by Gemma Church
The latest coworking spaces are synonymous with style. Whether it’s an airy loft, outdoor bar, anotherfree popcorn machine or impeccable interior design, these spaces know how to produce the “wow” factor.
But don’t judge a coworking space by its cover. Behind the scenes, you need a workspace that not only inspires you, but gives you the tools to do your job. Here’s how to make sure you pick a space that’s as beneficial as it is beautiful.
- Brand matters
Look for a coworking space with a clear identity and target audience. A space that tries to be all things to all people won’t please anyone – you need one that matches your unique requirements and helps you to build your business.
Sancar Ayalp, managing partner of NYC-based The Farm Coworking, explained, “We have a clear persona for our community so we can tailor everything we do to address their needs. These are 20- to 30-something freelancers, remote workers and small businesses in the NYC area.”
“We also specialize in the healthcare and technology sectors, and we chose our current location (SoHo) because it’s the startup tech alley of NYC, while being close to the hottest tech companies like Squarespace and Meetup.com, for example,” Sancar added.
So check out a space’s location, its neighbours and its demographic to check if it’s a match for you. If you’re not spoiled for choice with local coworking spaces, then pop in for a visit to get a feel for its community and ethos.
- Look at the event schedule
A good coworking space encourages collaboration within its community. A lot of spaces will shout about their “strong community” but a qualitative indicator that a coworking space actually does take collaboration seriously is its event schedule.
Look at upcoming and previous events. There should be a good spread between informative events (such as workshops or talks hosted by industry experts) and community-focused ones (such as after-work drinks, or exercise classes).
Also, see if there are any community-hosted events where a member of the space has run their own event. “Our NYC event space is home to such events. It’s a great way for a member of the community to share their knowledge, network and – most importantly – meet other members at our space. It’s how a lot of inter-Farm collaborations begin,” Sancar added.
- Do a little social media snooping
Another way to measure a space’s community focus is to check out its blog, Facebook page, Instagram and other social media outlets. Are they actively engaged online and does the space have a strong social media presence? The number of Twitter followers a space has is not the be-all and end-all, but it will give you a indication of how the space stays in touch with its community.
Look at what the community actually says about the space too. If there are comments about slow internet speeds or broken equipment, for example, see how the space addresses these complaints.
- Evaluate the benefits to your business
What benefits does a coworking space offer? We’re not just talking about free coffee or printing. Look at the space’s partners to see if they could be of any help to your business.
If a space has links with a company that could help your business (and double check that the space is willing to make this introduction) then that’s a clear indicator of value.
Special opportunities, like access to professional networks or mentorship opportunities, are also great indicators. These may vary, but the key thing to remember is that a good space should help increase your access to resources that will help you grow your business.
- Investigate how creativity is encouraged
Ask a space how they encourage creativity. For example, The Farm is decked out with rustic Americana decor, including timber shipped over from a Missouri barn. It looks great, but it’s also been built with coworkers’ needs in mind. “We’ve created a highly modular space so our coworkers can use 6,000 sq foot space at The Farm as they need to, whether they want to host a huge event or just want to take a nap in one of our breakout pods,” Sancar said.
Other coworking spaces may display members’ artwork, or have a community-made mural. Seeing how a space accommodates members’ creativity can be an indicator of its style and substance.
- And remember to check out the facilities
Don’t forget to find out the facilities on offer. Whether you need a super-fast internet connection or a workbench where you can design and build your wares, it’s important you have everything you need to create.
And don’t just look at the hardware on offer. Look at the seating arrangements and setup. Would you benefit more from a nap pod or a meeting room? Or do you need a dedicated and separate office space?
The only way to find a coworking space that offers both style and substance is to visit and weigh up its practicality and aesthetics. Chat with its members to get a feel for the people who you’ll be working with and get the inside story from those who know. Book a visit and go armed with a list of questions you need answered to make sure you find the coworking space you need – not the one you think you want.