New trends in working are about increasing efficiency, decreasing overhead and doing right by people.
At the royal blue-painted, Victorian-style house at 101 S. Bloodworth Street, the sounds of drums reverberate each afternoon from a teacher giving lessons in a neighboring building. The back porch offers views of the PNC tower. Some mornings, international visitors cook breakfast in the kitchen of the home and a big black lab named Billy pads around periodically.
But the 3,000 square-foot house doesn’t serve as a quirky hotel or apartments for 20-somethings just out of college. Instead, it’s home to Clairemont Communications, a PR and marketing firm Dana Phelps started in 2010.
Six staffers share workspace on the sprawling, light-filled first floor, which includes a spacious kitchen and classic front porch complete with a swing. Upstairs, an Airbnb suite can comfortably accommodate four and two employees from a search fund startup rent out another room. This way, Phelps can cover the mortgage on the home month to month and doesn’t have to take that money out of her business.
“I do love old houses, that is a personal interest,” says Phelps. The house dates back to 1910. “I also felt this is just a more creative space. I worked in the corporate world for a long time and sitting in a cubicle…in a lot of office spaces, everything is gray. There aren’t a lot of colors, there’s not a lot of sunlight and I wanted something that was totally opposite from that.”
While traditional corporate offices are still, for the most part, the norm here in Raleigh, the way we work is changing rapidly and with it, the spaces where we choose to get our work done. Coworking spaces, public libraries, bars and coffee shops are all increasingly popular, as are houses in districts with mixed use zoning (mainly located downtown). Of course, working from a home office remains a popular choice and employers are increasingly flexible in their understanding that their workers, for at least one or two days of the week, can work better overall if they have that option.
“It’s getting increasingly difficult to find office space with flexible terms in the way we used to see it happening, even 10 years ago,” says Jess Porta, the director across locations of coworking company HQ Raleigh. HQ opened its first space in downtown’s Warehouse District in 2012 and has since expanded to the top five floors of the Capital Club building on West Martin Street. It will open spaces on Centennial Campus and in the revitalized Gateway shopping center this year, too.
“It’s all for a good reason,” Porta continues. “It’s all because Raleigh is growing and changing but for startup companies, that can be a challenge. People are drawn to coworking spaces because of the flexibility they provide, but it’s also a community thing. People join because of the flexibility but stay because of the community.”
HQ was the first coworking space to open in Raleigh but several more have followed, including Nest, Industrious and Loading Dock (see chart). The national franchise company WeWork opens its space in One Glenwood this summer and Locality, a coworking space for women entrepreneurs, opens this month in the Warehouse District.
Many of these offer workspaces for single workers (entrepreneurs, contractors and freelancers), startups (teams of two or three) as well as teams as large as 60 people (some of which have employees working remotely in Raleigh for companies based in larger cities, such as New York or San Francisco).
The flexibility—no long-term leases, no overhead costs—and amenities—think hammocks and ping pong tables, spacious conference rooms and events spaces, full kitchens, bars with free beer and coffee, permission to bring your pets—are hard to beat. Plus, the opportunities to network and collaborate with other professionals are priceless.
“Coworking is changing how people think about interacting with one another,” says Porta. “So you’ll see more creative ideas coming out of that.”
Chip Barker, a managing broker and one of the founding principals at Raleigh’s Core Realty Advisors, had a creative idea for structuring workspace for the firm he co-founded along with brokers Carrie Schlegel and Jennifer Crawford last year: they passed on having a physical office space altogether.
“The way real estate works now, no one goes into the office, clients don’t walk in, they don’t come meet you at the office,” Barker says. “You meet them at properties or at a coffee shop nearby.”
So they reached out to lenders and attorneys who had unused office space and, once a week, the 11-member team gathers for a staff meeting. Or, they head to a new home community and meet there.
“This way, we’re getting exposure to an up-and-coming community,” Barker says. “It’s real estate-related, we’re meeting the agent onsite who’s promoting and showing off the community features and we’re interacting with other agents to build relationships with them, talking about best practices, challenges and how to help each other out.”
Additionally, two or three times a week, Barker and other agents post up in local coffee shops such as Jubala and Sir Walter Coffee and use social media to inform potential clients, or anyone just curious about local real estate, that they’ll be there and available to answer any questions. Agents use the hashtag #corespotting, plus monthly giveaways snd competitions, to get the community engaged.
“The point is to put ourselves out in the community where people feel comfortable,” Barker says. “We’re not trying to sell you a house, we just want to make ourselves available and answer questions about the real estate process.”
Increasingly, flexible working spaces—whether a historic home, a coffee shop or coworking space—look, for many of today’s workers, like the future of work.
