Beyond Happy Hour: Workspaces Offer Yoga and Hair Blowouts

Beyond Happy Hour: Workspaces Offer Yoga and Hair Blowouts

Reposted from The Wall Street Journal, who still haven't gotten the memo about the hyphen thing. Nice shoutout to our downtown Dallas friends, Common Desk. Amenities at The Mix? Yoga, yes. Hair blowouts? Hmm . . .

Cassandra Santana says the monthly free hair blowouts she gets at Village Workspaces help break up the monotony of sitting behind a computer all day. The 29 year-old marketing agency founder works every day at the Los Angeles-based communal work hub. Ms. Santana also gets massages at the space. And, recently, a six-week morning mediation course helped her get a more productive start to her days, she said.

“It keeps you motivated and excited,” said Ms. Santana. Co-working spaces are getting playful.

Many of the freelancers who staked out a workspace at Starbuckshave moved on to something more quiet and professional—the co-working space.

Brazilian guitarist Gabriel Santago performs on a Thursday night at WeWork in Austin, Texas.ENLARGE
Brazilian guitarist Gabriel Santago performs on a Thursday night at WeWork in Austin, Texas.PHOTO: ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

People rent or pay a membership fee for a spot to work in the living room-like spaces, which often have sofas for lounging. Some cost around $250 a month, though a few spaces offer daily rates and workers can pay extra for solo desks or enclosed offices. The hubs offer everything from discounts on car rentals and free snacks to Wi-Fi and printing.

Now, these workspaces are starting to provide social perks and leisure activities ranging from in-office salon services and yoga classes, to organized field trips and vacations. Most of the time, events require no extra payment.

Oliver Barry, co-founder of Village Workspaces, says he was surprised by how popular some of the social events were, especially the blowout offerings, and he says he soon realized his member-customers were eager to build personal time into their workdays. The offerings are led by local businesses and paid for by Village Workspaces.

This month, Mr. Barry hosted a “bring your dog into work” day, where members bring their pets in for canine cookies and food samples along with a hurdles competition in the afternoon. Dog walkers were provided for bathroom breaks.

A worker who rents a station in the open-office portion of the floor in the Austin, Texas WeWork space.ENLARGE
A worker who rents a station in the open-office portion of the floor in the Austin, Texas WeWork space. PHOTO: ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“We treat our space as a testing ground,” said Mr. Barry about the space, located near the beach in Santa Monica, which charges between $299 a month for a communal workspace to $1,250 a month for a private office. Memberships include free breakfast, scooters or bikes for riding along the beach and tech support. A second Village Workspace in West Los Angeles is set to open in November with a larger space for hosting activities such as virtual reality gaming, he adds.

“At the very beginning [a social outing] wasn’t really a part of it at all,” says Drew Jones, co-founder of OpenWork, a co-working consultancy in Austin. “It was a place to work and maybe have a drink after work.” As the number of spaces has grown, co-working spaces are more competitive about providing extra perks to keep members happy and entice new people, he adds.

A group plays poker in a conference room at the WeWork office in Austin, Texas, the evening the co-working space hosted a concert with Brazilian guitarist Gabriel Santiago. WeWork and other communal work spaces are offering more social events and perks.ENLARGE
A group plays poker in a conference room at the WeWork office in Austin, Texas, the evening the co-working space hosted a concert with Brazilian guitarist Gabriel Santiago. WeWork and other communal work spaces are offering more social events and perks. PHOTO: ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Core users of such spaces—entrepreneurs, freelancers and corporate employees working remotely—are discovering they have more options since the earliest co-working spaces opened their doors about 10 years ago. NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association counted 781 co-working spaces around the U.S. in 2013, compared with just one in the U.S. in 2005, located in San Francisco, according to a recent report.

Employees who work in co-working spaces report higher levels of satisfaction than their corporate counterparts, according to a 2013 survey of freelancers at more than 40 co-working spaces conducted by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Co-working relationships at communal workspaces tend to avoid typical tensions of office politics, some members say, making it more enjoyable to spend time together off the clock. “You don’t have the friction of the co-worker experience,” said Aaron King, a 30-year-old digital marketing agency founder who worked at Common Desk in Dallas before moving to Austin’s WeWork space last year. “It’s more lighthearted.”

But some say socializing with workspace mates can reach a level of overkill. When Mr. King went to Lake Tahoe, Calif., with a handful of colleagues from Common Desk last winter, he says he was disappointed that when they were away from their computer screens, talk drifted toward each person’s company-growth plans. “If I’m going to check out, I really want to check out,” he says.

Angela McCrory, the 28-year-old co-founder of Rukkus, a startup ticketing platform for live events, says she has very little time for social outings beyond work because she spends so much time with her company’s 20 employees at the WeWork communal offices in New York’s financial district. “You’re not seeing your friends as much. These events have kept us from burnout,” she says.

Still Ms. McCrory sometimes craves some privacy. During a recent lunch break, she attended several yoga sessions at another WeWork location about 10 minutes away from the downtown space. “It’s been nice to have them at a different location,” she said. “I go in my work clothes and leave in my work clothes.”

Sometimes, socializing among workspace colleagues seeps into the weekend or vacation time. Alex Hillman, co-founder of Indy Hall workspace in Philadelphia, has organized a summer beach house retreat. WeWork organizes a summer camp in the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York where members can play sports, hear bands and attend networking events.

The shared Austin, Texas, WeWork kitchen.ENLARGE
The shared Austin, Texas, WeWork kitchen. PHOTO: ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In Caryn Neary’s business, the communal workspace idea has an industry focus. She opened a fashion-focused co-working space on one floor of Bene Rialto, a fashion retailer for emerging designers that she runs out of a five-story townhouse in New York’s Garment District. So far, 12 members from four companies have joined and attended a chocolate-tasting event held this month at the space. An “insta-party” where members drink cocktails and style themselves in a photo booth, is planned for next month. “We’re fostering this creative environment,” she says.

Members of Workbar, in Boston, requested social events to indulge hobbies or market test products, says Devin Cole, business development head at the company. The co-working space now offers members free poker nights, potluck lunch events, and movie nights where a food-themed film is screened.

Joe Bunner, 47, who lives with his wife and two teenage daughters in Austin, Texas, often gets to his co-working space, Link Coworking in Austin, Texas, by 8 a.m.for the “water cooler talk” at the monthly pancake breakfast. Eager to get home to his family at night, Mr. Bunner says, “If the space only hosted happy hours, I might not go to anything.”

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