By Audrey Frigon, CHS Fall Intern
Coworking giant WeWork is coming to Capitol Hill but Susan Dorsch of neighborhood independent work space Office Nomads is not in a panic.
Regarding the growing competition of coworking businesses and spaces in the Seattle area, Dorsch said she is not worried.
“The fact that the coworking business in Seattle is growing is a great thing,” said Dorsch. She hopes more people focus on how beneficial it is for people and companies to work together rather than try to compete with one another.
Expected to open by now but mired in permitting delays with the City of Seattle, coworking giant WeWork is still putting final touches on its five stories of office space on 11th Ave in the preservation incentive-boosted Kelly Springfield Building. A company representative declined to comment on the delay citing a Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated quiet period as the company moves toward its troubled IPO and has watched its value plunge from $65 billion heights.
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Pike/Pine workers might not be able to enjoy the five stories of dedicated WeWork space including “light-filled lounges, modern conference rooms, and sleek private offices” and some of the rapidly growing companies newest features like the Made by We store until 2020, according to permitting schedules available from the city’s planning department.
The reprieve from WeWork’s arrival gives Capitol Hill’s established independent spaces more time to prepare.
Office Nomads, Seattle’s oldest coworking space was founded in November of 2007. Cofounder Jacob Sayles was looking to start a coffee shop focused around productivity and when he met cofounder Dorsch, that idea evolved into coworking.
The goal of Office Nomads was to encourage create a “dynamic, creative, and collaborative environment for people in their neighborhood.” Dorsch said, “coworking is far less about the space you’re in and more about the intentions around being there.” For people who are able to work remotely, they can get into an unproductive and isolated lull. Office Nomads wanted to help people combat this. People make a choice to work alongside others, so they feel less isolated, more supported, comfortable, and are able to be more productive said Dorsch. “We are solving a human emotional problem, not a work space problem.”
To emphasize this mindset and unite the coworking companies of Seattle, Dorsch and Sayles started The Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance in 2009. With eleven businesses currently members of the alliance, many coworking spaces have become a coworking community. Simply put, “working together is more important than competing” said Dorsch.
Indie Capitol Hill coworking space The Office at Ada’s delivers a unique and very Seattle take on the coworking business. The Office at Ada’s is a small coworking space nestled above Ada’s Technical Books.
Built for locals, the Office emphasizes a “comfortable and casual community feel” said Office manager Sarah Davies.
As for the increase of competition in the Seattle area, Davies said she also is not worried. Because of local clientele and roots as a bookstore, Ada’s has built-in advertising and stable draw. “We have never had an issue with filling spaces because we are a smaller place and the people in the neighborhood seek us out” said Davies.
As the independents await WeWork, some coworking concerns have capitalized on the number of spaces available and created services to help people find the spaces they are looking for.
Deskpass is a coworking membership service that has recently launched in Seattle. As a large city with thousands of remote workers, Seattle seemed like a natural location for Deskpass to bring their business.
Through their service, Deskpass connects customers with a myriad of coworking spaces near them. “We only succeed if the spaces succeed” said cofounder Nicole Vasquez.
For those who work remotely, working from home can be lonely, distracting, and unproductive. According to Vasquez, using coworking spaces offers a better work-life balance and is built to make happier and more productive clients.
Alongside independent workers, coworking spaces also draw large companies looking to save expenses by scaling down. “This increases flexibility, retention, and access for employees,” said Vasquez.
Even as the corporate giants like WeWork try to dominate the industry space, the independents seem well positioned to thrive.