Coworking involves individuals from multiple companies sharing the same rented work space, which has all the regular amenities of an office: supplies, equipment and Wi-Fi. While it’s not a widespread practice with larger companies, it can be a useful space management tool for start-ups.
Large companies may find that their staff numbers makes coworking a headache. However, the practice can still be useful to larger businesses in certain cases—when they’re in the process of moving, for example. Besides providing a space for workers that isn’t a tiny office with three rooms, coworking offers several benefits.
Workplace strategist Stephanie J. Fanger points out that coworking saves mobile workers money. While working from home does save gas money, it does mean spending money on utilities in their homes—gas, electric, water, etc. Working in coffee shops? Not the best solution either, because there can be a limit to how long someone can use the Wi-Fi. Plus, if they need to use a copier or fax machine, they’re out of luck. Coworking offers the convenience of working in a space that has all they need, without the associated costs of other remote locations.
Does your company need a new employee? You might be able to find what you’re looking for through coworking. Inc. reporter Sarah Kessler writes that a CPA found work with an entrepreneur who was seeking a bookkeeper. This happened because of their mutual connection to the director of the New York coworking space Hive at 55. A similar situation occurred at New Work City in Manhattan, where a programmer met Darrell Silver, the founder of Perpetually.com, and afterwards became his employee.
For freelancers and mobile workers, the downside of working from home is that it can get lonely and monotonous. Coworking provides a more social, engaging alternative. For office-dwellers, the mix of different people from different companies puts a new spin on their work surroundings. As Fanger puts it, “Coworkers are able to benefit from the varied experiences of fellow occupants without the emotional discomfort that can accompany intra-company discussions.” You get the benefits of interacting with other people, avoiding the isolation that can result from freelancing or remote working.
Some coworking spaces even hold events featuring speakers and other educational opportunities. Kessler says that In Good Company, a coworking space for female entrepreneurs, “offers monthly talks with successful female entrepreneurs, four-session classes on case study growth strategies, and expert panels on specific business topics.” If your employees work at a similar space oriented toward career growth, they may find that not only do they have an alternative workspace, they have a new resource for learning, too.
Coworking is most common among millenials in their late 20s or early 30s, according to the coworking magazine Deskmag. They like the casual, come-as-you-please nature of coworking spaces that remain open for 24 hours. These types of coworking spaces may not be available in your city, but their value in attracting a mobile workforce is clear. For companies that want to attract young talent but don’t want to adopt working from home, coworking can be a good compromise.
Tips for managing your coworking space effectively
If the 5 benefits listed above have convinced you that coworking is right for you and your company, check out these tips that will help you settle into your new office environment.
Coworking spaces are like typical businesses in that they’re busiest during normal business hours. If you need to be a little more productive than usual, come in as soon as the space opens. That will give you a few hours to concentrate. Alternatively, if you’re not a morning person, try visiting in the early evening, when most people will have cleared out.
In an ideal world, every person using a coworking space will keep the noise level to a minimum. In a real world, that probably won’t be the case. If the surrounding sounds get too distracting, you can shut it out with earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones. Plus, having earbuds on hand also allow you to watch videos, listen to music or do anything requiring sound from your laptop without disturbing others.
Treat the space like you would a permanent work setting: Keep the common areas neat. If you’re only using a desk for the day, clear it off when you’re done. Being tidy is just a common courtesy. But as Entrepreneur contributor Carol Tice points out, it also makes good business sense: “[In] a shared office, you never know when reporters or an influential bigwig might drop by to visit one of your neighbors and give you an opportunity to connect.” Finally, step outside if you need to have a long phone conversation with someone. You don’t want to be the noisy neighbor.
Coworking spaces have a mix of different areas. There are private offices and quiet spaces. There are conference rooms and collaborative spots. Think about your needs: Will you be hosting any guests? Holding any meetings? Completing a project that requires your complete focus? Book your space accordingly.
One of the best things about coworking spaces is that they bring together people from vastly different fields. Business managers rub shoulders with graphic designers. Developers cross paths with SEO strategists. Take the opportunity to network and build connections. Many coworking spaces hold events or classes that members can attend for a discounted rate. Take advantage of one of these events, or ask someone if they’d like to grab a cup of coffee with you after hours. The potential for networking is enormous.
While a coworking space isn’t quite the same as a traditional office, the same rules seem to apply. Of course, any of these tips could also apply to a more permanent working environment, too. Just remind your coworkers to practice the same office etiquette in the coworking space as they would at any regular office.
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