Communal workspaces are popping up all over the country, and if your job doesn’t require you to go to an official location, and working from home isn’t an option, you may be wondering if a one would be a good fit for you. To help anyone considering signing up for a shared workspace weigh the pros and cons, we reached out to Erin Cooper of Halcyon Works, an Oklahoma City-based community-minded coworking space, to learn more about what to consider when choosing a space, proper coworking protocol, and more.
Consider the benefits. According to Cooper, there are three main reasons why people seek a coworking space: the resources it provides, to kick-start a new business, and the social aspect. Working for yourself or working from home can be daunting, distracting, and isolating, and a coworking space can address all of these issues in different ways. In addition, many people use a coworking space for their side gig or a new venture, and a dedicated space adds legitimacy to a new business and allows members the resources they need to reach clients and grow to the next level. Last but not least, working in a communal workspace can be fun. It can serve as a place to simply belong, and to foster new friendships that benefit people personally and professionally.
Know that portability is key. There’s a lot of job diversity within communal workspaces. “At Halcyon, we have everything from startups, designers, developers and content creators to architects, insurance agents, business coaches, photographers, writers, tutors, and accountants,” Cooper says. Basically, if the bulk of your work is done on a laptop, or involves needing a meeting space, you’ll probably be a great fit for coworking. If your work requires a lot of equipment or you need a great deal of storage, you might be better suited to a private office.
Get the lay of the land. All workspaces are different, and have various options available to suit members’ needs. The bottom-tier membership is often a space at a communal table and access to meeting rooms. Others have dedicated cubicles or desks and phone booth-type rooms where you can take calls. There’s usually a café and/or break room, and a lounge area that’s akin to a living room space. Costs vary place to place, and can range from a nominal fee to join the community per month and secure a seat in a common area to a larger fee for a dedicated desk. Some workspaces even have private offices that require a six-month commitment.
Find the right fit. The great thing about not having a traditional brick and mortar job is that you get to choose your work culture,” Cooper says. “Find a coworking space that cultivates a culture that works best for you.” Not all communal workspaces are the same, and you have to test them out to in order to understand the full experience. “If there are multiple options in your town, tour all of them. Most offer day passes,” Cooper notes, so take advantage of the opportunity to spend time in a space and truly envision what it would be like to work there.
Seek out the right vibe. One of the big draws of a communal workspace is the atmosphere. This encompasses things like décor, perks, and the company you’ll be keeping. As you think about whether a coworking space is right for you, consider the stylistic environment that inspires you; some spaces will be more sleek and modern, while others will have a rustic, homey feel. Also consider what adds to the quality of your work life—for example, Cooper says that Halcyon Works’s members love the quality coffee and snacks available to them. And pay attention to how you feel among others in the space. “One of the biggest things our members are drawn to is a sense of community,” Cooper says. “Once you’ve been here for a few weeks, our space truly feels like family.”
Practice good coworking protocol. Coworking is easy in the sense that there aren’t a lot of regulations, Cooper says. The common rule is just be cool. The key is to communicate kindly, honestly, and with consideration. “When it comes to coworkers,” Cooper notes. “I think treating people with courtesy and kindness is what matters most.” That said, knowing how to handle phone calls is a big topic for new members, Cooper says. Most places have private spaces for long calls, but typically, if a call is under five minutes, you can take it in the common space and it’s not a problem. These spaces aren’t like libraries—there are conversations happening all day. “We like to call it a productive hum,” Cooper adds.