Is co-working right for you?

It’s no secret: the way people work is fundamentally changing. Fans of the television series Mad Men know that in Don Draper’s office, head count was taken at 9 a.m. sharp, and you’d best be at your desk. However, telecommuting, flexible work hours and locations and shared office space is becoming the norm for many businesses today — for established companies and start-ups alike. As a result, the prevalence of co-working spaces has exploded in cities across the nation, including Denver.  

Co-working spaces offer a shared office environment for professionals of many stripes who want the benefits of an office environment — conference rooms, staffed reception, high-speed Internet access, high-end printers and more — as well as the opportunity work with others without the financial commitment of a long-term lease.

But is co-working just a way to avoid the grind? Not at all, according to Deskmag’s Global Co-working Survey. The survey reports 71 percent of co-workers surveyed reported a boost in creativity since joining a co-working space, and 62 percent said their standard of work had improved.

Is co-working right for you?

Like nearly every business decision, co-working isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many choices, and they should all be considered if you’re considering co-working. Here’s a list of options to consider before signing up:

  • The basics: Almost without exception, any co-working space you consider should offer  high-speed Wi-Fi access included in the membership, along with a furnished workspace ready for you to sit down and get to work. In most cases, some level of complimentary coffee/beverage service is also included in the membership fee.
  • Pricing options: Most co-working facilities offer more than one plan. Some have “drop-in” rates for daily or even hourly blocks so you can be there only when you want to and only pay when you’re there. There are also usually full-time or part-time (e.g., 40 hours/month) options. Pro tip: consider what amenities are offered with each package to calculate your total cost. For example, let’s say you only need to be in the office a few hours each month but need more conference room time than that package offers under the plan. It might be a lower total cost for you to buy a full-time package and avoid some or all of the hourly fees for the conference room associated with the part-time package.
  • Amenities: speaking of conference rooms, make sure the facility you’re considering has the business services you need. If you have lots of meetings or presentations, you may want a facility with more conference rooms so you can sure and schedule one when you need to. If you’re on the phone a great deal, a facility with an option for a private office or easy-to-access private telephone areas might better suit your needs. Consider your working style and business needs when reviewing your options.
  • Location: do you want to drive to your new office, or do you prefer public transportation? Do you need a place to put your bike if you’re planning on riding in? Do you need to be close to clients, customers or other employees, or can you work from anywhere? It’s important to consider your geographic needs when making your choice. If choose to drive, make sure you consider the cost of gas and parking (as well as the availability of parking, especially if you’re planning on having clients visit you) into your budget decision.
  • Coworkers: some co-working spaces cater to specific occupations, like software developers or freelancer writers and graphic designers. Others encourage a broad mix of professionals. You may have a preference for being with — or avoiding! — a specific group, so consider the mix of your potential co-workers in your search.
  • Contract: Most co-working facilities offer either drop-in (pay only when you’re there) or time commitments that are month-to-month. Some facilities do offer longer commitments, similar to a commercial lease. Make sure you understand the commitment you’re making so you’re not stuck if the situation isn’t quite right for you. Also, make sure you’re comfortable with the employees and owners of the space. Having a good working relationship can make or break your experience.
  • Other details: There are many options, so be sure and look around. Would you like on-site showers so you can sneak in a mid-day run? Do you need 24/7 access? Weigh all your options before making your decision.

Overall, co-working spaces offer flexible office space, services, amenities and the chance to meet and interact with other professionals — all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional lease. Maybe that’s why, according to Deskmag, there are now 83 percent more co-working spaces that serve a total of 117 percent more members than in 2013, and an average of nearly 250 people joined a co-working space every day last year.