Posted on: 15 February 2016
For many companies – particularly SMEs – the traditional office model isn’t always an ideal working environment anymore. Individuals and businesses alike now understand the positive impact of community based work spaces and the co-working phenomenon is a product of this new way of thinking.
By definition, co-working spaces are shared communal offices where people from different organisations and businesses go to work and share their ideas and business knowledge with one another. They provide flexible, creative and affordable space, with global membership due to grow by 40% year on year until 2018. 5
If you’re considering making a move from the home based business office, take a look at our following guidance which has been developed in association with some of the founders, managers and directors of the UK’s most popular co-working spaces to determine if a co-working environment is right for you and your business.
Is the location right?
Location is one of the easiest ways to narrow down your search. Whether you’re working alone or alongside a team – the location of your co-working space needs to be easy to commute to and close to your target market.
You should research into areas of growth with good digital infrastructure but be careful not to fall into the trap of only searching in popular areas – this could lead to higher rental costs. As many co-working spaces are located in towns and city centres, you should also consider if the travel cost and commute is worthwhile to the amount of time that you will spend using the space.
Adam Richards from the Camden Collective says that the location you choose can also say a lot about your business. “Location is hugely important. Apart from the easily quantifiable things like the length of your commute, there are other things, like the quality of places to drink, eat – and - less it be said, reputation that the location will say about your company. The location you choose will say a lot more about the values of your company than anything else to do with your space.”
Whether its train stations, tube stops, eateries and bars or something else that you want or need in close proximity, location is key so ask the workspace owner about close by facilities.
Who are you sharing your space with?
Each co-working space feels and acts differently, so before deciding where you want to set up, you should look at the list of current occupants and ask if they may be able to help you in your business development.
Surrounding yourself with individuals and businesses with the same practices and ambitions as you allows you to learn from each other – you may even go into business together.
James Abbott-Donnelly tells us how tenants in Duke Studios in Leeds find it beneficial to work in a sector-specific environment, “A lot of people just want to be around others who are working on something similar to them. You find that the natural networking aspect of co-working just happens in this kind of environment.”
While some spaces offer desks for certain business types, others prefer to house a range of businesses from different sectors. This type of environment could help you to gain insights and knowledge that you may not find in a homogenous space.
Adam Richards explains that combining a mixture of businesses can make a better working environment with less competition, “We don’t ever want two of the same businesses. We don’t want a room of people all chasing the same investor because we don’t think it makes a productive place to work. Finding out who else works from the space should be one of the first things you ask.”
What comes with the deal?
Co-working spaces are often portrayed as laid-back recreational areas with foosball tables, unlimited free coffee and fitness rooms. In a survey conducted by DeskMag, only 25% of co-workers considered recreational facilities such as these to be important6. So don’t jump at the idea of luxury amenities, it’s important to consider the more practical things first.
Tom Lewis, founder of The Guild in Bath explains that business-related facilities have proven to be the most sought-after element, “We realised quickly that the bells and whistles such as table football and ping pong tables are a waste of time. It makes the place look good but ultimately people are here to work, so you’ll find that things like internet speed and conference rooms are much more important when searching for a space”
You should consider the things that you need to conduct your day to day business including mail services, printing facilities, eating and food prep areas and access to meeting rooms. Be sure to make yourself aware of any additional fees that may apply before using these services.
Beside this, co-working hubs may also offer industry specific machines and services such as editing suites and sound booths, so take the time to look into any specialist facilities on offer – but be aware of additional costs.
Are there any workshops or social events?
The more you can get out of your co-working experience, the better. Some co-working spaces host networking events and professional development workshops to help tenants get in touch with like-minded entrepreneurs and even investors.
Louize Clarke is the co-founder of Grow@Greenpark and highlights the importance of offering extra services to tenants; “Being located in the Thames Valley we are very tech focused and we hold specialist workshops and business drop in sessions to support the businesses here. We really believe in educating small businesses”
As well as the people you are working alongside, workshops and social events can be hugely beneficial for educating you on areas of business that you may not be familiar with.
Can you look around first?
Many co-working spaces give tenants the option to rent space on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Whilst this is a great advantage over the traditional office lease, you should make sure that you understand all of the benefits you receive with your co-working membership.
“You should consider the terms and conditions of the space. How much does it cost? How long is the minimum contract length? Do you need more or less security? Can you add desk spaces if you grow? It’s boring, but important.” continues Adam Richards.
You should ask if you can look around the space ahead of signing any contracts and many co-working spaces offer free trials. Use this time to talk to existing tenants and to decipher where your business would fit within the workspace.
By their very nature, co-working spaces are open plan and this generally means that you will be able to hear all of the conversations going on around you. For many people it can be hard to get long stretches of creative and undisturbed work in a shared environment. When you are looking around, you should take time to consider if a co-working space would allow you to be productive and enable you to conduct your day to day business.
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