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With office space ranked as the second largest company expense, many startups and small businesses are looking into flexible, cost-effective solutions like coworking spaces.

What is coworking space?

Coworking space is where a group of small businesses and individuals literally share the same office space, normally a large open-concept area with communal tables and workstations. (A lot of startup incubators also work on this format.) Leases for this type of space can be negotiated by the hour, day, month or year, depending on the service provider and each business’ or individual’s needs.

The origin and future of coworking spaces.

Schraubenfabrik in Vienna, Austria, declares itself as the mother of coworking. Opening in 2002, it was a first-of-its-kind entrepreneurial space. As the number of remote workers is increasing globally, so is the need for coworking space, which is doubling every year.

Benefits of coworking spaces.

Flexibility — Think of coworking space as office space à la carte. There’s a wide range of coworking spaces to choose from. Smaller providers may offer a modest facility with a set number of spaces, while larger providers may offer public and private workstations, conference rooms, receptionist services and more.

Cost effectiveness — With coworking spaces you only pay for what you need. If you only need a workspace three days or three hours a week, that is what you can get and pay for. Because cost and flexibility are such strong selling points, in most cases, you may also change your contract on short notice.

Culture — Coworking space operators often hold community building/networking events that encourage everyone in the space to get to know each other. Each space also has its own unique atmosphere and personality that you can to choose to be as connected or disconnected with as you like.

Finding the perfect coworking space.

Is coworking right for you? To figure this out you need to do a bit of self-reflection:

What are you and your employees’ likes and dislikes?
Someone who does best working on their own, may not thrive in a coworking space. Does your team predominantly work independently or is there a strong need for collaboration? And would you benefit from the knowledge-sharing that can come from being around like-minded individuals and companies?

Do you require a high level of security for what you do?
If your focus is sensitive data, the open vibe of coworking and shared Wi-Fi may not be for you. Do you need to have frequent confidential meetings? If so, make sure there’s a conference room or private space that can accommodate this requirement. Also, ensure the availability of these spaces, which can be a hot commodity.

What are your physical needs?
How many employees will be using the space? Are the IT and internet services available a match for your needs? Is there a kitchen? Free coffee? You don’t want to find these things out after you sign your lease and get ready to fire up your computer, sans caffeine or a networked printer.

How quickly are you growing?
If you’re growing at a rapid pace and plan to be adding a significant number of employees, finding traditional office space solely for your business might be a better solution.

Does this coworking space operator have multiple locations?
If your team is spread out across several locations, finding a coworking space operator with spaces in the same locations might maximize your flexibility. This is also a convenient option if you travel or visit the same locations time and again.

Where to learn more.

True to the nature of this market, coworking operators come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the more well-known and emerging coworking space finders/operators include Breather, DesksNearMe, Desktime, LiquidSpace, ShareDesk, PivotDesk, WorkSnug and Regus. However, there’s also a wide range of independent operators as well.

The best place to start is to do a search for coworking space and/or contact a commercial realtor familiar with coworking and your area. For hardcore enthusiasts, Deskmag is an online magazine about coworking and the Global Coworking Map list locations all around the world.

Last, but not least — Visit the space.

As your final test, make time to go to the coworking spaces you’re considering. Hang out for an hour, test the WiFi and chat with a few community members. It’s a simple thing, but there’s nothing like kicking the tires before you sign the papers.

👉 Learn more about workplace trends like The Rise of the Planet of Remote Workers and Keeping it Together With Your Remote Employees.

You may also share your coworking experiences and your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.