. Tryon St., 27th floor (Uptown)
Costs: Co-working $425; designated desk $525; designated office $625 to $3,970; day pass: free for a trial day
Unique amenity: Free breakfast, with a rotating schedule of pastries, parfait bar, fruit and granola, is available each morning. Whisk+Wood and Suarez Bakery provide the pastries and donuts.
Vibe: I walked into Industrious not knowing anyone, but the community managers were so welcoming that I instantly felt comfortable. They gave me a quiet designated office space overlooking the city – and even had flowers waiting on the desk. The focus there seems less on the person wanting to grab a space to work and more on designated desks and office space. I really didn’t want to leave “my” office at the end of the day.
Location: 2459 Wilkinson Blvd., Suite 310 (West Charlotte)
Costs: Co-working $200; dedicated desk: $350; dedicated office: varies; day pass: $25
Unique amenity: High-speed and extremely secure WiFi through Securedge, its parent company
Companies include: Urban Skin Rx, Suite Plants, Janeiro Digital
Vibe: This space is in an old brick textile building in Camp Green. It’s open and inviting with natural light. They’ve worked hard to create a calming environment with a living wall, a mural by Matt Hooker and Matt Moore, and chair swings. This was the first time I brought my lunch to a co-working space, and I ate with the community manager. I had a tough assignment to finish and felt comfortable enough to ask the community manager to read it before I filed.
Location: 227 W. Fourth St. (Uptown)
Costs: Co-working: $99; dedicated desk: $199; shared office: $289; dedicated office: $399+; day pass: $25
Unique amenity: Free beer on tap. Every month the community votes on which local beer they want.
Companies include: Carolina Claims Consulting, Mannix Wealth Management, Label, 501 Auction
Vibe: This was my third co-working space in Uptown Charlotte and one of the most economical for its location. Level’s co-working space is small and in front of the community kitchen. While I was there, it was a little hard to concentrate with the noisy “water-cooler” talk, meetings and the revolving group of people using the microwave for lunch. But Level is centrally located to everything in Uptown, and when I had a meeting at Coco and The Director, I was there in five minutes.
Location: 222 S Church St. (Uptown)
Costs: Co-working: $99; dedicated desks: not available; dedicated office: $500-$1000; day pass: $25
Unique amenity: Small fitness center with hand weights and cardio machines are available. The locker rooms have showers.
Companies include: NC Tech, Charlotte Area Technology Collaborative, Doug McConoughey, Customer Experience Marketing and Jaunt LLC
Vibe: My senses felt good here. Not Just Coffee’s smells permeated the Garage, the space for the co-working members. The music blended into the background and the lighting was calming. This was my last co-working space to visit, and I’ve realized connecting to the space is just as important as who the people are working around me.
Location: 615 S. College St., floors 8-11 (Uptown)
Costs: Co-working $220+; dedicated desk $350+; dedicated office $400+, day pass: free trial day
Unique amenity: If you’re traveling to another location in the world, you can access WeWork buildings by using credits.
Companies include: Huntsource, Foodesign
Vibe: I had been warned WeWork’s community space was a party atmosphere. And on a Friday, they did not disappoint – I was an outsider to a club scene, sitting in my restaurant-like booth. The unlimited access to free candy bars, snacks and drinks would be a problem for me. Despite the noise and party going on around me, I did finish a story by deadline.
Photos: Vanessa Infanzon