Mike LaRosa, founder of leading remote work/travel blog Coworkaholic, flex space consultant and coworking cognoscente, has just joined the Upflex team as our new Director of Channel Partnerships, where he’ll be working with global real estate firms to help them provide their clients future-forward hybrid workplace strategies and world-class workspace on demand. In the past decade, Mike’s love of coworking and flex workspace has taken him to over 600 spaces in 35+ countries around the world. Before joining Upflex, he consulted on flex strategy for companies including WeWork, CBRE, JLL, Marriott, Wyndham, and more. We sat down with Mike about the evolution of coworking and what he sees ahead.
Upflex: How has coworking changed since you first started working in the industry in 2013?
Mike LaRosa: How hasn’t it?! In all seriousness, though, coworking and flex workspaces haven’t really changed. It’s more so how the users have changed. Prior to 2008, most flex workspace users were executives or road warriors, looking for a space to hold destination meetings or answer phone calls, send faxes or respond to their beepers. Then, we saw a shift of freelancers and entrepreneurs using coworking spaces to not only save on cost of office space, but find tribes of like minded people to connect with. Big companies were still resistant to the idea, however.
Now, in a post-COVID era, it’s exciting to see that pretty much any knowledge based worker is going to have the ability to work remotely as part of a hybrid/flex office policy.
You’ve been working remotely since 2012. For those who were new to the concept due to COVID, what would you say is your top tip?
LaRosa: Don’t just work at home! Listen, I like working from home no more than one or two days a week. I really struggled with staying motivated and on task when I worked from home. There are too many distractions — and I don’t even have kids. I learned quickly that I needed a place to be productive. No matter how tempting it might be, you can’t be most productive working in bed or on the couch. Even with a nice home office, I find myself yearning to get out in coworking spaces now that we all are beginning a return to a quasi-normal.
You’ve worked with a lot of different companies, brands and organizations in the coworking and flex workspace industry. How and why now with Upflex?
LaRosa: Well, I’m really blessed to have had such a variety of experiences. I’ve run coworking spaces, designed coworking concepts for different businesses, like Second City, the comedy club in Chicago ,and even the TRYP by Wyndham hotel in Dubai. I’ve consulted for space management platforms and other booking platforms. While being a consultant has a lot of professional benefits, the biggest downside is that even when you’re supporting a client, you’re never officially part of the team. For the past few years I was looking for a team, a product and a solution that not only I could believe in but that I could “wrap my arms around” and focus all of my attention on, instead of worrying about my next project.
What is a Director of Channel Partnerships?
LaRosa: It’s kind of like air traffic control meets strategy meets public relations. My role is to manage and take care of any white label partners, reseller agreements or referral partners. For example, the Upflex platform powers Collier’s Mobility Pass. We also work with real estate firms such as JLL, Cushman & Wakefield and others when they resell or refer our solutions to their clients. I ensure that they have a singular point of contact for all of their questions and needs and support them by ensuring their clients are properly onboarded, all while providing their teams with the marketing and communication resources they need to train internally and promote externally.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
LaRosa: Honestly, it’s being able to play a part (albeit a small one) in a revolution of how people view workspace. It feels like this is finally the time for flex workspace and workspace on demand, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. Upflex has proven itself to be a market leader when it comes to our network on-demand locations, hub and spoke options and now our new Unify product. How lucky am I to be able to bring these solutions to world-class real estate firms and their clients? We’re onboarding Fortune 500, 100 organizations and that means 1,000s (soon to be more) of their employees. I get to have a direct impact in helping people maximize their hybrid work experience.