As work grows more flexible, so too will traditional workspaces. Co-working spaces were once the realm of freelancers. Now, they’re increasingly being used by startup businesses who crave the flexibility, community, and cost-savings they offer.
At the same time, these spaces do come with their downsides. The flexibility is great until you want to do some permanent branding in your office space—the community’s all well and good until you desperately need to do some work without being distracted.
Co-working spaces come with both advantages and disadvantages, so companies should consider them all before moving into one.
Here are three major considerations to keep in mind.
1. Sharing space with other companies
Pro: Co-working spaces offer a lot of opportunity for collaboration, networking, and client sourcing. With so many companies in one space, each one benefits from the connections of its neighbors (if they take the time to get to know them). Moreover, the presence of people from different industries boosts the innovative potential of the co-working space as a whole.
Con: Co-working spaces can be distracting. While the hustle and bustle of multiple enterprises working under the same roof can be inspiring, it’s hard not to waste a lot of time either chit-chatting or paying attention to what others are doing. There’s the added hassle of getting a room to hold meetings with your team or finding a quiet spot to take an important call.
Highlighted: The Centre for Social Innovation, which has multiple locations, was founded on the principles of collaboration and community. That said, it also recognizes that sometimes you need space of your own. This is why they offer free meeting rooms, event space, and even a terrace at their Spadina location.
2. Duration of commitment
Pro: Your team is growing and you could really use some office space, but you’re not sure if you’re financially ready to lock into a lease. Co-working spaces offer startups a fair amount of flexibility because there’s no long-term commitment required. They’re also useful if you’re dealing with unpredictable revenue because you can rent them out on an as-need basis.
Con: Flexibility is one of the most appealing features of a co-working space, but it also limits a start-up’s ability to customize its office and brand it consistently. It also means that even if you’re the boss, you don’t get the final say about your work environment. That said, lacking a little bit of control is a pretty sweet deal for the cost-effectiveness of a co-working space.
Highlighted: With Foundery near Dundas and Bathurst, you don’t even have to commit to a month. You can use their co-working space for as little as a day using a $25/day pass. If your team mostly consists of remote workers and you need the occasional in-person meeting, this is a handy option. They also offer part-time and full-time monthly memberships, so companies only pay for what they need.
Pro: Startups need paper, ink, printer, phone lines, internet access, and more. Co-working spaces provide all of these office amenities for members. If you have your own working space, you have to assign someone to take care of every little thing, such as taking out the garbage, buying coffee grounds, or fixing the internet when it goes down. In a shared working space, someone else takes care of all of these chores, allowing you to focus on building your company.
Con: These facilities have to be shared with others. The co-working space addresses maintenance issues on its schedule – although a good co-working space should handle them promptly – and companies have limited control over the activities of people from other companies. In a private office, you have much more say about how your employees behave.
Co-working spaces provide a fantastic environment to work amongst like-minded companies. Some spaces provide Slack channels by topic, so you can quickly get help. You also don’t have to worry about cleaning, stocking the coffee machine, or taking care of utilities. You just focus on running the business. That said, you give up the ability to create a unique company culture and customize your work environment. Take the time to think about your priorities and what your budget is in order to guide your decision.
Check out this great post by BlogTO on the top 20 coworking spaces in Toronto.
Neya Abdi is a startup storyteller who covers innovation, marketing, business development, and customer engagement. Her limitless curiosity drives her to learn how organizations progress from idea generation to successful implementation in order to delight customers, make positive social contributions, and generate revenue. She lives in Toronto.