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Can a Collaborative Workspace Transform Your Business?

Imagine a space where the benefits of owning a fledging company collided with the camaraderie of office mates. A place where you showed up to work in an office, but your co-workers were other entrepreneurs.

Such arrangements, known as coworking, have become increasingly common since 2007. Since then, the number of spaces available worldwide has doubled annually, up to 2,150 in 2012, according to industry publication Deskmag.

Coworking allows entrepreneurs the ability to rent desks — usually on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis — in fully functioning offices with printers, coffee, and conference rooms.

Though specifics vary by location, the most affordable options involve so-called flexible desks, which don’t belong to you and must be cleared at each day’s end. A slightly larger investment will buy you your own desk where you can pile your paper at will.

Many business owners come to coworking spaces to escape the boredom of working from home or the noise of coffee shops. They often find surprising benefits.

However, every opportunity has its downsides, and coworking is no exception. So is the hype true?

Advantages

  • Networking: If you’re a business consultant working next to an up-and-coming public relations specialist, you each offer specific skills. You might hire the PR maven to score press for your company, and she might hire you to offer business development advice. Besides the immediate impact of potential new clients working in the same room, everyone working alongside you represents an untapped network of people you don’t yet know.
  • Shared expertise: Entrepreneurship can be a hard, lonely road to walk down, one marred by obstacles and disappointments. The energy generated by a collection of business owners working in the same room can help sustain you during the difficult days. Talking out new ideas with other imaginative professionals can help you avoid mistakes they’ve already made, or infuse new life into an idea that hasn’t been working for you.
  • Legitimate office space: If you can’t afford a traditional office, but need to hold a client meeting, coworking spaces offer affordable alternatives. Meeting rooms are often available to impress your existing and potential clients. Working in an office also gives you a street address to place on your website, business cards, and marketing materials.
  • Community: Coworking spaces usually prioritize community building, and that effort often transcends pure business goals. Leaders may organize social events such as hikes and game nights, or host business-related discussions open to all local residents.

Drawbacks

  • Noise: All that collaboration can grow loud. To combat this, some coworking spaces have started offering private rooms. Another solution is to work elsewhere when faced with a large deadline or needing a chunk of uninterrupted time.
  • It’s still an office: Some people choose entrepreneurship or freelancing because they dislike traditional office environments or commuting. Working anywhere outside of your home will require transit time. Some coworking spaces don’t allow 24/7 access, which limits your flexibility.

Extended hours are becoming more common as this practice’s popularity grows, but availability is something to consider when investigating potential spaces.

  • Flexible desks: If you’re just starting your business and can only afford a flexible desk, packing all your work materials up every day might grow cumbersome. Businesses selling physical goods might find such an arrangement impossible.

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