Although work is increasingly becoming an activity rather than a place, many companies do still need some kind of centralized working location, even if it is only a safe and convenient place to meet with clients and/or colleagues. On the other hand, there may be several reasons why smaller companies might be reluctant to lease permanent office space; many of these reservations are likely to revolve around issues of cost and lack of flexibility.
It is therefore entirely understandable that some companies are now turning to the shared office spaces, or “co-working spaces”, which were once the domain of freelancers looking for an office environment without the feeling of being controlled by an employer.
Here is a quick guide to the pros and cons of a shared office space.
You Split Costs and Facilities
Splitting costs is obviously a pro but splitting facilities can bring challenges, especially when it comes to the expected behavior in the office space. Ideally, the management company behind the space will vet prospective customers thoroughly on their reasonable set of rules about what is and is not acceptable behavior all while communicating the rules effectively and enforcing them robustly when necessary.
The Management Company Will Run Your Core IT Infrastructure
In a typical shared office, the management company will typically provide internet access, usually via high-speed Wi-Fi, although some companies may also offer the option to have wired connections. They will also provide printing and scanning facilities, and some will provide phone lines (and even handsets) either as standard or as an optional extra. These options, however, are far from guaranteed these days, so if it matters to you, it’s strongly advisable to double check before you commit to using the office space.
On the one hand, this means that you can basically just “plug and play”, which may be great news for some companies. On the other hand, it means that you will have no say in what provider(s) your co-working space uses, you’ll be reliant on their technical support to solve and problems, and, possibly most importantly of all, you’ll be utterly dependent on their network security.
This last point is one you should consider very carefully if you’re handling any sort of sensitive data.
Your Neighbors Could Be a Complementary Business or They Could Be Competitors
One of the reasons some freelancers love co-working spaces is that they can provide invaluable networking opportunities. Businesses can also benefit from these opportunities. On the flip side, however, freelancers are less likely to need to be worried about their competition seeing what they’re doing, whereas businesses might have a great deal of sensitivity to the possibility of their competitors hearing about new products or services before they are officially ready to launch.
The Management Company Will Choose the Decor
Depending on your point of view this could be anything from a complete non-issue to a deal-breaker. In practical terms, most companies, like most people, would generally prefer to have some degree of personalization in a space they use a lot. The question then becomes whether or not a co-working space would provide the freedom to make your shared space feel enough like your own for you to be happy.
Obviously, this will vary from space to space, but essentially the rule of thumb is that anything which would usually be allowed in a rented flat would probably be allowed in a shared office and anything which would usually be banned in a rented flat would probably be banned in a shared office.