By Dave Schutz
Lots of us know the feeling: you’re trying to get work done on the computer at home, but procrastination sets in. You do some laundry, put away the dishes, and the next thing you know, it’s dinnertime. Or maybe you’re like local freelance marketing and advertising writer Julie Sutter. When she was working from home, she was constantly preoccupied with her job. Like many who don’t work in a conventional office, Sutter needed to separate her work life from her home life.
That’s when she discovered the Cohere Coworking Community. More than just a desk for rent, the increasingly popular coworking concept is designed to help freelancers and telecommuters to be more productive, to share knowledge with each other and to foster important social connections – all things that tend to get lost when people work exclusively from home or the coffee shop.
With an explosion in tech-related jobs in fields like IT, software development and graphic design came liberation from the conventional office, allowing more people the opportunity to work as freelancers or to telecommute.
But as Cohere founder and “Madame” Angel Kwiatkowski points out, the newfound liberty came at a price. People were thrust unprepared into this new context without strategies to deal with working alone. Many become desperate for human contact during the workday, including Sutter, who jokes about waiting for the FedEx guy to come so she could chat him up.
“It was sad,” she laughs.
The atmosphere at Cohere is quite the opposite, as I found out spending a day at the space working on this very story (so meta, I know). The main room in Cohere’s airy, open second floor space on Jefferson Street is designed for interaction, with several long work tables that can accommodate a couple of people each. The vibe alternates between library-like silence as a few work determinedly, to lively socializing as a group of members, all of whom telecommute for the software development firm Canonical, spill out of the conference room into the main area after a meeting.
Cohere also has a lounge area with a couch, a kitchen, and the “treehouse” – a lofted workspace that offers a little more privacy. In atmosphere and principle, Cohere has all of the perks of the modern office space while aiming to eschew the pitfalls of the corporate work environment – Namely, the counterproductive politics and competition that often get in the way of effective teamwork.
Kwiatkowski explains the shift that happens in the coworking context.
“When you take all those brilliant people and you remove the organizational layer, what you get is a bunch of people who can innovate when they want to and choose the teams they want to work on. Nobody’s competing for resources; nobody’s competing for a promotion.”
“I think one of the big things is, it’s a smaller community. It’s more personable, more affable,” says Al Stone, one of the members who works for Canonical. “A lot of the normal stuff that occurs at a large company doesn’t occur.”
For freelancers who don’t work for companies, the benefits are more wide-ranging, from the ability to gain expertise on nuts and bolts like contracts and technological resources, to connections to potential clients, to the simple motivation of being surrounded by other people who are working.
“Being around really talented, intelligent, creative people who are also freelancers makes you bring your A-game” Sutter says.
The coworking phenomenon, which arose about a decade ago, has grown into a worldwide community of spaces and workers. After a couple of stalled career starts, Kwiatkowski happened upon the concept while volunteering with Rocky Mountain Innosphere and decided that opening a coworking space would be a perfect match for her skill set.
Since Cohere opened early last year, Kwiatkowski has helped several other coworking spaces in Colorado get off the ground and has published two books on the subject with fellow Cohere member Beth Buczynski.
Locally, the demand has been such that there is currently a waitlist for membership at Cohere. Kwiatkowski says they’ll expand next year to accommodate more members.
“I didn’t foresee how devastated I would be to have to say no to someone,” she says.
For this reason, she is intent on offering some of the benefits of Cohere to those on the waitlist and to other non-members. Recently, she began giving people on the list the chance to come in when there is extra work space on a given day, and the many professional development and social networking opportunities put on by Cohere are available to members and nonmembers alike.
In addition, Cohere is addressing the space squeeze with a Distributed Coworking program, in which Cohere members will be stationed at places like cafés and breweries where people on the waitlist and other interested parties may be invited to cowork.
There are several membership levels at Cohere, from one day a week to full, 24/7 access and a permanent workspace. Although membership is mostly full, Kwiat-kowski says there is availability at the “Night Owl” level (Wednesdays after 4pm).
Find out more about Cohere and coworking at coherecommunity.com.