More and more centres are setting up co-working spaces, an idea that is very popular in the USA, but what does it mean and how does it help?
Who is it aimed at?
Primarily, co-working spaces are aimed at start-ups, freelancers and micro businesses (up to 10 staff).
However, they can be used by any mobile or home worker who needs touch-down space on an ad-hoc or regular basis. Many large companies are placing increasing emphasis on flexible or ‘agile’ working practices, which means some of their staff are often in need of these types of services.
Why would you use them?
Salesmen might use them to work and/or meet clients or prospects – being constantly on the move, they may have no fixed abode. Indeed, any mobile staff can use the space to touch-down with head office and colleagues.
Working from home can be isolating and – we all need physical interaction at least some of the time. Discipline and distractions may also be a problem, so it can be good to get out and work in a more formal way from time to time and meet others in a similar situation.
Teams and colleagues can get together and brainstorm or work on a project; ancillary or temporary staff might use space for specific periods.
Start-ups will find space like this useful to explore their ideas, develop their business and get the help and advice they need without investing money they don’t have in office space and professional services.
How does it work?
You simply drop in as and when you need. You can work on your own or with a team. If you need to make calls, you can work in a more private space or a booth.
There will be hot-desks, perhaps more private desks and more communal desk spaces for collaborative work as well as informal meeting areas and at least a shared kitchen, if not a canteen or cafeteria.
You will have access to the internet, usually wireless, and other on-site services like photocopier/scanner, admin support, more formal meeting rooms and networking events.
There may even be more sophisticated services like training, coaching and seminars and business experts to give advice and help.
Charges vary - some are even free – at least part of the time. However you would normally expect to pay by the hour, day or month, on an ad-hoc basis (pay-as-you-go) or at a fixed monthly rate (full time or for so many days usage).
What are the benefits?
A lot of these spaces work like incubation hubs either independently or allied to Universities or other organizations. You will have access to a lot of help and advice – even funding – that you would not so easily find on your own.
It is considerably cheaper than taking any kind of office space and provides an environment where you can meet like-minded people, learn and grow, share knowledge and ideas and tap into networks you might otherwise miss.
In a positive environment like this, what you learn and who you meet might help improve your chances of success or speed up the process.
Even for employees in larger organizations, the time-saving convenience and affordability of co-working spaces can help achieve company goals as well as enable the worker to work in the most productive way possible.
So what are you waiting for? Find your local co-working centre and become part of the tribe or lead your own tribe into a new one if you don’t find anything suitable.
Online resources to help you find space:
Directories for desk space: ShareDesk; NearDesk; Hotdesk UK; deskwanted and its’ related online magazine; deskmag.