Coworking is an exciting new phenomenon, rapidly seen as a revitalization catalyst for cities nationwide. As a coworking enthusiast and member of the Urban Hive in Sacramento I am excited to have Marilyn Finnemore, co-founder of Winchester, Virginia based Bright CoWork discuss the merits of this movement and its importance in terms of fostering civic connection in America. Marilyn and I first became acquainted through an esoteric social networking site called Twitter and have since built a conversation around the future of coworking. Our hope is this piece will offer some compelling insights into this emerging trend.

By Marilyn Finnemore

One of the recent trends in progressive cities across America is the emergence of coworking spaces, which offer professionals inexpensive, collaborative, creative places to work as an alternative to traditional offices or working from home.   Unlike sterile, fluorescent-lit telework offices, these new coworking environments recognize the importance of place and our human need for beauty, community, and connection.

Recently, I co-founded a cowork space in Winchester, Virginia: Bright Cowork.  We discovered that the majority of those who’ve joined us fled traditional workplaces years ago to avoid long commutes or escape from the cubicle farm.  Working from home was a dream come true at first, but now they feel lonely and miss the collaboration that makes the best workplaces sources of energy and creativity.   Bright Cowork, like many coworking spaces, is designed with these creative types in mind.  It’s has an open, bright floor plan and moveable furniture that allows co-workers to work alone or in ad hoc groups.  It is full of light, color, and art, and is centrally located in the middle of Old Town Winchester so coworkers can walk to coffee shops, restaurants, the post office, city offices, and everywhere else.

As Old Town Winchester seeks to revitalize and be economically viable in the 21st century, I believe that spaces like Bright Cowork are vital.  These spaces build a connection between these professionals and the City and bring in important energy.  They attract artists, architects, musicians, programmers, and a diverse group of others who believe in collaboration and community, the heart of what revitalizes downtowns like Winchester, Virginia.  Besides being more productive than they’ve been in years, our coworkers are always involved in pro-bono community-focused projects as well, e.g. creating websites for volunteer groups, hosting events, presenting innovative solutions to Old Town Development Board and downtown businesses.   They’re always helping launch a new business or make existing businesses more successful.

I think this type of energy comes from connecting people to Place.  In today’s increasingly suburbanized, boxy world, providing beauty and community may be one of the most important things we can do to promote human wellbeing and the wellbeing of our Cities.