Shared office spaces provide a myriad of services for startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, small businesses and the like. From collaborative workspaces to virtual offices, these innovative and functional arrangements offer both benefits and disadvantages.
But before getting to the whys and why nots, we should explain exactly what characterizes shared office space, as it’s more complicated than you might think.
Today’s modern, digital world enables greater flexibility in the workspace. So, the definition of shared office space expands every year. The latest trends utilize technology that allows teams to work efficiently together, saves businesses money and facilitates a better work-life balance. These contemporary working space structures break down into two broad categories: collaborative workspaces and virtual offices.
These shared office structures allow freelancers, startups and small businesses to pay only for the space they need, and none of what they don’t. Collaborative workspaces enable laptop-bound entrepreneurs to mingle with others from different companies, industries and backgrounds—all in the same building.
The layout of a collaborative workspace depends on the building, but typical arrangements allow you to pay for anything from a private office to a shared desk. Some plans even include hot-desking options. Wait . . . a hot what? Hot-desking provides workspace on a rotating system, rather than assigning individuals their own desk. Here, a person can sit at the ‘hot desk’ between a given time, then has to migrate to grant others access when their time is expired.
The services offered by collaborative workspaces vary between facilities. But membership commonly includes amenities like private call areas, access to conference rooms, printers/copiers, and mail-opening or call-answering services. A few even have concierge-level services, including complimentary coffee and tea, lounge areas and reception.
The habitually unorthodox, but growing in popularity, virtual office provides your business with a street address and access to other services while you work anywhere that fits your needs.
Let’s say you’re a growing freelance writer working out of your mom’s basement. If you’re tired of giving your clients an overtly-obvious residential business address (336 North Maple St.) or meeting frazzled customers at Starbucks, a virtual office could be just the answer.
Most virtual office plans include mail-scanning services so you can read all your mail via your inbox—in the comfort of your pajamas. And most also come with a receptionist that will answer your calls, “Hello, you’ve reached Mr./Mrs. Smith’s office. How may I assist you?” Does it get any more pro than that?
Lastly, virtual offices allow access to meeting rooms—real, physical meeting rooms. So, leave Starbucks behind and meet your clients in a fully-furnished, professional, clean space. Depending on the membership and facility, meeting room availability is pay-per-visit or unlimited.
Why might a shared office space be right for you?
Cost-efficiency—Pay for only what you need. If you’re a startup or a freelancer, a full-size building is overkill—you can probably get by with a private office or shared desk in a collaborative workspace environment. Or you might only need the physical address and meeting room availability that virtual offices offer. Most shared office agreements allow members to pay monthly, which enables greater flexibility for your business to grow, shrink or expand.
Networking opportunities—Collaborative workspaces are melting pots of individuals from different backgrounds, industries and business size—all under one roof. In short, there’s huge networking potential. Likewise, virtual offices allow you to work anywhere convenient. So, if you want exposure to others for networking opportunities, you can attend industry events at will, or work in areas other professionals frequent (the aforementioned Starbucks, for example).
Easy move-in—The building is already there; all you need is to remember your laptop and charger, then take a seat. There’s no office furniture to buy, no Wi-Fi to set up, no printers. Everything you need to start working is just a monthly payment away.
Scalability—This is, perhaps, the greatest benefit of collaborative workspaces. Because of their flexibility, it’s easy to add space for additional employees, or even establish satellite offices in other cities as your business grows.
Why might a shared office space not work so well for you?
Lack of privacy—A collaborative workspace building is a place where different people from various backgrounds and industries work together. And that can be great for networking. But an overly talkative group may disrupt your work demands. Even if you are in a private office within the workspace, distractions from the hustle and bustle of others can be inescapable in such an open environment. The same goes for virtual offices where distractions can be hard to avoid no matter where you set up shop—Starbucks, your mom’s basement or your own apartment.
Competitors—The open office plans of collaborative workspaces mean possible competitors can listen in on private conversations. If you’re in the business of selling exotic chicken breeds, it may seem like a long shot that your closest competitor is your desk neighbor, but it’s a possibility and a major disadvantage to sharing your office space.
It’s not yours—You can’t paint the walls, knock down that awkward divider partition, upgrade the flooring or install a new desk. The office furniture, décor, fixtures and flooring in a collaborative workspace are what you get. And if you are considering a virtual office, the meeting rooms available are unchangeable—as is the location of the building. While many of the modern shared offices include five-star amenities and come adequately furnished, you may always suffer from the I’m-staying-in-a-resort feeling. It never quite feels like yours, because it isn’t.
It will never be yours—Sure, buying or leasing an office building is a huge investment, but it is a business investment. You will never pay off the monthly rent of a desk, private room or virtual office. Even leasing a piece of commercial real estate may come with income potential not possible with a shared or virtual office. In many cases, leasing a space means you can slap your company logo on the storefront or install a large sign to market your company’s incredible services. And, depending on the lease and building, you might have extra space you could sublet to make additional income until your business is big enough to take that space, too.
Technology has brought a new era of workspace options. Now, small businesses, freelancers and startups are no longer bound to damp basements or cramped quarters. Shared office spaces have ushered in new ways of thinking about productivity.
Considering leasing some commercial real estate? Looking at your options—including shared office space? Whatever your commercial real estate needs or questions, Chris Falk has the experience and expertise to help. Contact him at (801) 416-1024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.