New spaces let nontraditional employees become co-workers

New spaces let nontraditional employees become co-workers

URBANA — As more people get jobs in the gig economy, work remotely and hold nontraditional jobs, co-working spaces have popped up to accommodate them.

"The future of work is changing," said Matt Cho, who runs the [co][lab] space in downtown Urbana. "Graduating college and working for a 50,000-plus (employee) firm, I think those days might be over."

There are now at least three co-working spaces in the area, with another two set to open next year.

Estimates vary, but anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the workforce holds nontraditional jobs, such as freelancing or as an independent contractor, and that is expected to grow.

"Our workforce is a lot more flexible than it used to be, and they seek the types of spaces that have a flexible environment," said Carly McCrory, assistant director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.

Co-working spaces allow someone who might typically work from home, either on their own small business or as a remote worker, to work alongside people in similar situations and have access to printers, Wi-Fi and a quiet space to make a phone call.

"A lot of people struggle to focus when they work from home. It's hard to separate your home life and work life, and they find they get a lot more done if they can go to a specific place that's meant to be productive while there," said David Schiller, the owner of Collider Cowork in downtown Urbana.

He opened Collider in March after seeing a co-working space thrive in Bloomington-Normal.

"When they started that, a bunch of relationships were forged from people working together at that space," Schiller said. "Within six months, three new companies formed."

Collider has two levels of membership. For $350 a month, you can rent a permanent desk in a private office, or for $90 a month, you can rent a "hot seat."

"That's like working at a coffee shop. You sit wherever's available," Schiller said.

Collider also hosts different events and clubs at its space.

Twelve people are working out of Collider, including a video production company and some freelance writers.

Cho opened [co][lab] in Urbana in 2013.

There, you can rent a space for $270 a month, which 13 people are doing, including a real estate broker, website and software developers and graphic designers.

"It's just a big range, and that's usually what you will find at co-working spaces," Cho said.

He said co-working can be a cheaper way for entrepreneurs to find a space to work.

"Real estate has always been this kind of cumbersome, operational cost that people have to address when they're starting a company," Cho said. "So co-working in a sense is filling that need where you have the format of an office in addition to a community of co-workers who are probably in the same boat as you are.

"Plus, it's very distracting to work from home," he added, echoing Schiller.

While [co][lab] doesn't have a lower-priced "hot seat" membership, Cho plans to open another co-working space soon in Urbana that will be all "hot seats."

"We're probably opening a new flavor of co-working, hopefully by next year, called Analog, that addresses drop-in desk co-working" he said. "There's also a need for people to drop in and just have space, so there's a daily rate associated with that in addition to monthly rates."

Analog will be joined next year by an ambitious project from Moose International.

The 129-year-old organization has seen declining membership and, in an effort to reinvent itself, is building co-working spaces geared toward working parents.

The first Lodgic Everyday Community will be built in Champaign on South Neil Street and is expected to open late June 2018, according to Cheryl Farr, who is helping Moose International develop the new concept.

"Since 1990, the lodge model has really been shrinking because the concept isn't relevant to current generations," Farr said. "Our CEO said we need to step out and do something new."

The Lodgic space will include co-working, child care and a cafe and restaurant open to the public.

Moose conducted focus groups in Champaign in October and is still working out all the details, but workplace access will begin at $100 a month and $270 a month for unlimited, 24-hour access. It will also sell flexible drop-in passes both for the co-working space and for the child care.

"Everybody has multiplied the things they're doing. They teach and have a small business, they're a firefighter and have a nonprofit," Farr said.

"What the community told us is, they want to drop in and have access whenever they want. Not necessarily every Tuesday, but have three hours for heads-down productivity. Or where a mom can have a guilt-free place to put their child for three hours."

In Champaign, the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois recently launched a co-working space called the Community Solutions Incubator for nonprofits and selected seven organizations to be the first fellows there.

"A lot of folks have great ideas and want to be able to grow them, but it's often not great to do it in isolation," said Joan Dixon, president of the Community Foundation.

In downtown Champaign, Jill Guth manages ShareSpace, where tenants can rent cubicles for $250 a month, private offices for $500 a month and bigger spaces for more.

"There's two different architectural firms, an engineering firm in Chicago that has an office here. Just a hodgepodge," Guth said. "There's also a graphic designer here."

Guth said she also uses the space for her own work.

"When I work from home, I get to the point where I need to see other people," she said. "And being in downtown Champaign is a huge plus for this space. You can go to Aroma Cafe to get some coffee or meet up at Blind Pig after work."

Co-working spaces are expected to become more popular.

"We're seeing a lot more interest, and we know of some additional growth in that space within the next six months," McCrory said. "There's a lot of freelancers, graphic designers and video specialists who need that space to work from."

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