Seven Tips for Choosing the Right Coworking Space

By Bill Sechter, Founder/CEO TheoPartner Investments, Founder/CEO Atlas Workspaces

From the mobile office, to reliable videoconferencing, to the rise of the independent contractor, the nature of work is changing—and the traditional work space is changing right along with it. Not every job (or worker) is perfectly suited to sitting at the same desk in the same office space day in and day out, and many of the benefits of locking them in have changed or in some cases, vanished over the past few years.

The traditional work place just isn’t right for many businesses anymore, and companies are starting to look to the coworking or flex workspace model for solutions. Indeed, per the CBRE Group’s 2015/2016 Americas Occupier Survey of 226 Americas-based corporate real estate organizations, more than 40 percent of respondents are using or considering shared workplaces. No wonder investment continues to pour into new cowork spaces!

Coworking is a simple concept: work space shared with other professionals with no long-term lease. This one idea has flourished dramatically in recent years and along with investment into the space. We are starting to see new options and configurations designed to appeal to practically every business type and size. When it’s done right, cowork spaces offer tremendous advantages. If you are evaluating whether your business should opt for a coworking or flexible workspace, consider these seven guidelines to help make your decision:

  1. Nearly every business owner knows the pain of signing a long-term lease. With it, you’re signing away your flexibility. The coworking model provides great flexibility for different workforce needs that are fluid; the short-term nature of their leases means the business can stay nimble, while providing the ability to add or subtract as needs morph over time. Calculate how much time your team actually spends in the office. ATLAS Workbase fees are based on the total number of hours consumed each month.
  2. It’s now predictable. Some businesses may have been wary of coworking because, in some cases, added costs/hidden expenses can be an issue. You should be able to find a space with upfront, tiered pricing, that clearly outlines basic pricing and services, as well as amenities such as food/kitchen/café, mail and shipping, et al. Ask about the offerings you’re most interested in, but also ask about additional options you may not have considered, like flex space for out-of-town visitors, etc. As a rule of thumb, always ask upfront about what, if any additional fees may be required—some coworking spaces can charge quite a bit for services like mail drop-off.
  3. From a collaborative and team building perspective, coworking spaces can boost productivity and retention. Studies such as, Why People Thrive in Coworking SpacesHarvard Business Review, illustrate how most people actually thrive much better in coworking situations versus traditional work spaces, even if it’s only a portion of their work day/week. Cowork spaces can strongly affect commute time, social networking, and work-life balance, all of which have been proven to lead to better satisfaction and even productivity in the long run.
  4. The total cost per employee is lower. This means rent, of course, but it also means expenses related to brokers, deposits, build-outs, moving, infrastructure, furnishings, utilities, and everything else. Why pay for more than you need? Did you know that, on average, 55% of all desks in traditional work spaces are empty at any given point in the work day? That seems crazy—and it also means each desk costs its owner nearly twice what it’s worth, every day. When looking at the total cost per desk per employee, flex workspace options can make a huge and direct impact on your bottom line, especially if you can access one that only charges members for time spent using the workspace.
  5. Services offered by the workspace can also make a huge difference. This can be simple needs such as fresh coffee and secure, high-speed internet service, or complex things like arranging special AV and catering needs for an event or meeting. A workplace isn’t just a room full of desks—you need amenities to help you work and conduct business. For example, does the cowork space work with vendors such as FedEx Office to provide quick access to a wide range of high-quality, affordable business services?
  6. Quality is always an important consideration: coworkspaces may look the same on the surface, but if you’ve bought a house or car you know when it comes to quality, the cheapest option is rarely the best choice. That’s not to say that you always get what you pay for. There are high-end coworkspaces that are not right for some businesses, and low-end offerings that are perfect for others. Know what you need and don’t settle for anything less. The ROI on paying for the right level of quality is immeasurable but impossible to ignore.
  7. Finally, when evaluating a coworking site your best bet is to check out the location in person. This lets you get a sense for the culture of the specific space, but it also lets you ask probing questions to see if it’s right for your business. You have your own needs, of course, but you should also consider asking these questions on a site visit:
  • How were the furnishings chosen? Cheaper is rarely better, and you should expect high-quality, ergonomic furnishings. For example, vendors such as Steelcase offer a wide range of high-end options to suit business needs.  Make sure to closely inspect during your tour, this is something that can be easily overlooked in the rush-rush of a busy site tour.
  • How much thought went into sound and lighting design? These design features are also easy to overlook, but their effects on productivity are intense.  For example, companies such as Phillips can provide optimal workplace lighting that is a step above typical office solutions.
  • What specific work space needs does it meet? At a bare minimum, you can expect seats and surfaces for basic office tasks. You may also want meeting rooms, private phone rooms, advanced teleconferencing systems, or secure, enclosed offices. Think long and hard about the different work scenarios that you need to drive and enhance collaboration and productivity, for small and large teams—and individuals—before you start your facility evaluation process.

Coworking spaces might never replace traditional work spaces entirely for all businesses, but they are proving to be essential for many forward-looking companies. Some companies are even getting rid of their leased work spaces entirely, while others use coworking as a perk or a means of maintaining flexibility in budgeting and workforce management. There’s a lot to love about these spaces, and it seems like we are seeing the tip of the iceberg.

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