Exploring the World of Shared Work Space

Working from a home office was a no-brainer for Zevy Aron when he first opened his business. But with his insurance brokerage firm growing, he now needed the brain space to focus on it—which is hard to do with children running around upstairs or popping into his office to say hello. And it’s awkward when clients hear the washing machine running in the background. Working from home was no longer working for him, but his business was not at the point where he could afford to rent his own office. 

Can a co-working setup offer an ideal middle ground?

What is Co-Working?

Co-working is an arrangement in which workers from different companies share office space, infrastructure, and expenses such as conference rooms, technology, utilities, maintenance, and receptionist services. The concept has been around for years; my first Lakewood office, back in 2007, was at 1072 Madison Avenue, a local co-working space which is still open and thriving. Over time, co-working has evolved into professional hubs, communities of like-minded people who work, socialize, and grow their businesses together. And after COVID shook up our lives, the co-working concept has become ever more attractive to businesses of all sizes.

The Flexibility of Zero Commitment

The basic premise of co-working is office rental with almost zero ongoing commitment. You can rent as little or as much space as you want for a year, a month, a week, whatever. Some co-working locations even offer options on a daily or hourly basis! Today, even large corporations use co-working space when they don’t want to be tied down to a multiyear lease or to allow their remote workers to pop into a professional space. Whereas a typical leased office can take months to secure, decorate, and furnish, you can be up and running in a co-working space within minutes!

Buying Prestige at Low Cost

In addition to flexibility, running your business out of an upscale office building rather than your home gives you an undeniable bump up in prestige. Co-working spaces are often in class A buildings which would otherwise be well beyond the reach of the typical solo entrepreneur. However, let’s not fool ourselves—the prestige offered by a typical co-working arrangement probably won’t match the level of your own dedicated company office in a similar building. Co-working looks much more professional than meeting clients in your basement or a run-down part of town, but your clients will probably realize that you’re not Amazon or JP Morgan—yet.

More Convenience, Less Hassle

While the rent for a shared work space is higher per square foot than a regular lease, this added money is buying you convenience. In a shared work space, you don’t need to worry about cleaning and office maintenance, setting up Wi-Fi or other technology access, or even paying utility bills. This is a full-service arrangement. Plus, you get to enjoy the added perks that many shared work spaces offer: gyms, game areas, lounges, and the like—amenities that most solo entrepreneurs probably couldn’t access without co-working.

Before you sign up for a co-working space, check what amenities are being offered and whether there’s enough access relative to the number of workers in the office. You also don’t want to pay top dollar for perks that you don’t actually need or want. And the quality of what’s on offer can vary widely. But since the commitment is small, you can really just try it out and walk away if it doesn’t meet your needs.

Feeding Off the Social Energy

It can be hard to feel energized about your work when you’re sitting alone in a basement. Being part of an office team—even if it’s not your team—can get your own juices going and make you more motivated, creative, and productive. In addition, the built-in networking potential for your business can be enormous.

On the other hand, sometimes the social aspect can be a serious distraction. Unless you upgrade to an enclosed office or cubicle, your work space will most likely be an open desk with someone to your right and someone to your left. While it’s possible to set yourself up in a corner with noise-blocking headphones, if you’re the type of person who needs total quiet in order to concentrate or who gets easily drawn into a schmooze at the expense of your work, this setup may not be ideal for you.

Privacy Concerns

Also, by definition, a shared work space does not offer airtight privacy. If you work for the CIA, you probably want to consider other options. Even if your field is not high-security, you might not be comfortable knowing that others can look over your shoulder. Nor might you be the type to appreciate outsiders asking you questions or offering their unsolicited opinions about your business. Then again, some people love discussing their business plans and dilemmas with others and benefit from the fine-tuning opportunity that this offers them. It’s important to consider which approach best aligns with your personality.

Vibes and Sensitivities

You may be the kind of person who appreciates a professional office vibe, but there’s nothing stopping the guy next to you from showing up in a T-shirt and flip-flops. You also can’t easily control the amount of socializing that goes on around you or the appropriateness of the conversation. How are tznius sensitivities dealt with in a shared space which attracts all types of folks? These things are much easier to manage in a typical office environment where the company sets the rules for all employees.

In co-working, the management of the space sets the tone, acting as moderators and monitoring for any potential friction or uncomfortable situations. And the managers may have very different rules for and perspectives on their space from what you envision. It’s important to research and test a co-working space. But again, since there is no long-term commitment, there’s limited downside to a trial period. If it doesn’t work out, you just move on.

So, Is it for You?

Every business owner needs to make their own cost calculations to determine if the move out of a home office makes sense for them. That said, renting a shared work space is a very small investment; if it helps you get even one or two new jobs a year by increasing your productivity, it’s already worth it. If you’re on the fence, it’s worth giving it a try. With zero commitment, you have almost nothing to lose.

Want to dig deeper?

Try these related articles

Working from Home: Making It Work

When Your Business Needs a Loan

The Potential and Pitfalls of Business Partnerships

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