Working out or just working? More gyms are
encouraging remote-working members to stay all day and do both
By Anne Marie Chaker
Aug. 15, 2023 9:00 pm ET
Jessica DiGiovanna starts her Mondays at 6:30 a.m. with squats, dead lifts and lunges at her local
Life Time gym. Afterward, she showers, gets dressed—and stays, working on her laptop and phone
until about 6 p.m.
Her new office is the gym, on the fourth floor, in a co-working space scented with notes of
bergamot and stocked with a basket of fruit and energy bars.
DiGiovanna, a 25-year-old audit project manager in Arlington, Va., only goes to her real office for
big meetings and other organized events. She doesn’t like the isolation of just working home alone,
so she signed up for a $499-a-month membership package in July.
The price tag is high, she says, but the setup lets her toggle between self-care and her job, in
comfortable clothes, without travel time and lost motivation. It is a third space—not work, not
home—that puts her in an energizing environment without having to slog to the office.
“By going into this space and not coming back home, I’m going through these
movements of the day more intentionally,” she said. “There is less distraction and I’m set up to
work more efficiently.”
Gyms were once wary of letting the remote-work masses Zoom from their lobbies and locker rooms.
Now, they see opportunity in offering extra desks, offices and outlets. Some are creating
co-working spaces to separate the extension-cord wielders from the spandex crowd. Other gyms are
charging extra and offering entire floors for clients to stay and work all day.
Co-working arrangements—in which workers from different companies share office space for average
monthly fees around $300 to $400 a desk—are facing market tumult. WeWork, once one of the world’s
most valuable startups, has raised doubts about its own survival. Meanwhile, cafes, coffee shops
and libraries are often
overrun with workers who don’t want to be at home or in the office.
There is appetite for co-working spaces that are close to the places workers already frequent and
enjoy spending extra time, like they do at gyms, says Bob Chodos, a vice chairman at commercial
real-estate firm Newmark Group, who frequently represents tenants in leasing arrangements that
include co-working spaces.
“You’re going to see the evolution of the model accommodate people who don’t want to go into the
office but still work closer to where they live,” he says.
Gyms as co-working spaces may not be such a heavy lift. Many employees who have the option to work
remotely are coming down from their work-from-home highs.
While they don’t necessarily want to commute to the office, they crave the buzz of
more social environments.
Damaris Hollingsworth, founder of a five-employee architectural firm, says the monthly cost at her
Life Time gym’s co-working space allowed her to grow her business, which she began with $475 a
month for one desk in 2020. The total cost of her space now—which includes an office and several
desks clustered around it—is
$4,000 a month.
Hollingsworth, who designs book stores, coffee shops and mixed-use buildings, says she has pondered
renting more traditional office space. But the upfront cost of setting up a similarly
tastefully-appointed space with all the audiovisual equipment, conference rooms and full kitchen
would be too much. Not to mention, her employees might really miss the gym.
“I get to offer an extra perk: If you work for me, you’ll have access to an amazing gym. That is a
big deal,” she says.
Gym membership levels are still recovering from the pandemic-induced shutdowns, but many say the
usage rates have caught up or surpassed pre-Covid levels.
Luxury health clubs such as Biân in Chicago added 9,000 square feet of space for co- working in
June. Members who pay annual membership dues of $4,000, plus a one- time initiation fee of $1,000,
can access two conference rooms equipped with Zoom cameras and 75-inch TV screens. Other amenities
include swiveling chairs equipped with river views and QR codes for food and beverage delivery.
Chelsea Piers’ new 60,000-square-foot location in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights
neighborhood, which opened in June, includes 4,000 square feet of co-working
space outfitted with long marble tables, a fireplace and privacy booths.