“We’re trying to lower the barrier of entry to starting a business or growing a business,” says HQ’s Porta. “I don’t think it’s going to go back to people wanting to buy their own dish soap and manage their own Internet contracts.”
But for Porta and the other business owners, it’s also about a higher purpose: treating workers right, caring about their mental health and giving them options.
Clairemont’s Phelps says she is happy to have full bathrooms onsite so if her employees want to go for a run or a bike ride in the middle of the day, they can come back to work and take a shower. They can walk to downtown’s great restaurants, shops and cafés when they need a break, or escape to a quiet corner upstairs or on the porch. And by renting out space to other businesses and on Airbnb, Phelps says she can afford to pay her workers more.
“It’s good to have the options,” she says.
In its new location in Gateway Plaza, slated to open in September, HQ is striving to serve the local community and attracting more “Main Street” companies—including mom and pop shops and companies exploring retail or food truck spaces—that are working on business plans or may not yet have the capital to open something more permanent. And a drop-in daycare, Little Makers Academy, will open in the same shopping center. Porta is pleased about being able to offer a childcare option to the company’s young parents for the first time.
“They can drop their kids off, or maybe they’re a breastfeeding mom—they can literally breastfeed onsite,” Porta says. “We’re a young, female staff at HQ and we want this for our members. It’s part of our B Corp. values and we are really, really excited about it.”
Is Co-Working Cut Out For You?
A look at Raleigh’s coworking spaces and what they have to offer.
|Coworking Space||Location||Rates||Drop In?||When Opened||Perks|
|HQ Raleigh||Multiple||$95-$285/month||No||2012||Jubala coffee, Lonerider beers, access to NCSU Entrepreneurship Clinic & great tech|
|Nest||Fayetteville Street||$25-$300/month||No||2016||Swings in the communal space, full kitchen, coffee & beer on tap|
|$374-$2,741/month||No||2015||Wellness rooms, member events & parties, café stocked with local Raleigh treats|
|Loading Dock||Midtown||$75-$900/month||No||2015||Ideal for freelancers/entreprenuers/creatives & you can bring your dog!|
|Fayetteville Street||$199-$249/month||No||2014||Focus on startups support; one of only 11 Google for Startup hubs in North America|
|WeWork||Glenwood South||$350-$10,700/month||No||Summer 2019||Beautiful spaces, wellness sessions & lifestyle perks from big name partners|
|The Frontier||RTP||Free-$400+/month||Yes||2015||Free drop-in workspace when you reserve ahead online|
|The Pink Ceiling||Midtown||$400+/month||No||2016||Billionaire founder Cindy Whitehead’s goal is to make other women rich|
|Regus||Multiple||Varies||Yes||2017||Business lounge where you can work remotely from any location worldwide|
|Intelligent Office||Fayetteville Street||Starting $5/day||No||2015||24/7 secure access & a personal business concierge|
|Locality||Warehouse District||$195/month||No||Summer 2019||Access to business classes & networking socials for women entrepreneurs|
|Spaces||Warehouse District||$239-$623/month||No||2018||Access to all locations worldwide; Business Club dedicated to networking & collaboration|
The Four Best Places to Work Remotely
Co-working spaces are great but they can be costly, and there are only so
many cups of coffee you can drink. Take your work to where the WiFi is free.
1070 Partners Way
Perfect for: The networker
Perks: The cool architecture, fun furnishings and quiet summer hours are ideal for beavering away. Pro tip: Make sure you’ve got a VPN service to use on NCSU Guest WiFi.
Cons: Students need workspaces, too, and NC State’s got 34,000 of ‘em; mind the crowd.
The NC Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Perfect for: The freelance creative
Perks: Between the museum’s sprawling park and its esteemed permanent collection, few places in Raleigh are more inspiring. The museum’s Art Reference Library is open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cons: You’ll definitely want to spend the day wandering the exhibits rather than working.
101 Park at North Hills St.
Perfect for: The aspiring author of the next great American novel
Perks: The plush lounge and rooftop patio offer soaring views of the city and are typically quiet during daytime hours. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to go and get some work done.
Cons: Come 5 p.m. there’s no way you’ll be able to turn down a tasty cocktail. It’s easy to go full Hemingway and keep sipping on in to the beautiful sunset.
214 S. Blount St.
Perfect for: The vacation needer or inspiration seeker
Perks: You may not go far but at least you’ll go somewhere! For the cost of a ticket, take a ride around on one of the city’s many GoRaleigh buses, all of which are outfitted with free WiFi. Take in the sights, meet interesting people. Or hunker down and get ‘er done.
Cons: Motion sickness, anyone? Grab the Dramamine (hey, at least you’re not at sea).