Not all co-working is the same

If you’re a professional, or a highly specialised SME, then making the wrong choice of co-working space can cause all sorts of issues for your business.  These include poor client perception, talent attraction problems, team productivity issues, loss of focus and even loss of revenue and profits.  On the other hand, being at the right co-working space can help you and your business thrive. The right co-working space for professionals can increase your productivity and open up collaboration opportunities.  Once the domain of tech start-ups, the co-working sector now caters for an ever increasing array of specialised professionals and businesses. Choosing the right co-working space can be challenging if you haven’t done it before.  There are literally hundreds of co-working spaces now available in Australia.

How do you pick the right one?

If you’re in professional services, here are six questions to ask before you make your decision.


1. What perception do I want to convey?

First impressions do count.

In professional services or as an independent consultant, relationships, reputation and client perceptions are everything.

Perceptions will be formed about a range of matters; your experience, skills, team members, appearance, communication abilities and the place you do business from.

Is working from home or a city fringe location a good look for your business? Location matters and CBD still has cache when people form a view of your business.

2. How do I attract and retain talent?

Top talent are more discerning than ever about who they work with. The workplace environment plays a big part in their decision making process.

Having a great reputation for a progressive culture is important when you’re competing for talent. That great culture is impacted by location and office design as much as it is by the attitudes, beliefs and practices of your business that make up it’s culture.

So, if your business needs to thrive by hiring great people, a professional, well designed and located co-working space will create a community that will help you attract and retain that talent.

If you work as an independent consultant, working in a community with like-minded professionals can offer you networking and collaboration opportunities that will help you and your business thrive.

3. Private office or open plan?

Think about the way you or your team like to work.

The standard of design and configuration of space available can be very different from one co-working business to the next. Does the co-working business you are considering have private offices, meeting rooms, video conferencing facilities, event spaces and hot-desks for temporary or full-time use?

You may need an office because of the way you prefer to work and because your work may be sensitive and require a degree of confidentiality. On the other hand, you may be happy with a part-time or full time “hot-desk” as you’re not in the office every day.

It’s also important to look at the size of the offices and desk spaces at each co-working space you’re considering. Often they can be smaller than ‘normal’ office facilities. Seek out co-working spaces that offer generosity of space in their private offices and desks. Also make sure they have all the facilities you need to conduct your business.

4. What am I paying for?

Given the large variation in the types, locations, designs, services and facilities of various co-working spaces, closely investigate and understand what you are paying for.

It is common to expect that prices will vary if the locations are in the city fringe versus in the CBD. It is also common for prices to vary according to the type of membership you are considering. For example, private offices are likely to cost more than open “hot-desks”. Analyse rate cards and fees closely.

Many co-working businesses will charge for space but may also charge an additional fee for amenities such as wi-fi usage, printing, meeting room use, etc. What appears to be a good deal for office space can become expensive when your bill arrives. Look for those places with transparency on fees or offer all inclusive memberships.

5. Who am I sharing the co-working space with?

For professionals, who you share the co-working space with could be vitally important to the success of your experience.

Be sure to ask the management of the co-working businesses you’re considering for examples of the current members occupying the space. Look for testimonials from members or even ask to speak to existing members.

It’s okay to share a co-working space with competitors as you never know where collaboration can come from. Equally, the nature of your business may make it inappropriate for you to share a space with competitors.

Either way, it’s well worth investigating who is occupying the co-working space you’re considering and find out why their members are there. Be wary of those co-working businesses that aren’t prepared to offer some transparency here.

6. Who owns and operates the co-working business?

The owner of the co-working business sets the tone and establishes the quality of your co-working experience.

The owner will have set the business up for a reason. Are they part of another business? Is other business activity going on in the co-working space that could be complementary or detrimental to your business?

It is common for co-working spaces to be owned by people conducting another business on-site apart from co-working.  This can often be advantageous for you if they appreciate the needs of professionals. If is a well-run business with a great culture and interesting people and work going on, this could set the tone for a successful co-working experience.

Co-working is an efficient, cost effective and engaging method of working and doing business. For professionals and specialist SMEs, it can take a lot office management distraction and overhead away.

Taking the time to do your homework before deciding on an office or co-working space is worth it in the end, particularly if you want to avoid the pitfalls of occupying an incompatible space.