What It’s Like To Build Coworking And Co-Living Space In The Arctic Circle

Think You’ve Got It Tough? Try Building A Coworking Space In The Arctic Circle! Arctic Coworking Lodge founders reflect on building their remote space from the ground up
  • Arctic Coworking Lodge is a new coworking and co-living space based in Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands.
  • Seven months in, the founders reflect on the pressures of running a new space and how they find support from their own community.
  • A new partnership now links the Lodge with other North Atlantic companies, including coworking spaces in Iceland and Greenland.

Attracting members to a coworking space and building a thriving community is challenging enough. When your coworking space is located on a remote island archipelago in the Arctic Circle, those challenges are somewhat amplified.

Enter Arctic Coworking Lodge, a new coworking and co-living space located on Norway’s spectacular Lofoten Islands.

We first heard from the founders — Rolf Oftedal and Stian Morel — a little over a year ago. At the time they were busy planning and building out the new space before its official launch date on June 1st, 2018. So what happened?

“We finished refurbishing at exactly 11 pm the day before. We managed to launch on time!” says Rolf, who welcomed their very first guests the next morning.

Rolf Oftedal and Stian Morel, co-founders of Arctic Coworking Lodge


“That last month was full of hard work and we felt the pressure at times. Thanks to the help of the community we have in Lofoten, we got it finished. The feeling was incredible.”

The first year of a coworking space is usually its most difficult; building costs, credit interest, publicity and early teething problems can take their toll. With Coworking Arctic Lodge now seven months into its first year, how are things panning out?

“We were overwhelmed by how much we were able to fill up during our first summer. I think our unique location sparked people’s interest,” said Rolf.

It’s easy to see why. The coastal lodge is surrounded by incredible natural scenery and guests regularly enjoy views of the Northern Lights and local wildlife. For anyone with a thirst for adventure, the slightly odd sensation of round-the-clock daylight during summer ensures plenty of fun for outdoor enthusiasts.

Arctic Coworking Lodge’s outdoor playground


While summer brought in plenty of guests, their first winter has been quite challenging.

Temperatures regularly plunge below 0° Celcius (32 F) at this time of year, which can put off even the most determined digital nomad.

But according to Rolf, that’s all part of the appeal.

“At this time Lofoten is very peaceful. The views are exceptional with the snow-clad mountains and Northern Lights. It’s definitely our favorite time of year, and definitely the time to be here if you really need to finish a project. Winter time means no distractions.

“We do think that when people understand what winter time is like here, we will see an increase in occupancy in the colder months.”

Currently, the Lodge is proving popular for individuals staying for two weeks or more. Rolf and Stian are targeting this group by offering discounts on longer-term stays, but they have also found growing interest from teams traveling to Lofoten for company retreats.

“A memorable one was LearnLink, one of Norway’s up and coming startups. As a remote team, they had their yearly meet-up at the Coworking Lodge.

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“They were in work-mode for seven days straight, but thanks to the midnight sun they could still be outside after work hours. It was pretty cool to see how much they were able to do in that short period of time, both work and non-work related activities.”

Arctic Coworking Lodge Summer beach meeting


Indeed, living and working in close proximity to other business owners has proved a valuable learning curve for the founders of Arctic Coworking Lodge.

As part of their community-building work, Rolf and Stian organize weekly ‘Family Meetings’ for guests. Everyone is invited to explain what they are working on, the challenges involved, and to brainstorm solutions with the community.

“It’s fun how people from different industries help each other out, and it really helps build this community feeling. We, as rookie business owners, learn a lot too.”

Even though co-living communities operate on a different dynamic from that of coworking spaces, given the shorter stays and higher turnover, it remains a valuable part of the Lodge and their main focus.

“We want to give anyone the opportunity to travel to Lofoten, a remote corner of the world, and find a thriving community of digital nomads, local freelancers and business owners. We really want to make this space a home for remote workers, and having people staying long term really helps the community aspect.”

Arctic Coworking Lodge community activity during Wintertime


And thanks to a new partnership opportunity, their wish could be granted much sooner than expected.

Arctic Coworking Lodge has just linked up with the North Atlantic Cooperation Fund (NORA), a regional initiative that supports projects where companies or communities collaborate in the remote areas of the North Atlantic. “Pretty specific, but that’s exactly what we will do.”

Together with The Blue Bank in Iceland and Hotel Narsaq in Greenland, Arctic Coworking Lodge is now working to create “the best Arctic coworking experience possible” with the help of funding for marketing and collaborative projects, such as workshops.

The initiative is also designed to support local job opportunities.

“Many communities in the far north have seen a lack of jobs in the creative industries, and we want to prove that via the Internet you can now live wherever you want. And also explore the far corners of the earth.

“It’s all very exciting!” added Rolf.

(Join the Facebook group Arctic Digital Nomads for information and to find out what’s happening in the region)

As for the Lodge itself, its first few months of existence are proving positive, with numerous opportunities for growth over the coming year — especially with summer on the way.

“For sure it’s been a lot of work, but it’s all pretty fun to be honest. We get to meet a lot of very interesting people, and that’s something we really appreciate. It’s also very fun to see people’s reactions to being surrounded by this crazy environment.

“Safe to say, we are really happy with how it all turned out,” added Rolf. “We are excited to see what the next year brings.”

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