By Darby Giannone
Coworking spaces–businesses offering workspaces, high-speed internet, and officelike amenities–provide resources to support digital workers. The shared space allows freedom and flexibility yet provides an opportunity to escape the isolation of working at home or in coffee shops. Research on freelancers and start-up businesses shows a correlation between working in a coworking space and feelings of meaningful work, having more job control, and fostering the sense of belonging to an innovative community.
Eugene has three coworking spaces: Code Chops, Eugene Mindworks, and The District Coworking and Flex Office, which opens this April in the expanded Fifth Street Public Market.
The District opens at a time when COVID pandemic mandates have cancelled events, closed business doors, and kept many workers at home. Ninety percent of the 20,000-square foot space is configured as private office suites accommodating one to 10 persons. The remaining open space provides flex and dedicated desks. Robust COVID-19 protocols include physical distancing and temperature screening. The District’s Managing Director, Amanda Yankovich, says that, despite COVID, word-of-mouth has attracted eight prelaunch members, including the Technology Association of Oregon in the Southern Willamette Valley. The District’s vision and plan is to collaborate with other business groups to foster a downtown connection and a shared, robust ecosystem that supports a new way to work, and creates a community feel.
Eugene Mindworks, at 207 E. Fifth Ave., provides 24/7 access to 37 private offices, three meeting rooms, two lunchrooms, and 14,000-square feet of coworking space. Rates vary according to type of membership–flex or dedicated desk, private office, or network member. All memberships provide exclusive discounts, Slack community, member newsletter, Facebook group, and event access. Founded by Aloma Loren Murray and Shaylor Murray, Mindworks is an opportunity for entrepreneurs, startups, remote employees and self-employed people to collaborate, innovate, and grow their businesses.
“Eugene Mindworks has supported many community projects and helped many startup businesses and nonprofits,” said Aloma Loren Murray. “We love to give back and have done so in many creative ways, including many sponsored memberships, hosting events, supporting young entrepreneurs (Sprout Children's Business Expo), giving projects like Bless A Mom and Halloween Delivered and member fundraising drives. I am passionate about using the power of our community coming together to have an impact and make a difference in our own neighborhood.”
Code Chops, at 44 W. Broadway in the Broadway Commerce Center, is more than a coworking space. It does have office amenities and offers full time, drop-in, and visitor pass membership options, but an extension of the coworking space is the digital community, #EugeneTech. With over 700 members, #EugeneTech presents itself as “a co-op and volunteer program that seeks to elevate and amplify awareness of all the players in Eugene’s tech community. We foster an open and inclusive tech community by supporting events related to technology, innovation and education.” The communication tools–Switchboard
, Slack and Meetups–foster community and connections, creative opportunities, events and sharing resources. At the center of #EugeneTech is Code Chops’ Founder Mark Davis, who operates as a community connector. Through his connections, the tech community participated in larger community projects associated with Mozilla Foundation Gigabit City, National Science Foundation Ignite, Innovate Oregon projects, Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN Eugene startup support) and the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce Innovation District and Eugene Narrative initiatives. During COVID, Davis and the tech community connected with organizations who needed support to pivot to digital formats and online presences. “As digital natives, we are less impacted by COVID, unlike the digital refugees who are very competent in what they do but not in the digital world,” Davis said.
Moving forward, coworking provides a model for community-embedded digital workers. The District provides multiple entry points and supports for conducting business digitally. At Mindworks, Murray is excited about the recent uptick in inquiries and memberships indicating an aggregation of energy, intention and growth. After reviewing tech and business collaborative projects, Davis believes their impact goes beyond products with outcomes that are significant and uplifting. “There is a fall forward toward positivity–‘Sure, let’s try,’” he said. “There is a lot less compartmentalization and the invisible silos are gone. More future events will be hybrid as past events ignored the whole category of people who would attend digitally.”
Darby Giannone is state champion of Nation of Makers, a nonprofit group supporting America’s maker organizations through community building, resource sharing and advocacy.
Amanda Yankovich, managing director, The District Coworking and Flex Office.
Code Chops founder Mark Davis and Jessica Bobrowski, lead designer of Eugene Tech.
Eugene Mindworks founders Aloma Loren Murray and Shaylor Murray.