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

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.