November 29, 2021

Why Co-Working Spaces Are Betting on the Suburbs

For many employees, the reluctance to return comes down to the commute.

Workers in the New York region had the longest average one-way commute in the country at about 38 minutes, according to 2019 census data. About 23 percent of workers in the region commuted at least an hour each way.

In June, Tom Hebner, a vice president at NeuraFlash, a consulting firm, relocated to a co-working space operated by Serendipity Labs in Ridgewood, N.J., where he lives. He said he was reminded of the benefits whenever he visits the company’s New York City office, a round trip that can take up to three hours.

“I’m the only guy in the suburbs who can walk to work,” said Mr. Hebner, who works at the Ridgewood location every day with three other NeuraFlash employees.

John Arenas, the chief executive of Serendipity Labs, said that when he founded the company a decade ago, his pitch for co-working spaces in the suburbs failed to take off because the corporate world strictly adhered to a five-day workweek in a central office.

Since the pandemic hit, Mr. Arenas said, more than half of his revenue now comes from companies that pay for employees to work from a co-working location in the suburbs as a perk.

Savills, a real estate firm, has found through surveys of its corporate clients that many employees relocated to the suburbs during the pandemic, prompting companies to seek out Manhattan office spaces near transit hubs, like Pennsylvania Station. But it has also led employees to demand more flexibility to work from home.

Offering co-working spaces as a perk could risk creating a fractured work culture where employees feel disconnected from the main office and more willing to switch jobs, said Rebecca Humphrey, an executive vice president at Savills.

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