Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Should coworking spaces strive to become the Wal-marts of the mobile workforce, or should they resist growing for the sake of growth? Some surprising results from the Global Coworking Study.

Is a bigger coworking environment always better for members?

Humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

3 Ways Coworking Can Make You A Better Professional

Freelancers are constantly fighting the common misconception that we all live in our pajamas and hate social interaction. So here are 3 important ways that coworking can help you become a better professional and get respect in your industry.

Professional Scarecrow

By Angel Kwiatkowski

What’s the first thing you think of when someone says they want to be “more professional?”

Most envision a freshly-pressed business suit, a noose tie, and maybe an ever-mysterious briefcase.

But these are merely the outer vestments society tells us to associate with a business-person. “Being thought of as a professional is not all suit and tie. It’s not all about qualifications either” (Employee Evolution). It’s about how you present yourself and the environment in which you operate.

As an independent, freelancer, or small business owner, the level of professionalism you bring to the table decides whether your client recommends you to a friend, or asks you back for another project.

Freelancers are constantly fighting the common misconception that we all live in our pajamas and hate social interaction.

So here are 3 important ways that coworking can help you become a better professional and get respect in your industry:

1. An address – Starting a small business often requires you to have a business mailing address, and most people opt for inconvenient (and sometimes expensive) post-office boxes. Many coworking facilities will allow you to receive mail on-location, saving you money, and giving your business a more concrete appearance on paper.

2. A place to meet clients – Ever tried to land a sale on the phone with the kids screaming bloody murder in the background? Or arranged a meeting with an important business partner at a coffee shop only to discover that they were having open-mic night? A perk of many coworking facilities is that they offer clean, quiet conference room space as a benefit of membership.

Note to space owners: if you’re not offering conference space, realize that this could be a deal-breaker for new members. Also, make sure the meeting space you offer is bright, clean, and features tables, chairs, presentation tools, and other things that will make your members proud to bring their clients there. Shoving a table into a dimly lit backroom doesn’t count.

3. Social skills – When you’re holed up in your basement or home office for days at a time, it can be easy to forget that teeth-brushing is a daily necessity, or that you’re not the world’s greatest authority on grammar. Coworking gets you out of the house, encourages showering, and reminds you that you have allies (and sometimes competitors!) in your field. Taking advantage of their collective brain-power can help you make tough decisions and avoid mistakes, but you have to show up first.

Has coworking helped you to be taken more seriously as an independent professional? Share it in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – battlecreekcvb

3 Ways Coworking Provides A Rockstar Environment

Whether you’re trying to get a new business off the ground, or wondering how you’re going to survive another day in the cubical jungle, you must never underestimate the power of the environment in which you choose to work.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

“Instead of thinking about how you can land a roomful of rock stars, think about the room instead…The environment has a lot more to do with great work than most people think. -Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in ReWork

Whether you’re trying to get a new business off the ground, or wondering how you’re going to survive another day in the cubical jungle, you must never underestimate the power of the environment in which you choose to work.

Yes, I said choose.

The boys from ReWork go on to say that, “there’s a ton of untapped potential trapped under lame policies, poor direction, and stifling bureaucracies. Cut the crap and you’ll find that people are waiting to do great work. They just need to be given the chance.”

If you’ve been doubting your ability to do great work lately, maybe it’s time to consider a change of scenery.

Here are three ways coworking encourages greatness better than a basement, cubicle, or coffee shop:

Privacy/Exposure: The way to extract great work from yourself isn’t to lock yourself in a home office. It’s also not to abandon your to-do list for internet surfing disguised as “market research.” When you cowork, you have the opportunity to change place, time, and style of your work on a daily basis. Need to get some serious work done? Tell the host that you’re having a “me” day, and retreat to the quietest corner. Need to bitch about a nightmare client and talk about your lack of motivation? Well, that’s ok too.

Autonomy/Responsibility: When you’re working a traditional 9-5, your lack of greatness can be blamed on the boss/computer/lighting/janitor/coffee. When you’re coworking, the responsibility falls on you and you alone. Giving yourself just one night a week to work freely on projects you’re passionate about will jump start your productivity in ways you never imagined.

