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Pop-up coworking events are uniting lonely workers

Megan Jamerson Apr 26, 2024
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Remote workers use a cafe in LA's Koreatown as a shared office space during an event hosted by LA in Common. Groups like these are working out deals with restaurants and coffee shops to host coworking pop-ups. Megan Jamerson/KCRW

Pop-up coworking events are uniting lonely workers

Megan Jamerson Apr 26, 2024
Heard on:
Remote workers use a cafe in LA's Koreatown as a shared office space during an event hosted by LA in Common. Groups like these are working out deals with restaurants and coffee shops to host coworking pop-ups. Megan Jamerson/KCRW
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Inside a cafe in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, about a dozen people gather in a circle to introduce themselves. They are at a coworking pop-up event, hosted by LA in Common

For the last hour people from all different industries have been clacking away on their laptops. Usually coworking is where people buy a membership to a shared office space, but this event is at a cafe to bring remote workers in during slow hours.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet people who are in similar situations,” said Alice Cho, a transplant from New York who’s worked remotely for the United Nations Development Program since 2020. 

About 22 million Americans are still working remotely, according to Pew Research. Some of them, four years into wearing sweatpants on the couch, are getting kinda lonely. That’s a business opportunity for event organizers in cities from Dallas to Los Angeles. They’re organizing pop-up coworking events at small businesses and it’s turning into a beneficial relationship for just about everyone involved. 

Some participants, like Matt Clevy, a writer and actor who attended the LA in Common event, are looking at it as a way to get much needed face-to-face interaction. He said all his auditions are either self-taped or over Zoom, and even his writers’ rooms meet virtually.

“I feel like I’m still stuck in that pandemic stay-at-home mindset and routine, even though things have opened back up now for a while,” Clevy said.

The people behind the LA pop-up are LA in Common co-founders, Daniel Chae and Carissa Morrow. They started their company in late 2023 to put on the kind of social events that allow people to find friends as adults and build a sense of community. Chae was motivated to branch into coworking pop-ups after seeing the U.S. surgeon general declare loneliness an epidemic last year. He believes there is an overlap with remote workers who want connection. “Why not bring those two together and kind of create an experience as a solution?” Chae said.

Another thing that sets these events apart is that they are relatively affordable. A monthly coworking membership at WeWork is $199, and day passes are $29. LA in Common events are around $15. 

This kind of event is becoming more common. Andrea Ramirez a hosts weekly coworking events, through her group The Next Fun Thing. Her model is to ask bar owners if she can use their space during the day when it’s closed. She shares a portion of the $18 entrance fee with the owners. “We bring the people, they provide the space, and we share the joys of our labor,” said Ramirez.

The events, where Ramirez serves coffee instead of alcohol, draw about 20 people every week. She said it can feel like a library with everyone working quietly on their laptops. Three months in, Ramirez has a number of regulars who are starting to form coworker-like relationships.

“People who recognize each other are naturally mingling and networking which is beautiful,” said Ramirez.

Back at the LA in Common event, podcaster Hana Lee said she didn’t make any new best friends that day, but she’s OK with that. Being together in a room with others and the chitchat in between being productive helped her feel less lonely in this work from home world. “I just enjoy the small interactions,” said Lee.

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