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The modern office: What does it look like today, tomorrow and after the pandemic?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The pandemic upended everything we imagined about where, how and when we go to work.

Think about the difficulties of launching a new business during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, think about launching a company focused entirely on people working not from home, but an office.

Unfortunately, the franchise owner of Worklodge in Downtown St. Petersburg, Dan Mclean, didn’t have to imagine it, he’s living it.

“Yeah, 2019 was the perfect year to launch a concept like this. The economy was on fire. Businesses large and small were looking to concepts like this for teams,” McLean said. “This was where it was at then COVID hit.”

Worklodge is geared toward leasing out professional co-working and private office space in downtown St. Pete.

With corporations closing offices down indefinitely, McLean found himself in the middle of a COVID-19 nightmare.

“We have 28,000 square feet over two floors. We have 35 people working in here now, and our capacity is about 400, so we have some room to grow,” McLean said.

Worklodge opened in May. Months into the pandemic, he only has 10% of the offices occupied. But, McLean said the need to work in a productive space is growing.

“We’ve had two students come in and study for the LSAT one was here a week. One was here for three weeks,” McLean said. “For those individuals that don’t need an office but are overworking from home. They’ve got the spouse at home, they got their kids still at home. They just need to get out. We’ve offered a package. It is our work from home package.”

McLean is offering month-to-month leases, as well as day passes. Flexibility in our uncertain environment is what business owners and entrepreneurs are looking for.

“(I was) very isolated, finding that it was difficult to stay motivated and connected,” Tracy David said.

David is a current tenant at Worklodge, working on launching a new company in December.

“I really needed to build the community here in the St. Pete area, and it was impossible when the pandemic hit. So, the opportunity to be here in the Worklodge has literally not just saved my business, but saved my emotional life as well the ability to connect as an entrepreneur. I couldn’t have people coming into my home, and I just needed to be able to hire some new people into my team and grow the business,” Davis said.

McLean said he wants to help the community navigate this crisis and support young entrepreneurs.

Nonprofits can rent out a conference room at the Worklodge for free. Allowing businesses and individuals to buy day passes to use the room if they have a big meeting employees need to attend in person.

“One thing that will help us be successful in the future is just continuing to build those community relationships,” McLean said. “I grew up here, St. Pete is my home town, so I see this as a great business opportunity for us and my business partners. More importantly, I think this is a huge opportunity to add value to the community. We’ll be successful. Just a little bit longer than we expected.”

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