There is no question that co-working spaces have become increasingly popular, and not just with one-person shops. Renting co-working space is a cheaper option than renting office space, if you have fewer than 10 employees.
More than 10,000 co-working spaces are expected to open by the end of this year, according to a recent survey by DeskMag. Further, almost three-quarters of survey respondents reported working at least three days a week at their co-working space, an increase from two years ago when only every second person used their space three times a week.
In addition to being conveniently located and offering perks, a co-working space needs to fit your personality. Are you a worker who needs structure, or do you thrive on social interaction with colleagues? Are you hoping to gain potential business contacts, or are you just looking for a professional environment to use for client meetings? Are you easily distracted by other people’s conversations?
Regardless of your needs and preferences, there is a co-working space that fits your personality. The trick is to find it.
“Different spaces have different cultures, different architecture and layout, and different amenities,” says Beth Lawton, owner of Canoe Media Services, who has been using shared office space for nearly two years.
Here are five factors to consider before committing to a shared workplace.
Amenities and shared benefits
Most co-working spaces offer shared resources. They can be as basic as access to Wi-Fi, copiers, fax machines and printers. Other perks may include shared insurance coverage and financial services. And, while most co-working spaces offer endless cups of coffee, others also offer nightly happy hours.
Collaborators and competitors
Lawton says one of the main reasons she moved to a co-working space was to find other people to work and collaborate with: “I looked for a space where I could be productive, be around people and maybe find some professional development and networking opportunities,” she says, noting one of the best benefits is being able to bounce ideas off other people.
“It’s helpful to be surrounded by people in different industries who are also trying to build their businesses,” Lawton says. “I’ve gained insight from people who are in completely different industries but have experienced some of the same growing pains my business has gone through.”
However, don’t be surprised to find yourself working side-by-side with your direct competition. It’s not uncommon to find multiple people in the same line of work sharing co-working space.
Noise level, lighting and distractions
Pay particular attention to acoustics and lighting, Lawton says. Some spaces are noisier than others either because of the layout, the number of people using the space, or a number of people who are taking calls all day. If you need a certain level of quiet, look for a space that offers small conference rooms or private phone booths for phone calls. Assess whether it’s a social environment or somewhere people go to get work done. Lighting can also be an issue, especially if you are someone who thrives on natural daylight. You’ll want to visit the offices, perhaps more than once and at different times of the day, before you sign a contract.
For some, being around other people helps them to be more productive and focused on their work. “I’m definitely more productive at my co-working space,” Lawton says, “because there are no distractions of laundry, dishes in the sink, the cat, the dog or anything else that needs to be done around the house.” It also prevents family members and neighbors from assuming you can run an errand for them, be available for the handyman or babysit the kids because you’re home.
Working in shared space can also help you find new clients. For instance, Lawton used the main conference room at her co-working space to host three marketing classes. The owners of her co-working space helped her promote the classes to the others in the office as well as their other contacts, which resulted in her signing additional clients.
Overall, Lawton says she is more productive when she works at her co-working space because there are few distractions. And, she says, the added bonus is no one can expect her to run errands or be available to deal with a repairman or the cable guy. “When my husband or a neighbor asks me for help with something,” she says, “now I can honestly say, ‘Sorry, I can’t. I’ll be at the office.’”