When Jade Liu, advertising and psychology senior, arrives at her internship, she stows her backpack in a private space and sits in her usual seat by the window.
She’s surrounded by many others working on their own projects, but this isn’t a library, a cafe or a lecture hall. It’s a coworking space.
A coworking space is a shared workspace for small startups, entrepreneurs or anyone who needs a workspace away from home. In Arlington, most spaces cost $10 a day for anyone to come work in a shared environment.
Machine learning engineer Brad Neuberg is credited with popularizing the movement and coining the term in 2005 when he opened the San Francisco Coworking Space at a nonprofit named Spiral Muse.
After leaving his job at a startup company, Neuberg said in an email that he wanted the freedom of working for himself combined with the structure of a traditional job.
“I ran it like an open source project, rather than a traditional business, telling people who visited to steal and remix the idea,” he said.
At the end of the day, Neuberg’s goal was to create a community with the feeling of a conventional job but for people who work unconventionally.
After working remotely for five years, UTA alumnus Brian Jones decided to create CenterSpace Coworking with co-owner Chris Tracey when their respective children started to grow older. It got to the point where neither could work from home anymore, he said.
Through a Meetup group called Startup Arlington, the co-owners met and found they had a similar goal; to find a new space in Arlington for the nontraditional, remote worker — a coworking space.
The problem with working from home or at coffee shops is that it becomes a solitary activity, and people are prone to distraction, said Lauren Brewer, Union Worx Coworking co-owner.
Working from home can also blur the boundaries between being at home and being at work, Brewer said.
“When you walk in our doors, you’re really here just to work. You’re not here to, like, throw in the laundry or do the dishes,” she said. “When you walk through our doors, you have one goal, and that’s just to focus on your work and get it done.”
Three years ago, PinnStation Coworking became Arlington’s first coworking space, said Oluwatoba Toye-Abdul, PinnStation manager and UTA alumnus.
Located within a 10-minute walk from the University Center, PinnStation Coworking is home to local startup companies, including a few projects run by UTA alumni, such as tech company TechComb.
“Almost everyone here has some tie with UTA,” Toye-Abdul said.
One of the reasons Toye-Abdul said people might want to use a coworking space is because they’re more affordable than renting a whole office space when starting a company for the first time.
Liu said this concept was true for her internship’s agency.
“It’s a cheaper alternative for businesses who are really small to rent out spaces instead of, like, buying a whole office for, like, five people,” she said.
Jones said coworking spaces are significant for Arlington because the city can seem like a stop before the next destination. He wanted people to know there are things to do here.
If students have a business idea, coworking provides an economical way to have a space to work on it, Brewer said. She believes there is a lot of talent at UTA, and she wants students to know there are places in Arlington for them to use those talents.
“You don’t have to go to Dallas, you don’t have to go to Fort Worth, you don’t have to go to Silicon Valley,” said Lauren Brewer, Union Worx Coworking co-owner. “You can stay in Arlington.”
From photographers to graphic designers to a New York Times bestselling author, Brewer said many different people work in their teal-and-yellow open coworking space.
“Every coworking space kind of has their own flavor,” Brewer said.
Brewer recommends trying out each of the available spaces to find a space and community that suits the person.
The community can also help entrepreneurs progress their project or business, she said.
“If you have an idea or dream, you might not know every step of the way what you need to do, but if you can at least get started, there’s someone around you that’s gonna be able to give you tidbits and help,” Brewer said. “That’s really what coworking is all about.”
Community is hard to create, Neuberg said. Simply gathering a bunch of people in the same room isn’t enough.
“You have to have someone who is very good at catalyzing community and creating it amongst a group of strangers,” Neuberg said. “Otherwise you are just a Regus-like ‘Rent a Space,’ which is not coworking in my opinion.”
Although Neuberg no longer runs a coworking space — he most recently worked as a NASA research fellow — he still values the idea of communal productivity.
“I still think the humanistic values behind coworking are important,” Neuberg said. “People and community matter, and we need to create more ways for people to ‘stay human.’”