Co-working spaces are branching out to nontraditional spaces, from Office Depot to downtown restaurants

Co-working spaces are entering Phase Two: Non-traditional and reclaimed spaces.

With 57.3 million of the workforce estimated to be freelance, the mobile professional has long outgrown coffeeshops and traditional co-working spaces like WeWork. The co-working giant can cost up to $350-550 a month for a “hot desk,” more than some are willing to pay.

In response, retail and hospitality spaces from big-box stores to empty restaurants and bars are beginning to experiment with moonlighting as cheaper, more flexible co-working spaces for freelancers and telecommuters.

Think big

Office Depot has been testing one of its Los Gatos, California stores as a co-working space since August, reports Digiday. Called a “Workonomy Hub,” it boasts 5,000 feet of space with open-office style seating, some private offices, and a Starbucks lounge. It’s $40 a day for a seat, $750 a month for a private office. The office-supplies and services stores see the move as a way to gain customers for its business services.

Other big-box stores have rolled out the red carpet for freelancers; since 2016 Staples partnered with co-working startup Workbar to create several dedicated co-working spaces in several Massachusetts stores, complete with unlimited coffee happy hours. The cost? $130 a month for unlimited use.

Scale down

On a smaller scale, startups like Spacious and Kettlespace have colonized smaller territories – restaurants, reports Vox’s The Goods. In Spacious’s case, their coworking portfolio is 15 Manhattan restaurants that are dinner-only and therefore can open to freelancers during the morning and afternoon hours for $129 a month. (Kettlespace is $99 a month). Telecommuters type and take calls in the eateries’ booths and tables, and coffee and tea are served.

Spacious is also in San Francisco, and similar restaurant co-working startups exist in Switch in Austin ($150 a month) and Philadelphia (Wheach Seats, for example, features empty bars and charges $165 a month).

The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon — as long as people need a seat, coffee, and WiFi during the day, it looks like more and more places – that aren’t a traditional office, of course – will open up to busy freelancers.

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at