With business models based on leasing desks for remote workers or entrepreneurs who share space, Madison’s coworking organizations have found ways to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, which posed a threat to their very survival.
One Madison coworking space, Lodgic Everyday Community, faced the challenges of opening its doors for the first time amid the pandemic. Originally scheduled for a grand opening in April or May of last year, the center opened in June with little fanfare.
A subsidiary of the nonprofit fraternal organization Moose International, Lodgic has a coworking space, on-demand and scheduled child care, a restaurant and hosts events.
Though operations have not gone as planned, general manager Margaret Ebeling said, membership in the coworking space has grown at about the pace the organization anticipated before the pandemic.
Coworking at Lodgic has helped many members who might not feel as productive without the office atmosphere, Ebeling said.
“Let’s face it, I’m not sure everyone is flourishing working from home,” Ebeling said.
Having the backing of the larger nonprofit and other revenue streams, such as the restaurant and the child care facility, which is in high demand, has helped the organization financially as COVID-19 continues to spread.
Even with numbers meeting expectations, plans needed a lot of adjustment, Ebeling said.
“Every day is a learning experience,” Ebeling said. “I would venture to say that a lot of coworking spaces have probably, much like us, had to evaluate where to go from here.”
At Lodgic that path forward seems to be even more flexibility than was already offered through coworking spaces.
Established locations pivot
Tiffanie Mark, owner of Matrix Coworking and operator of Horizon Coworking, said she’s had to create more flexibility in those offices as well — something she imagines she will keep offering even as the pandemic subsides.
As the coronavirus began to spread in Wisconsin last year, both locations preemptively limited the number of members that could use the open space — at first just allowing those who truly needed the space to work to enter the office, Mark said.
After some rearranging of the spaces and the addition of air filters and sanitation equipment, more members are now allowed back, but Mark said she hasn’t seen more than 10 in at one time.
The Horizon and Matrix have been flexible in accommodating members who might need unique plans, such as creating a family plan for some members who are couples with children so they can alternate who stays home and who gets to the office, Mark said.
Flexibility is far from the only change to operations at Horizon and Matrix, Mark said.
Desks and furniture was rearranged or blocked off to allow for social distancing, members are now asked to sanitize their work desks when they pack up and conference rooms can now be reserved for individuals looking for a closed door to work behind.
Members are now asked to schedule or reserve times they will come into the office, Mark said. Listing reservation times also lets other members know whether many other people will be in the office at one time, helping them make choices about whether to go to the office at a given time.
“Ironically, that was something that before, people would look and see, ‘Oh, there’s people there, I’m going to go visit,’” Mark said. “And now people are like, ‘Oh, there’s people there. I’m going to stay home.’”
New space coming
Madison can expect another coworking space to come to Madison this summer. Wisconsinites Keith and Rhonda Kometer signed a franchise deal with Office Evolution last year, before the start of the pandemic, and are working on permitting and building out the coworking space at 2921 Landmark Place, just off the Beltline.
Despite the pandemic, which delayed their ability to search for real estate for the site, the Kometers are confident there will be people excited to sign up for a membership with Office Evolution, which touts itself as creating “ohana,” the Hawaiian word for family, among its members.
“Our vision for it is that it really fulfills the idea of ‘ohana,’” Keith Kometer said. “That it’s a safe environment, that people enjoy being there and are able to network and meet other people, and they can accomplish their business goals.”
The Office Evolution space will also differ from many other coworking spaces, the Kometers said, in that it will be made up of mostly single-occupancy offices — about 55 — rather than open-concept floor plans.