1. You finally understand what coworking actually is. 

Most people have no idea what coworking is. Or they think they do, but they've got it all wrong. This is the year you will have it all figured out. Lest there be any confusion, coworking isn't about 'holding hands and singing hymns while getting things done' (thank you Sean Kelly @Spark Commons for clarifying that one...). But it's also not something that's only for high-tech start-ups, or just a place for shared office space--both misunderstandings that Works Progress' Marnee Chua hears all the time.

"Until you see it," says Marnee, "a lot of people don't understand that the most important part of coworking is the community it provides for people who are otherwise isolated--people who work from home, telecommute, freelance or are starting their own small business. A neighborhood coworking space provides a location to share your experiences, network with peers and be more productive by helping to separate work time from home life."

So go ahead, revel in the sense of freedom and personal responsibility that coworking can give you. "You get the perks of an office without 'the boss' breathing down your neck. And ideally you will meet some great people," Sean told us. "Perhaps you'll burst into song if you're feeling a beat, too. Your call."  

2. Inspiration and passion are contagious.

Ask Vibe Coworks cofounder, Marcel Imbach, what first got him hooked on coworking, and you'll get an unequivocal reply: "the vibe."

"I walked into my first coworking space and was immediately struck by the atmosphere," he said. "It was a place where people had chosen to be, and everyone there was not only passionate about the work that they were doing, but interested in working alongside others that were equally driven by the work they were doing. People were visibly productive, happy and expressing creativity. That sort of atmosphere is contagious, and can inspire so many great new ideas and opportunities." 

In the same way that not every restaurant serves good food, not every coworking community offers that same contagiously motivational energy. That's why it's worth trying out as many different spaces as you need, until you find the one that lights that I-can-conquer-the-world fire in your belly. As in life, diversity of coworking spaces is a good thing. And now more than ever, you've got options.

3. Crazy cool things can happen to you at a coworking space.

Take, for example, Spark Commons in Bremerton, where a local systems architect dropped by for the day to get some work done, only to discover that his employer was one of the biggest web development clients of Spark Commons founder, Sean Kelly. They're a global company, making it--as Sean says--"surprising and serendipitous" for the two of them to meet and live in Kitsap.

Better yet, you might get to build some pretty solid relationships with people from entirely different industries than your own--people who you'd have no real excuse to meet otherwise. That's the case for Vibe's Marcel Imbach: architects and designers sit alongside naturopaths, journalists, financial analysts, lawyers, artists, authors and nonprofit pros. Somehow, miraculously, all of those peeps not only get along, but they enhance each others work just as often as they form formal business partnerships and unexpected friendships.

As if that weren't exciting enough, you might also get to experience things like the Coworking Visa, a special nation-wide pass that allows members of participating coworking spaces to work from another space for free, usually up to 3 days while traveling. The fact that a dad from Works Progress was able to swap membership spots for a week with a dad from Office Nomads in Seattle while juggling the summer camp / childcare shuffle with their daughters is just one of the crazy cool coworking things that Works Progress cofounder, Marnee Chua loves to talk about.

4. More money, more time, more happy.

Why? Because, as Office Xpats cofounder Leslie Schneider explains, "coworking gives more people the chance to work, and therefore spend local, and be closer to their family's needs. It gives one-person businesses the chance to grow within an informal incubator, and without any commitment to long-term leases. Coworking gives an entire community of professionals the chance to find each other, develop trust and eventually do some business with one another."

And while coworking opens up a world of possibility for everyone, it can be an especially powerful option for women. "We've found that the highest barriers for women in their careers and in operating small businesses come down to 3 things: access to capital; access to female coaches and mentors within their field; and access to flexible and affordable childcare", said Marnee Chua, who has also cofounded the Women's Business Incubator in Seattle. Coworking can help break down all of those barriers by building networks, connecting people and ideas and offering an effective infrastructure for more flexible work-life integration.

5. You realize that your home office, coffee shop and brick and mortar office are all great... until you try a coworking space.

To really understand what coworking has to offer, you first need to try working from home, a few coffee shops and a brick and mortar office. Once you do, Leslie Schneider swears you'll know exactly what you're missing when you try working from a coworking space instead.

Cortney Stehlik-Freeman sings the same song. She started the Central Kitsap & Bremerton Coworking MeetUp in 2015, after leaving full-time employment to work for herself and finding the daily grind of the work-from-home life stifling, both physically and creatively.

"Coworking spaces have a different feel than 'normal' offices," she told us. "You're there with coworkers, there's coffee brewing and copiers running...but there's a more productive and creative atmosphere than there is at a typical office. I do a combination of working from home, from coffee shops and from a coworking space on different days, depending on what my work requires that day. I like that my coworking space gives me a place to meet with clients and colleagues in a more professional setting than a coffee shop. On days that I cowork, I feel more productive, which I think is attributable to the productivity of the atmosphere and the people around me."

6. You finally have options, right here in Kitsap

Between Kitsap's affordability, beauty, breweries and stellar local communities, you don't have to tell us why you choose to live here. Kitsap is the Pacific Northwest's best kept secret, and we're pretty okay with that. What we're not okay with is anyone feeling forced to make a hard call between leaving the land that they love just because of a job or professional ecosystem. Enough of that. Thanks to changing remote work policies, improved technology and not one but THREE coworking spaces on the Kitsap Peninsula, you can finally be the master of your own work+life.

"Accessibility is going to be such a boost for the west side of the Puget Sound," argues Sean. "I enjoy our more laid back lifestyle, but I'm enthused about the potential for new business that the fast ferry will bring. An influx and mixture of new talent and ideas will be huge for entrepreneurs here." 

Not a fan of the fast ferry? No matter. Cortney Stehlik-Freeman is similarly convinced that we are living in a "very exciting time for entrepreneurs and others who choose to live their lives according to their own design." You catch that? According to their own design. "This has special meaning for those of us who choose the Kitsap Peninsula lifestyle, but need to connect with the workforces or larger markets of bigger cities. Essentially, it means that we can finally do the work that we want, while also creating the lifestyle we want."

Ready to give coworking a try? DO IT! Hit up a local space or two, and consider joining the Vibe Founding40 as we countdown to opening day in Poulsbo (yeah!)