After landing a work-from-home job, I had to find a co-working space. But having never worked remotely, I had no idea how to prioritize the half-dozen spaces near me.
There will be an estimated 14,000 co-working spaces worldwide by the end of 2017, according to Deskmag’s annual report.
So, how do you choose a space? A co-working space can help you network and be more productive — if you can find the right one.
6 things to consider before choosing a co-working space
Sixty-eight percent of professionals reported that they’re better able to focus in a co-working space, according to a 2016 survey performed by international architecture firm HOK.
It’s empowering to be able to choose where you work. You just have to make sure you choose the right office. Here are six important factors to consider whether you’re an employee like me, a freelancer, or an entrepreneur.
The average American worker’s commute to a co-working space is just 18 minutes, according to 2016 data from Deskmag.
If you get to choose the location of your office, you might as well choose one that’s an easy commute from your home. I went from a 45-minute bike ride into midtown Manhattan to walking five blocks in my Brooklyn neighborhood.
Some of my co-working space colleagues are entrepreneurs. For them, location matters in a different way. They needed to choose a space that’s geographically close to potential employees and clients.
No matter what kind of worker you are, you’ll probably want an office that has restaurants nearby and is in a safe neighborhood. The best co-working spaces might also have backyards, a connected gym, or parking for your car or bike.
2. Work environment
The office should have clean bathrooms, easy-to-reserve meeting rooms, and high-quality desks and chairs. But consider the more abstract aspects of the work environment before committing to one co-working space over another.
The fact is, we all work differently. You might prefer a dead-quiet environment where you can be anonymous and focus on your work. On the other hand, you might like some social interaction.
Similarly, a writer might prefer lots of natural light coming into the office, while a web developer might prefer coding in the dark.
Where you fall on these spectrums might be a driving force in the co-working space you choose. I’m an introvert who likes to work in a quiet atmosphere, for example, so I chose a space that forbids loud conversations. Instead, it has booths for phone calls and conference rooms for team chats.
There are also co-working spaces that might play music loudly or encourage intraoffice banter. If that’s your thing, make sure your co-working space has this kind of vibe.
Just ensure that it’s noise you can handle on a regular basis. One of my extroverted colleagues left her WeWork space, in part, because she was seated next to a telemarketer who repeated the same spiel day after day — and that became an annoying distraction.
One of the benefits of choosing where you work is being able to decide when you work. But not all co-working spaces offer 24/7 service.
If flexibility is important to you, consider co-working spaces that allow you to work nights, weekends, or whenever you want.
Along with building access, ask about the security of your potential office space. My workspace, for example, doesn’t encourage leaving expensive equipment at our desks but does provide free lockers.
And although you might prefer a smaller, boutique co-working space, a national chain co-working space could offer a major convenience. WeWork, which claims 218 offices in 53 cities, for example, gives its members the benefit of accessing its locations while you’re on business trips.
If you’re a member of a WeWork in New York City, for example, you could stop by one of its Los Angeles locations if your work takes you to the other side of the country.
Once you’ve found the right kind of co-working space, you’ll want to make sure you have friendly neighbors. Take a tour of the office and observe your potential co-workers. It wouldn’t hurt to ask a couple of them about their experience in the workplace.
If you’re an extroverted freelancer or an entrepreneur, you might also like to look into the backgrounds of your office mates. You might be inspired by fellow writers, for example, or in the market for web development talent. A future friend or employee could occupy the desk or office next to yours.
The best co-working spaces offer more formal networking opportunities. Some spaces even sponsor in-house events and meetups to foster community and collaboration. Typically, these are the spaces with long-term members, not those that offer hourly or daily passes.
Now you’ll want to make sure you can afford the co-working space. If you’re a freelancer managing your finances, for example, you should have a good handle on how much you can spend on a workspace.
Most spaces allow you to rent monthly. Be wary of signing an annual agreement, unless you’re 100 percent sure you’ll make the most of it.
Also, watch out for a space that might nickel and dime you above and beyond a flat rental fee. WeWork offers dedicated desks starting at $350 per month, for example. But you can expect to pay more if you want to book extra conference rooms ($25 per hour) or mail service ($50 per month), to name a couple of examples.
Finally, ask about billing before signing up. You’ll want this process to be seamless, particularly if you need to expense your rental charges to your employer each month.
Work-from-home jobs offer great perks, but your co-working space should too.
Hopefully, you have a few attractive co-working spaces near you. If you need a good tiebreaker, list out the perks you’d love in an office and see which contender offers more of them.
Think beyond essentials like speedy internet, comfortable chairs, and free use of an all-in-one printer. Here are some next-level perks to look out for:
- Kitchen with free coffee, snacks, and maybe even a keg
- Outdoor space
- Games, like a ping-pong table
- High-tech audio and visual setups
- Free keyboards, mouses, and monitors
- Reception desk to welcome clients
- Mail-collection service
- Free or convenient parking
The best co-working spaces offer more of these frills than their peers. To make them count, rank your preferred perks before comparing workspaces. That way, you know exactly what your needs and wants are beforehand.
How to find a co-working space
I found my co-working space by clicking around Google Maps. But there are good resources for narrowing your search. You can use Coworker to find spaces and read user reviews, for example.
If you’re not ready to make a long-term commitment, don’t worry. You can try co-working spaces on a short-term basis with apps and websites like Desktime and Desksurfing. They might also be useful for digital nomads traveling internationally.
For those of you who are ready to lay down your roots, your research isn’t done yet. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, take a tour of the office. Ask for a trial period, even if it’s for one workday.
If you find yourself missing home or your local coffee shop, keep searching for the best co-working spaces near you.
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