Coworking spaces have enjoyed steady growth since 2006 when Brad Neuberg launched the Hat Factory, a coworking space in San Francisco. The latest Global Coworking Survey from DeskMag forecasts 1.7 million people will be working in around 19,000 coworking spaces by the end of 2018. The Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) forecasts coworking spaces will grow to over 30,000 in 2022.
Gone are the days when starting a company means you have to rent a 500-square-foot office space with a private door. Coworking offers the flexibility of working remotely with the added bonus of being part of a community of entrepreneurs. But finding the right coworking space is as big a decision as hiring a new employee.
If you’re ready to join the coworking movement, but aren’t sure which place is right for you or your business, check out these top 10 interview questions to ask when visiting your new potential work space.
1. What are the seating options?
Most coworking spaces offer a variety of seating options and membership types. Nancy Fornasiero, founder and community director of Ace Coworking in Oakville, Ontario, says finding the right coworking space begins by asking yourself what you need to work. Ace Coworking provides day passes, a hot desk membership (ie. a seat at a community table), a dedicated desk, or a private office. For those who don’t need a desk, Ace offers a community membership which gives members a mailing address for their business as well as a member rate on conference room rentals.
When choosing a seating option, think about what you will need to work effectively. “While a hot desk may be ideal for someone who only needs a laptop to work, a graphic designer who needs multiple monitors or has a lot of equipment would likely prefer a dedicated desk because it’s just not practical to have to move that equipment around,” says Fornasiero. Make a list of the things you need to work and check them off as you go on your tour.
2. What else do I get with my desk?
Most coworking spaces offer free Wi-Fi and complimentary coffee and tea. Many coworking spaces will also offer unlimited printing and photocopying, access to conference rooms, or soundproof phone booths for private phone calls. Some spaces also host free events for their members. While a coworking space may have a lot of fancy bells and whistles that sound attractive, if these aren’t important to you, you may be paying too much for amenities that you will never use.
3. Who are the other members?
“I think the best coworking spaces are those that have a diverse population,” says Fornasiero. One of the great advantages of a coworking space is that you get a group of colleagues who have skills that you don’t have such easy access to when you’re working out of your home office. “It’s like being in a company that has an HR department, a creative department, an accounting department,” says Fornasiero.
Don’t think that just because a coworking space already has a member in your area of business, that you can’t join. “We have five members that are in the digital marketing space,” says Fornasiero. The reason this works is that coworking spaces are not places where you are trying to sell your services to other members. Selling, Fornasiero notes, is strictly forbidden at Ace Coworking. “It’s not like a mall where there’s two shoe stores next to each other and they’re competing for clients. When you understand that it’s not a place where you’re selling, it’s just a place where you’re doing your work, it doesn’t feel like a conflict of interest at all [to have two or more businesses in the same space],” says Fornasiero.
4. How often will I use the space?
If you travel frequently, find out if the coworking space has locations in other cities or if they have relationships with coworking spaces in other cities that can offer you a discount.
5. What’s the vibe like?
“Every coworking space has a different vibe, its own personality”, says Fornasiero. Take your time to visit different spaces and look for one that suits your brand and your personal style.
For Roger Brenninkmeyer, executive director of Riverstone Branding and a member of Ace Coworking, the coworking space was viewed as an extension of his company’s brand. “As designers, we are most comfortable in a space that has an industrial look; exposed brick and beam giving a contemporary, genuine look and feel. This mirrors our style as professional branders,” he says.
6. What events does the space offer?
Many coworking spaces offer free or paid events, workshops, networking gatherings, and happy hours for their members. Ask to see a calendar of events and see if they speak to your interests and needs. Does the space have too many events? Do they seem too focused on socializing so that the events will become a distraction for your work?
7. Do you offer a trial period?
Most coworking spaces offer a trial period for new potential members. While the standard is a one-day free pass, Fornasiero says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more. “Many coworking operators have seats to spare and are willing to offer you more than what their official website says to try it out,” she says. Some coworking spaces will offer up to a week to help new potential members feel more secure with the idea of coworking.
8. How is the Wi-Fi connection?
Free Wi-Fi is a must in a coworking space, and most, if not all, coworking spaces have free, unlimited Wi-Fi. Some spaces, like Ace Coworking, go the extra mile to ensuring their members are always connected. “We have more than one internet provider in our space,” says Fornasiero. “Just in case one goes down, I switch over to the other and keep everyone working.” Be sure to ask how much bandwidth the space’s Wi-Fi can handle.
9. What type of coffee is provided?
This may sound petty, but for many entrepreneurs, coffee can make or break their work day. Most coworking spaces provide free coffee and tea to members. But if you’re particular about your java, you might want to try a cup on your visit to make sure it lives up to your caffeine expectations. And for those who really know their brew, some coworking spaces will allow you to bring your own beans, French press, or other coffeemaking accessories.
10. What’s the community like?
Does the space have a strong sense of community? For Brenninkmeyer, community was of utmost importance when selecting a coworking space. “Too many coworking spaces just put bums in seats to cover costs,” he says. Social events as well as the layout of the space, such as an open concept, can help to cultivate the feeling of a working community.
It may take you some time to find your ideal coworking space. But remember, the space you choose to work in is an extension of your business, so take the time to find the one that will suit you.