group of employees in a coworking space
Coworking spaces offer a less expensive office option complete with amenities, but as a business owner you give up some control as far as branding and neighbors. — Getty Images/JohnnyGreig

Coworking spaces are trending all around the world. They provide a shared workspace for individuals, small businesses and even large companies. Often a workspace for innovators and entrepreneurs, coworking has fueled companies such as Uber, Indiegogo, Charity: Water and Spotify — all of which started in coworking spaces.

As a startup, you may have launched from your home office and your employees might be accustomed to working remotely. However, there are benefits to establishing an office. Having a physical space to get your team together can help build relationships, increase motivation and offer a separation between work and life.

What is it like to work in a shared space?

A coworking space can be an exciting place to build a business and give employees access to amenities. Most charge a monthly fee for membership based upon the space you reserve, which can range from any desk available in the open seating area to a designated desk to a private office. Ideally, your fee covers all provisions, such as Wi-Fi, utilities, equipment, kitchen access and perhaps some perks like a coffee bar or gym.

You’ll make some concessions to share a space. It may be noisy and distracting, or not offer enough privacy for calls or video meetings. And you may not always have conference room access when you need it.

There’s a lot to assess when determining if your startup should opt for a coworking space.

Coworking space vs. “normal” office

When compared to a traditional office, coworking spaces provide some of the same benefits with less costs and responsibility. A traditional office generally requires at least a one-year lease and you’re responsible for utilities, internet, etc., as well as for the purchase of all equipment, furniture and supplies. Additionally, company growth may be limited by the size of the space.

With a coworking space, you’ll likely move right in upon signing your membership contract. The furniture and equipment are there and maintained. Depending on your particular space, the kitchen can be stocked with snacks and coffee. All of this frees you up to focus on your business.

The downside is that you’re restricted by the rules and culture established by office management. For example, you cannot choose who else works there, rearrange the furniture or have access to the office after hours. The branding and culture of the space will also reflect the coworking company — not your business. This might impact client meetings because it may be challenging to convey your company identity.

There are many perks coworking spaces can provide, such as a coffee bar, networking events and gym access.

Benefits to coworking

The growth of coworking spaces is indicative of the many benefits they offer, including those we’ve already addressed. Other benefits include:

  • Community: To build community in your coworking space, take advantage of the opportunities provided. By networking in the break room or at the coffee bar, or participating in onsite events, you may find mentors, potential clients, partners or contractors for your company.

[Read: How to Build a Community in Your Coworking Space]

  • Flexibility: With varying membership options, you can scale up your space as you grow. If your business is seasonal, ask about adjusting your space to align with your business cycles.
  • Convenience: Office management deals with equipment, cleaning contracts, the building manager, purchasing supplies and much more, so you avoid those hassles and can instead focus on your business.

Top features of coworking spaces

As you consider coworking spaces, compare the features that matter most to your business. These can include:

  • Location: If there are many coworking spots to choose from, pick an area where you feel comfortable, can access conveniences, find parking, etc.
  • Atmosphere: The design and culture of the space will influence your daily experience. It can contribute to innovation, collaboration, and creativity. Find one that suits your business.
  • Meeting spaces: Understand the options for meeting spaces, the availability of conference rooms and the process for reserving them.
  • Security: You and your team should be safe online and in the physical space. Ask about technical protocols and consider additional precautions you may take, such as locking your system when you step away, using a VPN, etc.
  • Neighbors: Office culture will likely influence the types of individuals and businesses that surround you. Ask who the current members are and how new members are recruited.
  • Perks: There are many perks coworking spaces can provide, such as a coffee bar, networking events and gym access. Find out what’s included in membership and what is extra.

[Read: How to Choose a Coworking Space]

To get a sense for the coworking experience, ask for a day pass. Sit in the middle of the action and assess for yourself. Keep a list of questions for management and observations to review with your team so you can assess if coworking is right for your company.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 14, 2019