This article first appeared in Seacoastonline on November 5, 2020. Read the original article here »

By Paul Briand, [email protected]

Barry Greenfield, CEO and Founder of LocalWorks.

PORTSMOUTH — For Barry Greenfield, the new normal of working remotely enhances the need for the type of shared office space his company – LocalWorks – is offering in Portsmouth and Rochester.

“Because of COVID, a lot more people are not going into an office but would like to,” Greenfield said. “What we’re seeing is an acceleration of a trend that began five, 10, 15 years ago where more and more companies are going to cut down on their total footprint of office space.”

The highly contagious and sometimes fatal COVID-19 virus has changed everything about our lives, including how we do our jobs. A lot of companies, in order to maintain social distancing recommendations to reduce the spread of the virus, are having their employees work remotely, usually from home.

Greenfield said his shared office spaces give those employees the option of working in a safe environment but out of the house.

“At some point they say: I want to be around other people, even if I don’t know them. Even if you have a private office in your house, with kids being remote schooled, there’s a lot of distractions,” he said.

The trend of downsizing during the pandemic is national.

Computer network equipment maker Cisco surveyed almost 1,600 office decision makers and 53% of them said they plan to reduce the size of their office space needs. The poll found 90% of respondents said they won’t return to the office full time; 12% plan to work from home all the time, 24% will work remotely more than 15 days of each month, and 22% will do that eight to 15 days every month.

LocalWorks ( currently has locations throughout the East – from Virginia and Maryland up to several locations in Massachusetts to now two new locations in New Hampshire.

The Portsmouth location is at 20 Ladd St. and the Rochester location is at 73 Pickering Road.

The New Hampshire locations came about because Greenfield was scouting out sites in Portland, Maine. Those drives through the Granite State, according to Greenfield, prompted a look here.

“After a trip or two up to Portland, we said: Let’s take a look at Portsmouth, which, obviously, is an awesome city,” Greenfield said. “We started doing some research and found some vacant space, essentially an office condo that had been vacant for a while, and they were looking to figure out a way to get some people in there.”

Greenfield started the business in 2013 after launching a software startup of his own, working out of his house.

“I was working from home and needed to hire a couple people and my wife suggested it might be a good idea to move out of the house for work,” Greenfield said. “I got some office space in downtown Salem, Massachusetts. Then I figured maybe there was a good way to help defray the cost by bringing in other people – friends and some other folks – who I knew had been looking for office space but couldn’t afford to get their own.”

“I just kind of fell into it,” he added.

He formalized it in 2017 when he partnered with a Lawrence, Massachusetts, developer, Sal Lupoli.

“They found my website and we basically worked out a deal where we partnered on some vacant space that they had that had been sitting vacant for a period of time. They thought they’d take a shot and partner with these guys and run a shared office space,” Greenfield said.

“That’s what we do,” he added.

“We basically go in for property owners who have vacant space office space and we say: We can monetize this for you pretty quickly. It might take us three or six months to get the space filled up, but essentially instead of just sitting there waiting for someone to come and sign a master lease to take the entire space, we’ll go ahead and use our marketing expertise and our management background and platform to bring in multiple people into one space, and manage them and provide the amenities.”

He also noted there can be a marketing advantage to having a business address at a business location rather than having a business address at a home.

Having opened as a LocalWorks site in August, the Ladd Street location in Portsmouth is on the third floor with about 4,900 square feet of high-end amenities that include several private offices, two conference rooms, and a modern commercial kitchen.

“It’s a beautiful space, tons of natural light,” he said. “We’ve only been open a couple of months, and I suspect we’ll have that space filled up in relatively short order.”

The Rochester location on Pickering Road is known as the Gonic Mill. The same broker they dealt with for the Portsmouth site introduced him to the Rochester site.

“We think it’s a beautiful space that will serve the community well,” Greenfield said, noting the early November opening date.

He joins a market that has other shared office space locations: oHive, Cooperative Venture Workspace, and Top Knots to name a few. He thinks he can reach a lower price point than some of the others. He has no reception area or receptionist, which means his overhead costs are less.

“They go in, they work and they go home. So it’s a little more of a self-serve concept and, as a result, we believe our pricing reflects that,” he said.

It’s a competitive market, he acknowledges, but one that has room because of what he sees as a growing demand for remote workers who may want to divide their time between home and a COVID safe environment outside of the home.

His locations have individual offices only, no bullpens to share with others.

“What we’re seeing is companies are saying: People are productive from home; if they want to go into an office we will help fund that single office, or maybe we’ll have a smaller headquarters where people can go in once or twice a week,’’ he said. “But more and more there’s just a greater number of people who are still looking for an office that may not have access to one.”

For the home-bound workers, according to Greenfield, a shared office such as his offers a chance to perhaps be more productive.

“They need a place where they can go that’s quiet, productive,” he said. “It also gives them all the other needs when it comes to printer, copier scanner, high speed internet, and a kitchen where they can go have lunch and make a cup of coffee.”

It’s a trend he sees all over as he prepares to open two new locations in Washington, D.C., with an eye toward Portland, as well.

“We feel pretty comfortable that we’ve perfected this self-service remote model,” Greenfield said. “We expect to expand quite rapidly over the next six to 12 months.”