Sam Harratt is Community Manager of Use Space Manchester, with co-working continuing to gain in popularity she has shared her tips on what to look when choosing a co-working space.
It’s no secret that the national shift to homeworking during lockdown has seriously shaken the daily routine and work/life balance for many traditional office-based workers. Indeed, many are questioning their commute like never before – some have taken to WFH like a duck to water, whilst for others, it’s reinforced the need for designated workspace and a sense of community other than Zoom and the kettle.
It’s not just individuals who have been left questioning the standard office 9 to 5, large companies have seen the value of flexible work arrangements reflected in both their workforce’s wellbeing and their budgets, with many now open to (and actively encouraging) new ways of working.
Once the habitat of hipsters, freelancers and start-ups – co-working spaces have seemingly sprung up on every street corner in major cities in the last 10 years. Over this time, they’ve grown and evolved in line with trends and tech to appeal to all who are able to work remotely – essentially becoming a work-home from home.
But with so many spaces, places and lofts jostling for attention, how do you go about choosing the right one? Before you start your search, I recommend writing a list of your priorities to establish what you’re looking for in the same way that you’d rent or buy a property?
Is it to network? Meet a new social group? Or simply get your head down in a quiet corner?
Do your research online and then narrow it down to three spaces. Most places (including Use.Space) will offer free day passes to potential members to see if the space works for you before signing up.
If you’re a total co-working newbie or aren’t 100% sure of what you’re looking for, my top tips for selecting a space are:
1.Community & Culture
What’s your gut feeling when you walk through the door?
You’re potentially going to be spending a lot of time within your chosen space (perhaps even contracted to a 6 month or annual membership) so it’s essential that it feels like a good fit for you. Are the staff and other members friendly? Do you like the vibe? Do you feel comfortable making a coffee?
Most spaces will take member feedback seriously and adapt any issues in relation to the work environment, but the culture & community of a space can’t be changed so easily.
2.Location, location, location
Time to put your best Kirstie & Phil head on here…
Figure out what works for your routine – do you need to be located close to key clients or childcare? Historically a city-centre location was hugely appealing given good public transport links, but how does that now work in terms of your commute?
With government advice to avoid public transport where possible, smaller independent hubs located just outside of the city centre (such as Use.Space) may offer the best of both worlds – you can cycle or drive into the office and then take a short stroll into town.
Good WiFi is a given, but it’s important to tune in to the little things that make a big difference to your everyday experience. The major points to consider are:
Opening hours: Night owls or those with global clients may need access 24/7 whereas those looking to readdress their work/life balance may prefer a 7/7 approach.
Workspace arrangements: Check that the seating is suitable and supportive and that there is adequate power supply. The wider surroundings should encourage creativity within a productive environment.
Meeting rooms and private areas: Read the small print for what’s included in your membership agreement when you sign-up or you may be stung for additional hire fees.
Refreshments and catering: Everyone loves a complimentary cuppa but do the wider catering facilities stack-up? Lunch-time is going to get expensive if you don’t have the option to bring a pack-up or pop something in the microwave.
Showers and lockers: If you’re cycling into work or meeting clients, it’s great to have the option to freshen up and store your stuff in between.
Greenspace: For many, one of the benefits of lockdown has been reconnecting with nature. If you’re now looking for somewhere you can work al fresco or take a daily lunch-time walk, look for somewhere that allows you to escape from the hustle and bustle.
Finally, one that is often overlooked in the excitement of searching for a new space – security. Check the arrangements for leaving your kit in common spaces and which areas are covered by CCTV. The only thing you want to worry about between calls is how quickly you can grab a coffee!
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