If you work from home, you’re no doubt painfully aware of the solitary feelings that can overcome the home office employee. While frequenting your neighborhood coffee shop may seem a great way to get some stimulation (and get out of your pajamas), there’s another space that can offer you more than background noise and caffeine.
Melisa Singh, founder and CEO of StoryShelter began looking for a coworking space after realizing she missed the camaraderie of being in an office space. She selected WeWork in the West Village of Manhattan and immediately noticed a jump in productivity. “I was no longer distracted by my all-to-close refrigerator or television,” she says.
Coworking spaces usually charge a daily, weekly or monthly fee for workspace and amenities such as Wi-Fi and common elements including conference rooms, private telephone booths and the all-important coffee maker. With plenty of coworking spaces to choose from, finding the right one for your business can be a challenge.
When shopping for a coworking space, ask these 10 questions:
Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace, a company that operates nine coworking spaces in California, says every coworking space has a different vibe. “Given the fact that different people show up to different spaces means every space has its own personality,” he says. NextSpace doesn’t allow individuals or businesses to register online, but requests that they first visit the space to see if it’s a good fit before making a commitment.
Before setting up shop in a coworking space, survey the list of current occupants and ask yourself whether these individuals may be able to help you in your business and career development. While some coworking spaces are specifically geared towards certain type of industries; others have a wide variety of tenants including tech startups, non-profits, designers, lawyers and accountants.
These types of coworking spaces allow for individuals to connect with others across industries and share knowledge and expertise. At Singh’s coworking space, each floor is staffed by individuals working in common fields allowing for plenty of networking and learning opportunities. “The most beneficial part of being in a coworking space for me is being able to be a part of a community and experience the camaraderie of the office experience,” says Singh. Having a network of individuals at arms’ length who can offer insights and suggestions has played a key role in Singh’s company’s growth.
Ask if you can work in the space for one day to try it out to make sure the space is compatible with your work style. If you need quiet time to work, make sure the space you choose has private quiet areas rather than a large open space where people around you will be talking on the phone and having frequent meetings and discussions close by.
Many coworking spaces host social events and professional development workshops to help inspire tenants and foster the sense of community. One of the top selling points for Singh was the number of networking events that would help her to connect to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. If you’re not the joiner type, though, you may find so many events a distraction and may seek a quieter space where networking is limited to meeting at the coffee machine.
Some coworking spaces offer special benefits including health insurance or discounts on educational courses.
While some coworking spaces keep set office hours, others are open 24/7 allowing tenants to set their own working hours.
Most coworking spaces are located in urban centres, great for those who live downtown, but for those in the suburbs, you may be committing to a longer commute than you’d like. Joshua Dorkin, CEO of the real estate investing social network Bigger Pockets chose his coworking space, Thrive (located in Denver, Colorado) because it was within walkable distance to home. The time saved from the commute makes for a more efficient work day.
Most coworking spaces allow tenants to rent space on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. For Dorkin, this flexibility was much more desirable than a commercial two-year lease. “We’re on a monthly contract, which gives us the flexibility we need as a growing company,” he says.
While some coworking spaces offer little more than a desk, others have private offices to accommodate multiple staff people. Dorkin chose his coworking space for the opportunity for growth it provided. He has a private office and rents several desks in the communal area. “We just add people to floating desks when they join the company and as needed, we’ll add new offices,” he says.
Are you a graphic designer who needs to print a lot of material? Do you regularly meet clients and need to book conference room space frequently? Are you a tech company who requires a large bandwidth? Before signing a lease, make sure the coworking space you choose has the right infrastructure you need to support your business.