When COVID-19 came to Cincinnati, many businesses transitioned their employees to working remotely from home to help stop the spread of the virus. But as quarantine continued, some companies began to realize that maybe they didn’t need all that office space they had before.

“You’re going to see companies come out of the pandemic realizing that a more flexible work environment is something that they desire,” says Tamara Schwarting, founder of 1628 Ltd., a coworking space in downtown Cincinnati.

While the term coworking may bring to mind large open-air spaces where social interaction is encouraged, not all coworking spaces are the same. 1628 Ltd., for example, is designed for the mid-career professional who desires reliable internet, good coffee and a business-like setting for work and meetings.

“When we think about the 1628 differentiator, really we don’t think of ourselves as selling space as much as selling productivity,” says Schwarting.

As we leave the pandemic, the coworking industry expects the demand for these spaces to grow, as those spaces can fill a variety of roles for a company that has eliminated or reduced its office space. At 1628 Ltd., members have access to private offices and conference rooms in addition to open desk areas, allowing companies to host private meetings and provide employees with a temporary place to work when they no longer want to work from home.

Schwarting says that many corporations have already been using coworking spaces this way. In fact, she says that when it comes to coworking corporations are the fastest growing segment, not individuals or startups.

“It removes the capital barrier that companies have when it comes to establishing a professional presence in our downtown business district,” she says. So a company with headquarters elsewhere may use a coworking space to start doing business in the region before investing in a commercial space.

“Someone can meet with a key business partner and give a sense of comfort and a sense of trust from the location even though it’s not their physical office. We definitely know that that helps them build credibility with a potential client or a customer,” adds Schwarting.

And while some may see companies leaving their downtown offices as the death knell of downtown development, Schwarting sees coworking spaces as a way to keep businesses downtown and attract new ones.

“If we want to see a city that is welcoming to all different types of businesses, large and small, it’s about having real estate options that meet the organizational needs at different phases of their development. It really isn’t an either-or,” she says. For example, if a company can’t afford to sign a long-term fixed contract for commercial space downtown, using 1628 Ltd. allows the business to have a downtown presence without taking that expense on. Then, when the company is ready, it can transition to its own space while remaining downtown.

“For us to really dynamically grow as a region, [coworking] really needs to be a viable option for companies. In the end of the day it’s about people effectively doing business in our region and making sure they understand that we have these options,” says Schwarting.