Cool Coworking Space Spotlight

Local Office and the joy of a third space

Paige Giese was skeptical.

She had already opened and managed a coworking space in the Houston area. Another space was opening up, and she was asked to help build the community.

“They told me this one would be different,” she said. “They were right! I mean, it still felt harebrained, but it is today as it was then: the client centered vision of Local Office defines the decision making around aesthetic, interior build-out, membership options, etc. I should also mention that the entire team at Local Office is incredible.”

Giese has been the Local Office Community Curator and Manager since opening its doors in 2017. And she definitely made the most of that time, having been recognized as the US Winner of the Community Manager of the Year award from the Global Workspace Association in 2020… a year Giese personally counts as lasting for 40 years.

Local Office has two locations in Houston, in both the West University and Bellaire neighborhoods. Alex Soto is another Community Manager, having come on board in the last year.

Soto had been in the role at a previous space and was excited to expand her personal impact from an operational specialist to a member manager. 

As a Community Manager, I want to be a part of something different,” she said. “We have supportive managers across locations, and I’ve seen them become leaders in the community. I do think that Community Managers are the life and soul of a coworking space — we're here to create the best experience possible for our members.”

Giese and Soto are also on the front lines of educating prospective members about coworking, Coworking is not a traditional commercial real estate estate office lease. At Local Office, the Community Managers are driven by the original vision to provide support for a broad coalition of members. Their role in particular is the differentiator; they are not leasing agents whose involvement ends when a tenant moves in. Instead, they evolve their relationship from prospects to members, paying close attention to the specific needs of each person and their business in the space.

And even though coworking as a concept has been around for over a decade, and Community Managers are central to the operation, Giese notes there still isn’t one way to manage a community effectively. A coworking business is built on the shoulders of talented and engaging Community Managers, there is no blueprint,” she explained. “You have to be human first and foremost. ” 

Soto agreed that Community Managers have to care about their people, as well as how the property functions. “Whether it’s connecting over coffee, working with our facilities team to furnish the outdoor workspace,  or renewing memberships, we are there to support them through any situation.”

Giese quoted the mission statement of Local Office: The space for local business to create work that matters.

“At our core, that's what we do, and we are striving every day to fulfill that. I want my space to be the best; I want to have everything taken care of so the members here can do their best work and have the biggest impact.”

Local Office hosts events and creates opportunities to give members a full stack experience above and beyond a desk or a door. To date, those events include:

  • Lunch and learn sessions with a coach
  • Networking lunches with new members
  • Happy hours, such as a headshot happy hour

Soto mentioned that, while events help the community at large be cohesive and add value, the first month or so of membership is really the most critical. That’s when members will gel with the space, their neighbors, and the programming… or they won’t.

When Soto gives prospects a tour of the space, she also makes introductions. “That way, in their first couple of days, it’s not overwhelming, and they have people to say ‘hi’ to immediately. And when I introduce them to other members, I love to see that bond created. Then I see people I introduced have lunch together, and I check on them and see how they’re settling in.” 

Along with the operational support from Coworks, Local Office uses the software to get members plugged in and up to speed.

“Onboarding members with Coworks is amazing,” she said. “It's so easy. Members understand the app right away. They're blown away at how easy it is for them to use the resources and find what they need.”

While Giese would like to add even more automation to create the most efficient onboarding process, she does note the neighborly experience of Local Office makes it intimate and authentic. She enjoys seeing people make the space part of their daily routine.

“People come in from carpool or their pilates class, and it's a casual, personal encounter. And we have folks from across all industries — name an industry and we likely have a member in that field.”

And while no coworking Community Manager wants to see members leave, Giese celebrates what she sees as a “graduation — if a team has to move on from our space because they’re successful and they’ve outgrown us, I’m always proud. We were part of that journey!” 

Even though Giese and Soto still see opportunities to educate people about the idea and benefit of coworking and community, they do see the adoption of the ‘third space’ concept growing. As an option in between a full return to an office and working from a room at home, coworking spaces offer the best of both: convenience, flexibility, privacy, amenities, and, of course, community.

“People are always surprising to me,” Soto shared.”The members here at Local Office are inspiring and supportive of each other – and me. They remind me we are a community and that's what keeps me energized and engaged.”


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