Santa Barbara’s First Coworking Club Calls On Telecommuters

People working at tables and on couches

Member-based Workzones offers office space and a social environment for work-from-home professionals

A writer, a small-business owner and a corporate salesman all walked into a modern office in downtown Santa Barbara.

But it’s no joke, as remote professionals around the area begin discovering the welcoming reality of Workzones, a member-based, coworking environment designed for those who don’t work in a traditional office setting.

Santa Barbara’s first coworking club is calling all freelancers, corporate remote workers, entrepreneurs and other work-from-home professionals to be a part of the growing phenomenon that is working from home — or telecommuting.

Across the country, regular telecommuting grew by 73 from 2005 to 2011, compared with only 4.3 percent growth of the overall workforce (not including the self-employed), according to Telework Research Network.

The four local founders of Workzones — all telecommuters — saw that Santa Barbara lacked a quiet, social and professional area for others like them to work.

After brainstorming and visiting coworking spaces in cities across California, Kirk Peacock, Pam Tanase, Mike Franco and Lisa Riolo formed and founded what they hope will be the first in a franchise of Workzones.

“That’s absolutely the idea,” said Riolo, who did consulting work from home for seven years before helping found the club. “We built this ourselves for ourselves. Where do you go when you’re a work-from-home professional and don’t have an office and want to get out of the house? I think the really big thing is being productive.”

Workzones, which will host its grand opening April 4, already has acquired more than three dozen members since its March 1 soft opening at 351 Paseo Nuevo, on the second floor directly above Aerie.

Walking into the open, sunny space this week, members could be seen with laptops kicking back in a comfy club chair, meeting with a client at a high table, eating in a café-like area and talking on the phone from the privacy of a phone booth — one of three built into the 5,000-square-foot space that used to be an insurance office.

Members can conduct business in social zones ranging from collaborative to quiet at one of more 50 workstations — all for less than $200 a month.

The club has 10 meeting rooms, including a boardroom and training room, available for rent, as well as space to host after-work-hours events.

Riolo said she knows they’re on to something because many of those who visit the space for the first time, which is free, say, “Hey, I could do that.”

The free coffee, high-speed WiFi and access to a printer also could have something to do with it.

Sean Mathews, a brand partner with Nerium AD anti-aging treatment, joined the coworking club last week when meeting with clients in libraries and noisy coffee shops stopped cutting it.

“This is more of a professional setting,” said Mathews, whose employer is based in Texas. “It’s much more relaxed here than Starbucks. This is like my home base in Santa Barbara.”

Workzones will save Steven Wells, director of sales for Maine-based Delorme, from having to sublease property in the summer when his kids tend to loudly interrupt his home business conference calls.

Riolo, a Ventura resident, said she’ll be visiting her hometown every day as the club’s community manager to see how members like and shape the space’s culture.

The club is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

“It’s being able to find the right thing for what you’re doing in the moment,” she said of being productive. “You move around.”

Originally featured on Noozhawk:

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