Is Co-Working for You?

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Co-working spaces have popped up all over the world. Some cities, like the one I’m in now—Miami—have them all over the place.

Even Regus is getting into the game, claiming to have 2,000 co-working spaces around the world. Co-working is a now a well-established thing. WeWork, a New York City start-up that creates co-working places, was recently valued at $5 billion. Co-working is here to stay.

What Co-Working Spaces Offer

At one level, co-working is nothing more than sharing office space on a more ad hoc basis. Instead of hooking up with some other lawyers and signing a long-term lease, co-working is a more fluid arrangement (although it doesn’t have to be temporary).

Most co-working spaces offer a variety of work accommodations, such as these:

  • large offices that can be used by a few people,
  • small offices for individuals,
  • cubicle-type desks in an open area,
  • space at one or several large community tables (that’s where I’m sitting right now), and
  • conference rooms.

The facilities are typically hip and cool. (Is it hip and cool to say “hip and cool”?) They have all the common office equipment and presentation gear along with a stocked kitchen area.

Co-working centers usually handle inbound mail for the tenants, and some offer phone lines and answering services.

The occupants of the space vary from center to center. I’ve visited some filled with programmers sitting heads down, typing like crazy. Some have a more diverse crowd of entrepreneurs, young start-up types, employees working remotely, as well as a dose of programmers. I’m the third lawyer in this co-working space on South Beach.

The feel of the centers varies pretty dramatically. Some centers are quiet and focused; others are noisy and vibrant. Each center is dramatically different from the next.

Regus, though it claims to offer co-working space, has a very different feel from the rest of the offerings. Regus feels old. Regus feels stilted. Regus feels kind of tired. There’s more to co-working spaces than just space.

The Best Benefits of Co-Working

The best co-working centers emphasize the idea of community. They bring people together and build connections (this center has a full-time director of community). Connections, huh? That might be a good thing for a lawyer looking to build a practice, right? I think I heard that somewhere.

The idea of community works kind of like it worked in college and law school. Remember how you used to meet people and make friends with the people who sat next to you? You know how you don’t make friends now without trying really hard? Co-working helps you make friends by putting you in close proximity to others day after day. It’s hard to avoid getting to know someone when he or she sits next to you and asks you to move your power cord to another outlet. Get it?

Of course, the good co-working spaces take it further. They don’t just count on your bumping into people. They do things like lunches with speakers, holiday parties, and after-hours activities such as pub crawls. They push interaction on the members, and it’s fun. The center I’m in has a “Community Coordinator” who promotes interaction between the members.

My son, Toby, the pay-per-click advertising guru, works from a co-working space in Bangkok. Without the center, I’m certain that he’d have left Bangkok a year ago. The center helped him create an instant social network. He was plugged into friends, fun, and activities from the first day at the center. In fact, the co-working center folks even helped him before he arrived in Bangkok with information and ideas.

However, community isn’t for everyone. I’ve been to co-working spaces where I never spoke to anyone other than the receptionist. But community isn’t the only benefit of these spaces.

The co-working centers exude energy. That’s true even of the quiet, focused centers. They feel vibrant and alive. They’re filled with people who are enthusiastic about their work. For me, it’s a very powerful environment in which to work. It keeps me going. It perks me up. It suits my personality.

Test It Out

You need workspace options. Traditional office space isn’t for everyone: it can be complicated, constraining, and inflexible. Working from home can be awesome, but it can also be distracting, uncomfortable, and unproductive. Co-working spaces present another option worth consideration.

If co-working space sounds like something you’d find useful, I’d encourage you to find the local options, purchase admission for a few days, and see what you think. Most spaces have options for transient or new folks to try things out for a bit before making a decision. Head over, spend the day, and measure your output at the close of business. Is co-working for you? The proof will be in the product you produce by the end of the day. Do a test and see whether this is the place for you.

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