Whether you’re starting out or a company on the move, you’ve probably already considered a shared working space. These nontraditional setups offer some measure of flexibility to employers while allowing disparate businesses to share a roof -- an arrangement perfect for some but a potential nightmare for others.
Industry leader WeWork attracts most of the headlines (rightfully so, with their reported $20 billion valuation) but they’re far from the only player on the scene. 2017 saw a reported 1.18 million workers reporting to shared spaces, and the trend points only upward for the future.
So where does this leave you and your business? Determining whether a shared working space is right for you means thinking it out thoroughly: what kind of company do you want to run? Some managers won’t like running the show in a building that isn’t truly “theirs,” while others might feel a more relaxed environment will lead to a productive work culture.
It’s another major decision you’ll have to make but as with any other, it’ll be best to let the facts guide you. Perks like game rooms and free coffee can be alluring, but shouldn’t be the force to tip the scales one way or another as you make your decision. Instead, consider these vital aspects of the working experience as you shop for a shared space: the who, where, and when, if you will.
Who: Looking for Contacts, or Keeping Things Close?
Consider the primary differences between coworking spaces and the traditional approach. Namely, the fact that your office is not completely yours. This can mean more potential distractions, but also more networking possibilities. If you’re in a tight-knit industry, it might be good to have your peers close by for potential collaborations. Of course, that could end up working against you: your own secrets are more difficult to guard when the people in the next office over would love to overhear them.
Be sure to check who your potential neighbors will be while you shop for a coworking space. With an understanding of what the “neighborhood” will look like, you might be eager to settle in next to a company you and your team can learn from. Alternately, you could spot a potentially disruptive force that you’d do well to stay away from. It’s all about filling your needs.
Where: Location, Location, Vocation
Even though you’re not committing to stay there forever, the location of the office you choose can be drastically important for both current and prospective clients, not to mention employees. Nobody wants to travel out to the edge of town for a business meeting, nor do most people want to work at a place with no good lunch or transportation options nearby.
You might have to strike a balance between affordability and area when picking a coworking space, so choose wisely. Whether you’re in a region where cars are a necessity or a public transportation haven, longer commutes and a dearth of lunch options can be a deal breaker for some.
When: Keeping Time
Many startups work under nontraditional hours, often to their employees' benefit. Belonging to a shared space might limit this ability. Many shared spaces won’t allow you to work outside of their proscribed hours for security reasons -- often the traditional 9 to 5. When choosing a workspace, find one that fits your scheduling needs, or else be sure that you and your team will be able to operate within sometimes-limited hours.
While you may need to conform to the times set by your temporary landlord, there’s a greater amount of flexibility in the long term (think months, not hours). Most shared workspace agreements operate on a monthly recurring basis, so as your company expands or gets leaner you’ll be able to resize your space accordingly without making a yearlong commitment. Of course, if things really work out, you might end up shopping for a building of your own.
Coworking spaces may well be the biggest development in business since email. The flexibility and collaboration opportunities they offer can represent an attractive choice for startups and scaling businesses of all types, but without a proper assessment these advantages can end up hurting more than they help. As the leader of a growing company, you’ve probably gotten to where you are by making some well-reasoned decisions. The choice of where to situate yourself and your team as you grow should be no different.