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The beauty of a co-working space is that you get to choose the environment that best suits you, says Matthew Jenkin. But that’s not all – here are a few other ways to really maximize the benefits
Whether you’re a startup entrepreneur or work for a large global corporation, it’s likely you have some familiarity with the concept of co-working. But are you confident you know about all the benefits it offers? Here we share the less obvious perks of your co-working space – and how to maximize them to suit your own ends.
1. Choose your co-working space carefully
To really make the most of your space, you first need to make sure you’re in the right one for you. Your industry type (creative vs. professional), business setup (entrepreneur vs. corporate offshoot) and personal preferences ("How close to home do I want to be?") should all factor into where you decide to set up shop.
“Choosing a space that’s suitable for your business is key,” advises Rochelle White, the owner of Rochelle White PR, who runs her business from a co-working space. “For example, if you like a buzzy and creative space with lots happening, find co-working spaces that fit that. If you prefer to have a smaller feel and not so much happening, look for that. It needs to be a good match if this is going to be your business home.”
“There are so many options,” she adds. “Look for spaces that have people you can either learn from, collaborate with or work with. That is what helps businesses grow and thrive. Everyone is at a different stage in their business and places like this are great for that.”
2. Make small talk
Co-working is your opportunity to meet other likeminded people and learn from them – whether it’s how to properly balance the books, how to switch off when you’re not working or just a few tips and tricks to make the everyday job easier.
Steve Pritchard, founder of insurance comparison website Cuuver.com(1), says he has found sharing a workspace with other companies an excellent way to build relationships – though he cautions against rushing into them.
“It can be pretty awkward when you first enter a co-working space,” he explains. “Not everyone there is going to want to speak to you, some people are there specifically to work and don’t consider it a social or networking occasion, at all. Therefore, small talk is the ideal way of testing the water to see who is interested in having some kind of working relationship that goes beyond merely sharing the same workspace.
“Relationships can develop and you can enter into a more comfortable, informal form of chatting after a few weeks of regularly communicating with your co-workers, trading tips and stories, which can be highly useful as you move forward with your business.”
Your co-working experience is what you make of it, so maximize the opportunities while you’re there
3. Experiment with different spots within the space
The days of being chained to your desk at HQ are over. With a co-working space, there’s often some flexibility to move around and sit in different places depending on the type of work you’re doing that day. From meeting rooms, breakout spaces and on-site cafes, you can choose an option that suits your mood and goals.
“Rent small suites to meet with clients or find a calm room to call clients from a no-kid zone,” writes Ann Smarty(2).
4. Get to know the office manager
There’s a clear benefit to knowing what’s going on at your co-working space from week to week. While it’s easy to keep your head down and focus on your own work, you might miss out on easy opportunities to network and grow. Make the office manager your new best friend (or at least get to know them as more than just a nodding acquaintance) to immediately plug in to what’s going on. Not only will he or she know which other companies are working in the building, but they’re also best placed to keep you up-to-date with planned events and even good things to see and do in the local area.
“In a co-working space, the role of a community manager can’t be overrated,” writes co-working expert Yifu Huang(3). “He or she meets and greets newcomers with a welcoming smile, is responsible for organizing social events, creates a collaborative environment and makes each member feel at ease.”
The key is not to grill them or become a nuisance, but to build up a useful relationship. With this in mind, also think about what you can give back. For example, would you like the office manager to tell your fellow co-workers about your business and recommend you as a sounding board for new ideas?
5. Have the right gear
Leaving the relative comfort and security of a traditional office also means thinking about the right equipment to help you in whatever work you are undertaking. It’s a given that you need a laptop and a phone, but what other essential gear might you want to think about bringing with you?
Sophie Phillipson launched her student and graduate support site HelloGrads(4) in December 2016 and rents a permanent desk in a co-working space. She says that a hard drive is the most important piece of kit she owns, as the business creates so many big files each day, including video interviews and graphics. “If I lost my laptop and hadn’t backed anything up, it would be a huge problem as there’s years of work on it that I simply couldn’t be without,” she admits.
She also recommends a laptop stand. “I’ve struggled with back pain and poor posture because I spend time in different cafes with various table heights, chairs and sometimes working off my lap,” she says. “A stand really helps me.”
Headphones are another essential, helping her concentrate when the space gets busier and buzzier. Look for noise-canceling headphones that can be used without music if you want to tune out your surroundings.
6. Realize you don’t have to use it all the time
It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to make the most of your co-working space might be not to use it all the time. Co-working might be great when you’re tackling something creative, but less so for admin – or vice versa. If the company you work for has a main HQ, you may find value in visiting that location for monthly face-to-face meetings with your colleagues, for example.
In an article for Entrepreneur(5) , the founder of Araminta Marketing, Araminta Sheridan, explains how she strikes the right balance: “We spend three days a week in an office (actually a flat that we use as an office), one day in a co-working space and one day working from home so we get the best of all worlds.”
Matthew Jenkin is a UK-based journalist and the former editor of Guardian Careers, The Guardian newspaper’s community site for job seekers and career changers