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Is a Co-Working Space Right for Your Small Business?

Is a Co-Working Space Right for Your Small Business?
Credit: Sfio Cracho/Shutterstock

So you need an office for you and your growing team. The typical office-leasing process can take months and involves a lot of numbers and paperwork, and even then, you could end up not getting what you thought out of your office experience.

One way to combat this is to explore the option of a co-working space – rented space in a shared office with people from all different organizations. This allows you to have office space that is more tailored to your needs, not be committed to a lease, and have your employees feel comfortable in what usually is a more relaxed, inspired and productive environment.

There are numerous advantages to using a co-working space, especially for fast-growing and budget-conscious startups.

"Businesses need to provide great work environments in order to grow and succeed. But very few are actually able to do so, because finding and creating a great workplace is a complicated, opaque and expensive process," said Jamie Hodari, CEO and co-founder of Industrious. "The model of co-working follows a traditional and reliable pattern of outsourcing seen across other industries as well."

Liz Elam, founder of Link Coworking, said that co-working spaces are havens of productivity, inspiration and happiness.

"You don't have to worry about getting the internet turned on or fix the printer jam," Elam said. "People come to the space because they need to get something done, but they stay for the community, collaboration and networking."

The community aspect is a huge plus of joining a co-working space. Sharing an office with similar-minded small business owners gives you the opportunity to network while you work and share resources that you'd otherwise have to track down on your own. Many co-working spaces also organize regular events to help their occupants get to know each other and find ways to work together.

"When you're just starting out, it pays to maximize every resource you already have at your disposal," said Alon Alroy, co-founder and CMO of event-management platform Bizzabo, which operates out of a co-working space. "[Make] the most of the community – you get as much out of it as you put in. Get to know your neighbors, [and] attend the professional meetups and seminars. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn."

There are several factors to consider when choosing a workspace, but it's best to start with thinking about the way you work, as well as your business objective, said Hodari. He suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are you interested in establishing regional offices for you brand or testing markets for corporate expansion?
  • Will you be meeting with partners or clients?
  • When are you most productive?

"If you need a quiet, calm environment, avoid co-working spaces that focus on loud, fun, communal areas and instead look for ones with private offices. If your business is meeting-heavy, you'll want access to conference rooms," Hodari added.

Here are some other factors to consider.

Shared offices are most frequently found in large cities like Chicago and New York, which can be a real cost-saver for businesses that want to be in these areas without signing an expensive urban office-space lease. However, be sure that your new co-working address is one that you feel comfortable not only showing up to every day but also inviting professional contacts to.

"When looking for a co-working space, you should go visit everything your city has to offer until you find the space that suits you and your team," Elam said. "Most [shared offices] offer a free day to test out the space."

The design of your co-working space is another important factor to consider.

"You want a space where you feel inspired to work. Research shows that design drives innovation, and the best co-working spaces reflect that," said Hodari.

Since you generally can't rearrange and customize co-working space the way you could a private office, you have to be satisfied with the existing layout and setup of a shared workspace.

While a co-working space might have everything a growing business needs, not all of those amenities are necessarily included in your membership price. Be sure to read the fine print and know exactly what you're paying for so you don't end up with any hidden fees after you've already set yourself up in a space.

"Be sure to ask what services the community managers or operations associates provide," suggested Hodari.

Your co-working neighbors can make all the difference in your everyday work experience, so try to find out what other businesses are in the space before you sign up. In most cases, you'll find that there are a lot of other startups and small companies like yours, so you can really benefit from each other's experiences and connections.

A shared office "is a built-in network," said Jayna Cooke, founder and CEO of event-venue listing site EVENTup. "If you're in a spot by yourself, you're going to be isolated, but at a co-working space, you have the ability to ask questions to a larger group. It's a more collaborative workspace."

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.