Since launching Urban Interns a year and a half ago, we've worked in a variety of locations--home, coffee shops, a community co-working space, a friend's office and, as of two weeks ago, our very own office at TechSpace in New York City.
As we've made this journey, we've learned a lot about how important a good workspace is to productivity. We've also observed the work arrangements of many of our colleagues in the startup community. In many areas, particularly cities, the costs associated with office space can be prohibitive. This is especially true in the early days when your business is ramping up. Sure, some are devoted to the home-office model, and on the other side of the spectrum are businesses at the stage where a private, leased space makes sense. But for those in between, there are many creative office solutions out there, in the form of co-working, or shared, office space. Choosing the right one starts with taking a close look at your needs and those of your business. When navigating the landscape, here are a few things to consider:
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- Do you need a door? Are you someone who does your best thinking when you're alone, or do you enjoy the energy and buzz of people around you? Everyone has a different threshold on things like noise and privacy, so it's important to start by taking a close look at your preferences. For those who need absolute silence, when you're investigating open-plan office spaces, find out whether there are quiet hours. You may also want to inquire about other business owners working in the space to see if they're constantly on the phone or spend most of their time with their heads down.
- Community: Entrepreneurs thrive on having a strong network. Networks serve many important functions for us. They can be a support system, a referral source and even a knowledge center. Luckily, many entrepreneurial workspaces have been built to incorporate some aspect of community. If community is important to you, perhaps you'd thrive on having it incorporated into your work environment. (And note that some workspaces, such as one of our favorites, In Good Company, allow you to become a member even if you don't work there.)
- Consistency: Do you like to have a routine in your workday (wake up at 6:02 a.m., coffee at 6:47, e-mail check at 7:03, out the door by 7:30 on the dot), or do you tend to vary it based on the day (wake up around 7, have coffee before you shower--unless you slept late--head out by 7:30 unless something really important comes up)? While some amount of structure is critical to all of us in getting our work done, some people naturally like to vary their work routine. If you know that working from an office five days a week isn't your cup of tea, you may be more apt to take a smaller office or perhaps a different solution than if you were logging in 80 hours a week at your desk.
- Cost and commute: We put this on the bottom of the list even though these could be the factors that ultimately sway your decision. Once you narrow the landscape above, you can start to evaluate the options in your price range (both in terms of dollars and the time you're willing to invest in your commute).
We started this piece by talking about the range of office spaces we've had---which brings up the question of whether the same analysis applies when finding a space to suit your growing team. We believe it does.
We've seen businesses build up to 25 people working in co-working spaces (no one gets a door). We've also seen businesses adopt policies where people can vary their routine and work certain days in the office and certain days at home. With the prevalence of virtual teams, building your business does not necessarily mean you need to take on a hefty lease with space for dozens.
In this new world of work, you can be creative in your office space solutions. For example, get two desks at a co-working space or work remotely from separate locations, but commit to regular meetings on the phone or in person. Yes, the day may come when you decide that you absolutely need your team to gather around a real, live whiteboard. But in the meantime, there are plenty of work options available so that you can cost-effectively grow your team--wherever you're located.