You could hit the gym and workout before heading to work. Or, you could simply head to work and (co)work out at the same time.
Confused? You shouldn’t be.
Those of us confined to an office are slowly sitting ourselves to poor health, one sedentary day after another. So it comes as no surprise that one forward-thinking coworking space in St Paul, Minnesota, is actively bringing fitness into the workplace.
“Being trapped sitting is the worst thing you can do for your physical and mental health; not to mention your productivity,” says Anne Hendrickson, founder of Work It.
“All the sitting while you drive and work, plus unhealthy food, leads to decreased energy and poor sleep. It is a vicious cycle.
“I knew our society needed to change. So, I decided to lead the charge.”
Launched in August 2017, Work It is a wellness-focused coworking space that fuses fitness into the daily work regime. It comes equipped with 15 treadmill desks, 5 bicycle desks, 30 adjustable sit-stand desks and a basement fitness room. It also has secure bicycle racks and an accessible bathroom with showers.
Built on a promise of “a better work environment” to promote wellbeing and work/life balance, every workstation is “active” – meaning members can walk, bike, sit, stand, or wobble as they work. The two-floor workspace is wheelchair accessible and there’s also a private lactation room, “so your whole wellness can happen while you work.”
It sounds like an incredibly well-rounded workplace business model. And yet, this is Anne’s first foray into the flexible workspace market.
Previously, Anne ran her own doggie daycare business, Downtown Dogs. After a chance offer, she sold it to a client and setup a freelance consulting business, providing leadership and performance management services to small businesses. But like many sole traders, Anne began to experience the frustrations of limited flexibility.
“I couldn’t work from home because I have two small kids. I couldn’t focus and be productive in a coffee shop, and there was no coworking that was flexible enough for what I needed.”
Anne also craved a healthier environment.
“It is really hard to eat well when you freelance and you’re traveling from site to site all day,” she said. “My background from the ‘dog world’ was focused on evolutionary development. I knew people needed to move to work and feel their best.
“So, I started to imagine Work it.”
Anne’s coworking journey took around two years to come to fruition – most of which was focused on finding the right physical space. “I wanted ample free parking, lots of natural light, and a good, central location. A good central meeting spot is not easy to find.”
Eventually, Anne found 635 Fairview Avenue. With funding from an SBA Loan and proceeds from the sale of Downtown Dogs, she leased two floors of the building and began fitting-out the new space.
“I lived and breathed and imagined every detail of my new space!” she says. “I wanted it to change lives. People could be giving so much more to the world and their families if it weren’t for obesity, back pain, and heart disease. And sitting just fuels these conditions in our society.”
Armed with grit determination, Anne worked closely with a team of contractors, a designer and an architect to realize her vision, “which was no small task”. Even adding a kitchen with an oven and cook top was a challenge due to design and licensing restrictions, but Anne’s resolve eventually won through.
After a “long, hard build-out”, Work It opened in August 2017, and the response so far has been positive. “Mostly, people need the workspace, and the ‘context blending’ of fitness and office is something they love once they get here.”
Anne has plans to “aggressively grow memberships” over the coming months and eventually aims to roll out a Work It franchise. Another driver is Work It’s ethos of positive change, which is directly linked to its growth objectives: “For every 25 memberships, we furnish one public school classroom in our community with active seating, like we have at Work It.”
And although the space is little more than one month old, Anne is pleased with the response – as much for herself as for the business.
“I’m hoping to see many more people trying out Work It and seeing the benefits I’ve already experienced just in the few weeks we have been open. I have so much more energy for my kids, my clothes are looser, and I’ve made tons of professional contacts.
“I’m also sleeping better, despite the anxiety of opening a brand new business as a sole parent and sole owner!”
Find out more at co-workit.com.