Over the past number of years a new office trend has emerged. Well, not exactly a new office trend – just the re-naming and modifying the concept of the shared office or “hot desking.” This new trend is called co-working office space and it is being marketed to young entrepreneurs who thrive in an environment that offers social interaction and the possibility of collaboration and camaraderie. In other words, users feel more comfortable working alongside other freelances and start-up entrepreneurs.
Advantages of co-working offices
So the first advantage of co-working offices is that they provide an atmosphere that encourages social interaction with like-minded individuals who may be working in the same field as you. Other instances are ones that complement what you do or are complemented by what you do. For some a dynamic surrounding of professionals discussing their projects, clients and ideas can do wonders for their respective businesses. Whether they get important feedback from those around them, get in touch with potential new clients or access to other projects (because of someone mentioning their work to a customer or another co-worker), the benefits to their professional networking can also be an important aspect of co-working.
The second advantage of a co-working office are the facilities that most of them can offer such as desks, whiteboards, WiFi Internet, photocopiers and other office equipment that a small business or start-up does not have the capital funding to afford themselves. Even if they could afford this equipment, the value would be wasted on a single or two-person office as the equipment would stay idle for the most part and depreciate long before their cycle of life and usefulness expires.
The third advantage of a co-working office is the flexibility of use. Coworking spaces tend to be much more affordable than an actual office. Most co-working offices have various pricing plans depending on usage. Businesses can have a monthly plan that is unlimited, a monthly plan with a set number of hours, a weekly plan and even an a-la-carte plan for occasional usage (these often require a minimum monthly membership, just as fitness clubs do). For businesses with anticipated high usage, they can often get a deal by making a regular monthly commitment that is similar to a rental agreement.
Renting a co-working office space could give a boost to a start-up’s professional image as well, because users are not working from home and they are not communicating from a post office box. Meeting clients at a restaurant for lunch is fine, but inviting them into your co-working office gives you that extra credibility. Last but not least, co-working spaces tend to be much more affordable than a single-person office.
Increased self-confidence is one of the biggest advantages co-working spaces have over traditional offices, because they have people around them to share their success – where they often did not have that when working from home alone. People who formerly worked strictly from home often report that they notice an increase in their income and productivity as a result of having an office to go to.
Not so much an advantage, but something that could be a factor in choosing an office, is that many of the newer modern co-working spaces offer a “cool” factor in terms of their design, layout and amenities (such as espresso bars and lounges) that you will not find in most tradition office environments. If you thrive in a social working environment and want to enjoy some of the luxuries that some of the more upscale co-working offices have to offer, then you should check a few out and see what one best fits your business needs and work style.
Disadvantages of Co-working Offices
While some co-working spaces and their advocates will try to say that “value is no longer created in traditional offices,” the fact is that co-working spaces do not offer the privacy and dedicated space that some businesses need. This is especially true when someone considers that some Toronto co-working facilities advertise $395 per month for unlimited business-hours usage, yet that same small business or entrepreneur can have a semi-private office they share with only one other person for the same price at an office provider like Telsec Business Centres – all with 24/7 access.
Another disadvantage to many co-working offices is the lack of storage for personal files and personal computers. Conversely, a semi-private office allows for storage of files and you do not need to take your laptop or computer home at the end of each day. Depending on the type of business and the degree of security and confidentiality of client files, a co-working office may not be the most secure place for files – and transporting them each time may result in a lost or forgotten file. This is especially true if the file you forget at home is the one you need to show the client you are meeting with that day.
Even if you do not carry around paper files, but you keep your clients computer files on a cloud server, most cloud offices do not provide wired access to the internet, but instead only offer WiFi. This can be a serious disadvantage if you need secure access, as wireless internet is the first place that hackers look to access secure files on computers and to gain access to their passwords and security protocols.
Saying that renting an co-working office space could give a boost to your professional image as well, may in some instances not be so true. Inviting customers to meet at your own office that is a desk in a co-working centre may cost your small business a bit of credibility in terms of professionalism. While most modern co-working centres are open concepts and are nicely appointed, they are still large rooms filled with desks, tables and other workstations. Because these are informal office arrangements, each member likely has his or her own sense of professionalism and dress code that may conflict with those of your client. Your client therefore could assume that you are working in a less than professional work space – and more like a public library.
Conclusions on Co-working Offices
Now that you have read some of the advantages and disadvantages of co-working office spaces and what they offer to entrepreneurs, small businesses or start-ups, you can make a more informed decision as to whether this non-traditional trend will work for you and your business. While this new office option can seem to be very cool and one that you may want to be part of, be sure you know if this type of arrangement will work with your business model and overall business needs.