BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WLVT) - Samantha Todd has been working from home since the pandemic started, but she took the restaurant marketing agency she co-founded, SociPROMO, to a new location Monday for the first time.
"I've been looking for something where I can just have it strictly for work, because I stay at home," she said. "Sometimes, I just don't want to do any work, because I'm so comfortable being there."
Todd is one of ten members of SoBeCoWorks, the first privately-owned coworking space in the Lehigh Valley and one of several options in Northampton County right now. (PBS39 featured Reeds 403 CoWork Lounge in Easton in February 2020.)
"For me, it's a community hub, where people that have entrepreneurial aspirations can go to to get encouragement, education and training," said SoBeCoWorks member-owner Santiago Rivera.
Coworking was already an option for businesses and employees before the pandemic, but now, it’s gaining interest.
"Of course, home is an option, and of course, headquarters or the office space or whatever it might be as an option, but I would see coworking -- us, whomever it might be -- as being a beautiful option right in the middle," said Terry Wallace, president of Venture X Lehigh Valley.
Venture X Bethlehem is the newest coworking space in the Lehigh Valley, opening in September in the city's Southside section.
"We wanted to provide that five-star workplace," said community director Jessica Santoro. "We wanted to have that most professional and inspiring environment that you don't have to go to Philly or New York. You can work from a place like the Lehigh Valley that's your home, but then have a home away from home and the office."
Venture X Bethlehem has two floors and forty offices with spaces small enough for freelancers and big enough for businesses to set up their headquarters. Wallace said the company plans to add locations in Allentown and Easton, as more people find themselves working from home more often.
"It doesn't make sense to live in one location and work in a drastically different location unless you absolutely have to," he said. "With the knowledge based economy, the number of people that have to make those commutes is small and getting smaller."
Coworking spaces look a little different now than they did before COVID-19. At Cowork 414 in west Bethlehem, workspaces are limited to one person or team.
"What we have with the separate rooms is the ability to close doors or have your own either your own work unit -- or you as an individual -- in your own space," said co-owner Jennifer Lader.
Bethlehem-based Viddler has brought its six-person team to Cowork 414. The video-based training and engagement platform is now completely remote.
"We work with a bunch of contractors that are in other areas of the world, actually. So we've had the experience of working remotely for quite a while, and now it makes sense for us to go permanently," said Viddler president Darryl Rentz.
"People realized they can work from home, or their employees can work from home," Lader added. "This is a way to have a business address, a place for the team to meet. This would be a team that's already working as a unit that you're just bringing together."
Coworking advocates say it’s more than just a space. It’s an environment that encourages innovation and communication.
"There's web designers within a mile of here. There's programmers, there's database programmers...all these things exist, but people don't know how to talk to each other," Rivera said. "There's a disconnect. So, you've got to have an entrepreneurial hub, and, in my opinion, you need more than one."
"People are just working on their own individual projects and businesses, and then, you just thrive off that energy," Todd added. "You feel like, 'Okay, these people are working,' and motivate you to work. I like that."
Coworking spaces are membership-based, and the costs depend on how often members use the space.
For more on SoBeCoWorks, click HERE.
For more on Venture X Bethlehem, click HERE.
For more on Cowork 414, click HERE.