At some point, many small business owners grow out of their home office, or they just become bored, lonely, and uninspired working alone. One option that is sizzling right now is co-working spaces. In fact, a recent global co-working survey shows that demand for shared office space has risen more than 36 percent over the past year.
We spoke to some small business owners to find out how they’re benefitting from co-working spaces—and how you can determine if they’re right for you:
Camaraderie: If you find yourself craving a visit from UPS or are spending more time than you should on Facebook, that could be an indication it’s time to rethink your home office. “Interacting with smart and creative people every day is inspiring and always boosts my mood,” says Lisa McAlister, founder of With Good Cause, a boutique agency specializing in corporate and sports philanthropy. She joined The Studio in Boulder, Colo., in January after working out of her home for 13 years. Besides day-to-day interaction, many co-working spaces are known for activities and after work gatherings to encourage camaraderie.
Immediate feedback: A co-working space can offer a ready-made focus group with a valuable outside perspective, says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, which provides on-call lawn care services. “Changes to our product or design can now be immediately vetted by other entrepreneurs instead of relying on our internal team to make assumptions,” he says, of moving the four-person team to the Missioner in Nashville after working out of a home office for the first two years of operation.
Professional atmosphere: Bringing clients to your home can feel unprofessional and meeting in a coffee shop can be crowded and noisy. Resources, such as meeting rooms, a reception area, and security are a vital part of the co-working space, says Sam Meek of Sandboxx, an app that connects military members, who is now working out of the Eastern Foundry co-working space in Arlington, Va.
Separation of work and home: Home can become home again when work isn’t constantly beckoning from another room. “I found myself working less late at night, if at all,” says Brandon Fuhrmann, CEO of Cooler Kitchen kitchenware, who found his productivity soared when he began using the co-working space at WeWork in Chelsea, N.Y., last November.
Professional confidence: “There is something about having a designated office that gives you more credibility when talking about your business,” says McAlister. “Even though it’s more common to work from home these days, it still can be hard to shake the ‘lucky you, sitting on the couch in your PJs’ vibe you get from others.”
Of course, with any shared working space there are some potential drawbacks to consider. Chief among them are distractions and the lack of privacy. Alex Pierson, founder of social media app springpop, who moved to the WeWork location in San Francisco last summer, says the environment itself can lead to distraction with many of the desks lined up facing each other.
McAlister adds that while everyone is cognizant of being respectful of those around them, it can still be hard to take a phone call. “If a call goes on too long, I start to feel like I should cut it short so as not to disturb those around me.”
Despite these minor inconveniences, the benefits of a co-working space are many and may offer just the kind of connection and stimulation you need to take your small business to the next level.
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