University opens CoWork Commons for faculty, staff to work remotely

CoWork Commons, a location for employees to work remotely, is a collaborative area for university faculty and staff. Conference rooms are also available to be booked for private meetings.


Jake Wicks

The new CoWork Commons is a remote working center as shown in the University Capitol Center in Iowa City on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. The Commons are available to all University of Iowa staff and faculty between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and within ITS Office of Teaching Learning, and Technology.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

While the University of Iowa is not allowing most faculty to work remote, some units such as University Human Resources are providing spaces for faculty and staff to use on a need-only basis as the pandemic continues.

The new CoWork Commons in the University Capitol Center will provide a space for faculty and staff to use if they need to conduct meetings or have access to office equipment they do not have at home, such as internet access.

It opened on Nov. 4 as a part of the Future of Work at Iowa pilot, which aims to reimagine how and where UI employees work after COVID-19, said Trevor Glanz, senior director of compensation and classification for University Human Resources.

“It’s focused largely on understanding the long-term potential for remote and hybrid work, flexible schedules, and other types of work arrangements,” Glanz said. 

The university’s faculty and staff schedules have remained similar to pre-pandemic times, he said, but more staff are now working remotely as a result of the pandemic.

Maggie Vogel, planning analyst for UI Campus Planning and Development, is helping coordinate the CoWork Commons project. 

Vogel wrote in an email to *The Daily Iowan* that the CoWork Commons are open to all faculty and staff but primarily target UI employees who work remotely.

“CoWork Commons is for university staff who need access to collaboration space, meeting space, and office equipment they may not have at home, and for any other university employees,” Vogel wrote.

She expects the space to gain popularity over time because it is the only coworking space on campus. Vogel wrote that they are beginning to track how frequently faculty and staff use the space, but the reaction to its opening was positive. 

RELATED: Students navigated engaging in campus activities at the University of Iowa this year often without common campus space

Geoff Wood, owner of Gravitate Coworking in Des Moines, said the term coworking has been around for the last 20 years. 

Gravitate Coworking opened its first location in downtown Des Moines 14 years ago. 

 “Gravitate Coworking came from the idea that people are inherently social, it supplies people who work as individuals a collaborative shared environment,” Wood said. “During the pandemic, people missed social interaction, and Zoom wasn’t a replacement.”

Wood said he gets a lot of calls from people asking him to open a new Gravitate Coworking location in their towns. Beyond Des Moines, Gravitate Coworking has locations in Jefferson, Cedar Falls, and Windsor Heights. 

Wood said there was a big increase in workers using the space after the COVID-19 vaccine’s approval.

Iowa City’s Downtown District also has another coworking space called MERGE and Cowork @ 808. 

Erin Pottebaum, Iowa City Area Development director of operations, works with a small team of six coworkers who are “super connectors” at MERGE’s Cowork @ 808, she said. 

Pottebaum said MERGE targets the entrepreneurial scene to house start-up companies in the coworking space. 

The economic development strategy for Iowa City Area Development strives to provide an ecosystem for entrepreneurs as well as connect them with investors to provide below-market rent and rates for startups and entrepreneurs, Pottebaum said. 

“Merge is the living room of the community. It is known for having open and direct conversations, helping everyone, being ‘Iowa nice,’ providing valuable resources, and setting an example of how collaborations should go for our companies,” she said.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the article stated that the University of Iowa and CoWork Commons are promoting remote work for UI faculty and staff. Changes have been made to reflect that the CoWork Commons are a space for pre-approved occasional use for faculty and staff. The DI regrets the error.