TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Lake Tahoe and Truckee may be made up of small mountain towns, but big-city trends are becoming welcomed norms in the Sierra Nevada.
In response to the growing number of freelancers and telecommuters in the region, community members in Truckee, North Tahoe and the South Shore have created co-working spaces where people can rent a desk and show up to an office.
Co-working is a trend that started about 10 years ago in the Bay Area and is becoming the new place and style of work for thousands across the country.
Megan Michelson, co-founder of the Tahoe Mill Collective in Alpine Meadows, spent years working at coffee shops before opening the Collective last November. The shared working space has 15 desks and a paying member for each.
“I think sometimes you can get stuck in your own head when you work for yourself,” Michelson said.
The freelance writer works for ESPN.com and other publications such as Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal. Starting Tahoe Mill Collective has helped Michelson meet people and have a more fulfilling workday.
“It was important to have a community … but also to give people this face-to-face social interaction,” she said.
‘VALUE OF THE FRIENDSHIPS’
Eric Brown, head of business for Chrysallis, a health and wellness company, works at The Lift, a co-working space in Truckee, instead of “going crazy” at home.
“It’s fun to get out of the house and have warm bodies around,” Brown said.
The Lift is located near the airport in a 2,500-square-foot building where muddy mountain bikes are frequently parked outside, and on the walls upstairs hang posters that read “Relentless Forward Momentum” and “Get Sh*t Done.”
The Lift opened nearly three months ago and has 10 members who range from web design professionals to employees of a digital publishing company.
“It’s really great people passionate about what they’re doing,” said Brown, his flip flop-clad feet perched up on his desk.
For Brown, the structure of his workday doesn’t change much, but having the companionship and collaboration of others in the office helps him to be more productive.
“The value of the friendships and the day-in-day-out mentorships is hugely important,” Brown said.
SOUTH SHORE FOLLOWS SUIT
Following similar trends on the other side of the lake, three people from vastly different backgrounds saw the same need in South Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Mountain Lab, South Shore’s new co-working space, opened May 28 to serve both local freelancers and visiting telecommuters.
Jamie Orr, a physics and engineering professor, opened the space with her husband David Orr, an urban planning consultant, and friend Jesse Walker, a business development specialist.
“Tahoe has the same issue,” Orr said, referring to the workforce in the Bay Area and other big cities. “People don’t want or can’t afford the extra expense of having an office.”
Members at Tahoe Mountain Lab can purchase monthly, multi-day and single-day passes. The co-working space currently has seven members and 13 workstations, a conference room and a lounge.
Orr and her husband are transplants from Silicon Valley and wanted a place to work while being able to live in Tahoe.
She described the cyclical economy in Tahoe as “feast or famine,” and hopes that co-working spaces will bring more economic growth year round.
“We hope to level it out and strengthen the economy for the entire region,” she said. “I can’t imagine a more welcoming business community than we’ve experienced in Tahoe.”
‘HAPPIER DAY IN THE OFFICE’
When members sign up for a month at Tahoe Mill Collective, they are given a desk and a chair, a lamp, waste paper basket and a corkboard.
Low cubicle walls promote conversation and collaboration. Artwork, individual lockers and coffee makers promote a sense of community for workers who bring a wide range of experience such as freelance photography, graphic design and sales and marketing.
Michelson said the shared space and camaraderie found within the building benefits each member at the Collective.
“Hopefully it lends them to not only be more productive and have more ideas at work, but at least have a happier day in the office” she said.
Nick Haggerty, the North American sales director for AdSalsa, a online advertising company based in Spain, rents space at Tahoe Mill because working from home just isn’t an option.
“I’m just the type of person who really needs to ‘go to work,’” Haggerty said. “Being productive at home just isn’t as possible for me.”
Kate Cook works in sales and said the Collective is a nice break from working at home.
From her office, Cook has a view of Alpine Meadows Road and is just minutes from the ski hill. During summer months she takes a break to run along the Truckee River.
“It’s a great location and everyone is really respectful. It’s very easy to get work done here.”
‘A TOWN OF INNOVATION’
Working from home doesn’t pose challenges for Morgan Goodwin, an employee of Avaaz, a multilingual nonprofit focusing on civic movement across the globe.
But being part of the community, besides joining a mountain biking club or hanging with ski buddies, is something the remote employee seeks in Truckee.
“I have a feeling that there are so many people doing cool things,” Morgan said. “I wish it were easier to find out about it.”
Through co-working spaces, Morgan has learned more about other locals that work remotely like he does. The New York native said he’d like to put energy into co-working groups and helping them to get the word out.
“I’m excited to see the potential of turning Truckee into a town of innovation,” he said.
Learn more about Tahoe Mill Collective at tahoemill.com, and Tahoe Mountain Lab at tahoemountainlab.com.
Jenny Luna is a freelance writer based in Truckee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hopefully it leads them to not only be more productive and have more ideas at work, but at least have a happier day in the office.”