Coworking Movement Grows Locally

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Tompkins Weekly 6-1-15

By Bob Rossi

“What do you do?” We answer this familiar question with our occupation, rather than our hobbies or lifestyle — and for good reason. Americans spend roughly half of our waking life at work. It’s a big part of who we are, and it affects our quality of life.

The coworking movement has taken root around the world, bringing vibrancy back to the workspace. Coworking spaces are membership-based offices where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, sole proprietors, and other independent professionals work, meet, and share resources. These spaces typically have large, open rooms to encourage interaction and allow for versatile use of the space. By their very nature, coworking spaces help reduce costs of office supplies and administrative services, while also connecting people with potential clients, community resources, and a greater entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Gretchen Spreitzer, PhD, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan studies how organizations enable employees to thrive. On May 13th, Spreitzer and her colleagues published an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces.” They found that those who belonged to coworking spaces reported “levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale …. at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices, and something so unheard of that [they] had to look at the data again.”

Spreitzer and her colleagues conducted follow up interviews with hundreds of coworkers around the U.S. They found that coworkers see their work as more meaningful; this held true even for employees of larger companies working remotely at coworking spaces. Without the direct competition and internal politics of a typical office environment, coworkers feel more free to be themselves. While coworkers enjoy greater control of their schedule and work habits, they also reported that “having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them.”

Research is showing the benefits of coworking right here in Ithaca, too. Bonnie Sanborn, who recently finished a Master’s degree at Cornell University, researched four coworking spaces in Ithaca and heard first-hand the benefits that members experienced. “Many people think they’ll be happy working at home alone, because they can have everything just the way they like it,” she says, “but time and again, I heard people saying that they got really lonely and sought out coworking.” Her research showed that the biggest benefits for Ithaca coworkers were social interaction, sharing office resources, having access to a professional meeting room, and being able to test out or collaborate on ideas with other members.

Last year, I visited over a dozen coworking spaces and business incubators in New York and California to explore different approaches to the same goal: creating a supportive and nurturing environment for coworkers. The culmination of this effort is Ithaca’s newest coworking space: the CommonSpot.

The CommonSpot is a coworking space designed for people who aim to have a positive impact on our community and natural environment. Membership is not limited to direct impact professionals like energy consultants, activists, and youth mentors; all professionals who share these values are invited to be part of the CommonSpot community.

To maintain its connection with the greater Ithaca community, the CommonSpot also rents out rooms to the public when available. The 1200 square foot space includes 3 rooms of varying sizes and layouts. The rooms can be quickly transformed for different uses and have already been host to presentations, wine and cheese events, board meetings, a clothing swap, a high school class, discussion groups, and acroyoga workshops. The space is also a participating showroom for downtown Ithaca’s gallery night on the first Friday of every month.

In the coming year, the CommonSpot will adopt a third role in our community as a social enterprise incubator. Based on the needs of its members, the CommonSpot will begin offering programming and support services to create a place where impact businesses and nonprofits can truly thrive. More details to come.

Central to the CommonSpot mission is an emphasis on an inclusive membership that fosters diversity in skill sets, interests, and vocation as well as race, gender, and age. A diversity of vocation is especially unique to coworking spaces. Perhaps this is why coworkers take such pleasure in answering that question “What do you do?”

The CommonSpot is located on the Ithaca Commons — look for the red door labeled 126¾. Come join us at 5:00PM this Friday, June 5th, for a ribbon cutting with Mayor Svante Myrick, who is passionate about “building an ecosystem that supports [entrepreneurs] as they start their businesses.” The ribbon cutting will be immediately followed by a gallery night and grand opening party. For more info and updates, visit

Bob Rossi is founder and member of the CommonSpot.


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