The difference between trends that are simple fads and lasting, impactful sources of change is often only gauged in hindsight. In other words, time - along with a fickle marketplace - is usually the great decider between the short-lived fidget spinners and long-lasting smartphones of the world.
The same concept can be applied to many concepts that affect small companies, including the choice in office space. While coworking space has obviously evolved from a trend to a viable option for startups, that doesn’t mean that it is suitable for everyone and every need.
When a startup is faced with the decision of utilizing coworking space or a traditional office model to embrace, a set of criteria can be helpful in choosing the best solution for your own specific needs. What might be a great fit for one startup could be an operating nightmare for another, so popularity and trends, although still important on junior high playgrounds and social media feeds, should have little bearing on your ultimate choice.
Coworking Space: Exciting but Not Without Its Flaws
There's something to be said for the groupthink atmosphere that is fostered within a coworking space. At least theoretically, the environment is filled with people from different companies, industries and specialties that can cultivate a productive and innovative mindset for your staff.
Akin to all of those general elective courses you took as an undergrad that might have seemed like an inconvenient annoyance at the time, those courses enveloped you in a different way of thinking that has likely served you well since your college days. Shared working spaces can facilitate a similar expansive perspective as well as establish networking bonds that could be beneficial to business at some point.
Of course, it also has its financial and flexibility benefits as well. Overhead costs like furniture and technology infrastructure can be significantly lower as they're being diluted through multiple companies rather than just your own. Leases are also less stringent and often have a broader range of durations with move-in dates typically just a few days out from signing.
While a coworking space can foster a productive state of mind, it can also have a detrimental effect, with it small quarters, distractions and noisy common areas impeding your team's productivity. Costs can significantly rise as your team grows and sharing office amenities is often a hassle between varying schedules from multiple companies.
Small Office Space: Classics Never Go Out of Style
Some things never go out of style. While traditional office space can be more restrictive with longer leases and less plug and play options, the benefits it can bring to your organization could more than make up the difference.
Since much of being a successful company relies on the impressions you make to clients and team members alike, small office space gives off a more established, lasting sense for your brand. Likewise, your own office space puts you in control of the environment rather than forcing your team to adhere to the communal and predetermined atmosphere of communal working space.
While coworking space might seem attractive to highly mobile teams that work on a cloud-based platform, small office space meets the needs of a more diverse range of businesses, including retailers and manufacturers that require their own designated space for operations. As your company grows, office space also becomes much more cost-efficient on a square footage per capita basis.
Deciphering the difference between what's trendy, useful, interesting or impactful is a critical component in deciding whether to use coworking space or small office space for your startup. Be deliberate in your decision-making process, understand your organization’s specific needs for both today and tomorrow and choose a solution that fits those needs and isn't simply what's popular at the moment.
Something in the Middle
With the rise of coworking and executive suite alternatives as well as the continuing evolution of office space, some landlords are beginning to take notice. In some cases, landlords have started constructing spaces that provide a hybrid of more traditional office spaces with shared amenities.
This trend capitalizes on the “space as a service” concept that many local business operators are seeking, needing a place to plug in and work while avoiding long term leases and customizing space.
Boxer Property, a market leader in leasing and property management in a variety of asset classes, has recognized this trend and integrated it into its offerings under a category they call Workstyle. “As landlords, we started to notice a shift in demand towards serviced office space and increased flexibility,” said Samuel Katz, Workstyle Product Manager.
According to Katz, a collection of amenities alongside private workspaces is key to the small business customer. “Giving access to shared amenities such as conference rooms, free Wi-Fi, presentation equipment, huddle rooms, coffee bars, furnished collaborative spaces, and event spaces empowers our customers to operate at an optimal level with a big business attitude.”
This hybrid model, without managed services like receptionists, printers/scanners, and providing unfurnished suites, delivers a much needed alternative for a budget-minded business operator that does not want to pay for extra space on items they do not mind sharing.
Between traditional office space, coworking space, or a hybrid of the two, the most important factor, however, is choosing what fits your organization both today and tomorrow. The key to properly evaluating all your options in the market starts with making sure you have all the information about different locations and solutions that may be available. Working with your commercial real estate advisor is a great way to ensure you get a full view of the market whether that is traditional office space, coworking or something in the middle.