New Business: Out Of Office

Filling the Suburban Coworking Gap

The new office is to be out of the office.

Exurban Coworking

Earlier this year, our design company Fresh Tilled Soil decided to say goodbye to the office and made the move to being distributed. As we made the adjustment to working remotely a strange thing happened to me; it ignited a brand new business. That’s the last thing I expected, but in hindsight, it also makes perfect sense.

Today we’re launching a suburban coworking space…

Rewind a few months and we could see the writing on the wall. Even as we settled into working remotely from our suburban homes and our client’s offices, we knew we’d miss the banter around the office kitchen. So we embarked on a search for a place we could meet each other, or clients without having to commit to a lease. We were disappointed with what we found.

Our choices were either drive for an hour in traffic to work in overpriced downtown coworking spaces or settle for noisy suburban coffee shops.

Where were all the well-appointed suburban coworking spaces?

Of the 4,732,161 people living in the Greater Boston Metrowest area, only 685,000 actually live in the city. Which means the rest live in the surrounding suburban or exurban areas.

So why are all the coworking spaces in the city?

On the surface, the answer seems to be related to the economics of density. The numbers suggest a city of one million people makes a coworking environment more viable. But that’s changing fast. As cities reach saturation, and traffic worsens, the surrounding towns become more attractive as a location for coworking spaces.

Of the 4,732,161 people living in the Greater Boston Metrowest area, only 685,000 actually live in the city.

The same density that city based coworking spaces is now the very thing that frustrates their members the most. Traffic induced stress just isn’t worth it. Boston commuters are now as likely to spend as much time in traffic each day as New Yorkers and Los Angelenos.

In a surreal irony, the decision to be a distributed team, which we hoped would cut out the stress of commuting, was now making it harder to get together. Our only choices were to commute into the city or deal with the nightmare of working in coffee shops. Aaarrgh!

Local, Thoughtfully-Designed and Inclusive Spaces

Scratching your own itch is either the best or worst way to start a new business. The best; because you experience a pain that you want to address. The worst; because you bring all your subjective bias that other people might not care about. To ensure it wasn’t the latter, we did a lot of user research. The most frequent feedback we heard was that coworking is attractive when it’s focused on community, offers flexible membership and beautifully designed. We heard things like, “It’s got to be more attractive than my living room, or I’m not leaving home” and “I really want to be around other people, but that doesn’t mean I want to talk to them every day. I just want human company.”

In our research, coworking users always rate design, flexibility and community their greatest needs.

Fortunately, in our case, it was the former. It was pretty obvious we weren’t the only ones scratching that itch. Distributed working is now the way the majority of creative teams to collaborate. Ours is no different. Today there are approximately 14,000 coworking sites worldwide, and it’s not enough. By some accounts, coworking membership will rise to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022.

Our First Space

Through some fortuitous events we stumbled across a charming mill building in Hudson, MA. The building, recently renamed The Landing at Hudson Mills was undergoing a massive renovation. Easy access to major roads, nested between the Assabet River and the Rail Trail cycling path, and steps from a dozen local restaurants and micro-breweries, The Landing ticked all the boxes for a suburban coworking location.

Source: Boston Magazine Where to Eat Guide.

Hudson, MA and its immediate town neighbors are home to over 100,000 people. Walking trough downtown Hudson it was evident that this community was home to the creative class of designers, engineers, artists, educators and tech entrepreneurs. We felt at home.

Within days of touring the building we knew it would be an ideal location. We settled on 15,000 sq ft of space and started the build-out. With a lot of help from friends and family, we converted a fire-alarm circuit board manufacturing facility into a gorgeous new coworking space.

There’s enough space for 40 or more ‘hot desks’, as well and sixteen private offices. Add to that the three big meeting rooms, phone booths, massive kitchen and an event space large enough for 100+ people, and it’s a perfect place to work, learn, build new connections and enjoy a good coffee.

Elegantly designed event spaces in the suburbs are especially rare.

Thanks to all the amazing people that have made this dream come true. Like all good things, nothing happens without the village, or in this case, the community. We’re already looking at new locations in Ashland, MA and Nashua, NH.

If you’re looking for a desk, private office, or a place to host your next event, let us know.

We’re Out Of Office.