The Rise of Coworking Where You Work Out

The Rise of Coworking Where You Work Out

Capitalizing on the growing market for coworking spaces and catering to a lucrative clientele of young professionals, many gyms are incorporating work areas into their facilities. Rachel Bachman takes a look at the trend in the Wall Street Journal:

Sensing a surge of demand, gyms are responding by building or expanding workspaces for members to set up laptops, charge phones and conduct business—sometimes for the entire day. The idea is to keep gym-goers lingering longer and accommodate the rising number of people who work remotely.

The lounge/workspace at Equinox’s SoMa location is about 1,150 square feet. If it continues to gain popularity, Equinox will expand it to as large as 6,000 square feet, says Aaron Richter, Equinox’s vice president of design. At the Equinox in London’s Kensington neighborhood, “I’ve seen people do full-on job interviews in the lounge,” he says. Equinox, which has 81 locations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, is creating or enlarging lounge/work areas at several other clubs. It’s also building the spaces into almost all new clubs.

Health-club operators say providing workspaces gives members another reason to keep paying dues. It also increases members’ spending on discretionary items like smoothies, yoga pants and massages.

This isn’t a brand-new idea: Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, a pioneer of the concept, opened outside Boston in 2013. Ariel Schwartz profiled the climbing gym-cum-coworking space in Fast Company a few months after it opened:

The workspace, planted in the middle of a 40,000-square-foot climbing facility, is located on top of a 120-foot-long and 22-foot-high climbing wall. There’s free Wi-Fi, a lounge area with couches, a communal table, a smattering of standing desks with built-in pull-up bars, seated desks with balance ball chairs, and a few quiet spaces. No special membership is necessary—any member of the climbing facility can work there for free. “It’s like the sauna. It’s a perk of the facility,” says [BKB Somerville’s “Senior Cultural Chameleon” Jesse] Levin.

He believes that one of the main benefits to using the co-working space is the proximity it gives to the kinds of people who would want to work in a climbing gym. “Climbing inherently attracts venture capitalists, artists, programmers,” Levin says. “It’s a very cerebral sport, and they mix naturally. We’re giving them a space where they can embody and live this lifestyle.”

The Somerville experiment proved so successful that Brooklyn Boulders has incorporated coworking spaces into all of its new locations, Kyle Chayka reported in Bloomberg last year after taking a tour of the company’s Queens facility, then under construction:

For a monthly fee of $115, BKB offers members a holistic “lifestyle-domicile,” [co-founder Lance] Pinn says during a hardhat tour of the gym during its construction. The premise is to tap indoor rock-climbing’s popularity among those in the tech industry, a trend that puts physical fitness next to disruptive potential and laptops next to free weights. But it’s easy to see the gym more as a kind of millennial day care, at which members can drop themselves off and stay for days. “We want to make a facility that you don’t want to leave,” says Pinn[.] …

Other gyms are picking up on BKB’s all-inclusive approach. In spring 2016, a similar climbing-oriented lifestyle center will open in northeastern Washington, D.C., featuring climbing walls, co-working spaces, a coffee roaster, and a beer garden. The “hipster playground,” as the Washington Postcalled it, is the work of Joe Englert, a veteran Washington developer and restaurateur. “All three things dovetail into each other: coffee, climbing, beer,” Englert says. “If you’re snagging a bit mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you go and boulder for a couple hours, you’re totally rejuvenated, get your laptop into the coffee place or beer garden, and you’re in the game. As long as you don’t do beer before the climbing, we’re good to go.”