Praise/Constructive Criticism: We all know what it’s like to be chastised for doing something wrong, but fewer professionals know what it feels like to be praised for doing something great. Coworking provides you with a community that will applaud when you finally locate a pesky coding bug, or throw you a party when you launch a new product. Rest assured, coworkers will also tell you when an idea misses the mark, but it will be because they want you to succeed and be happy, not because they’re worried about the bottom line.

Has your work environment hindered you from doing great work in the past? Share it in a comment!

New Collaborative Workspace Comes To Phoenix

Union WorkSpace is set up in an open community format, designed to foster creativity, networking, and relationship building. It’s a place to not only get work done, but create lasting relationships and establish strategic business alliances.

Union WorkSpace is a collaborative office concept catering to today’s independent professional. Uniquely situated in one of Phoenix’s most architecturally advanced office buildings, Union offers sophisticated work space to small businesses. Building off of the “coworking” platform more frequently seen across the World, Union WorkSpace is Phoenix’s newest coworking space.

Union WorkSpace members are fully supported with amenity rich services that include custom built desk space, Herman Miller task chairs, Wi-Fi, conference room access, mailing address, print/copy/fax capabilities, amongst other things.

“I wanted to create something that provided the stable platform needed to develop and grow your business and assist in helping you achieve the goals you’ve set forth”, added founder Austin King.

Union WorkSpace is set up in an open community format, designed to foster creativity, networking, and relationship building. It’s a place to not only get work done, but create lasting relationships and establish strategic business alliances.

To schedule a visit, please contact Austin King at 602.330.6215 or Austin@UnionWorkSpace.com.

You can also follow Union WorkSpace on Twitter and Facebook!

Study on Coworking: The Coworker

Very few academic studies about coworking and coworkers have ever been carried. Berlin university student Lukas de Pellegrin set out to change this by conducting research on coworkers, setting out three important questions: who are coworkers, how should their workspace look like, and why?

He harvested responses from the users of coworking spaces in Berlin, and Deskmag is publishing the results. The survey is the forerunner of a worldwide study in which readers can participate.

This first survey was conducted in Berlin coworking spaces, like here at Studio 70.

The typical coworker

The typical Berlin coworker is self-employed, male and 31 years old, at least on average. Almost all coworkers are self-employed – more than 95%. Women make up 40% of coworkers. The majority of coworkers are between 30 and 40 years old. Very few are older, and slightly less than half are younger, most of them in their mid to late 20s.

Coworking Spaces are centers for programmers and web designers

Coworking spaces in Berlin have established themselves as centers for programmers and web designers, who together make up almost half of all users (42%). Yet those looking for translators or architects will also find plenty in these workspaces.

The working life of a coworker is one of projects. And most projects run for an average of six months. Many also work on shorter contracts – 25% of all projects take less than two weeks.

Loyalty to coworking spaces lasts much longer than a project

Coworkers are very loyal to their coworking space. The overwhelming majority identified very strongly with their space, and have been there for just under 18 months. (although most coworking spaces are not more than 18 months old). When a coworker chooses to leave a coworking space they do so quickly, within three or six months of arriving. Those that have been there a year often remain for much longer.

Coworkers told de Pellegrin that the thing they expect most of coworking spaces was the opportunity to interact with other self-employed people. Many coe for the interesting mixture of different professional fields. They don’t want to work at home, and see coworking spaces as a simple solution. One in twelve coworkers are on a temporary stay in Berlin.

Looking for new connections

However, the low cost of coworking spaces is the most important deciding factor when selecting a certain place to work. The second criterion was the possibility for chance discoveries and encounters with people that could have a positive impact on future work. Interacting with other people yet still remaining autonomous was the third-most important factor.

Another important factor is short travel distance. In Berlin, coworkers rarely commute more than four kilometers to their workplace, and the average distance is three kilometers. More than half go by bike, one in three uses public transport, one in five by foot, and only one in ten by car.

Once there, they make most use of a computer and desk, kitchen facilities, printers and filing cabinets. This is followed by leisure facilities and interactive spaces. Most also go to restaurants or snack bars nearby for their food.

The most important factors for coworkers are low cost, new (unexpected) connections, interaction, and staying autonomous at the same time. More pictures on Deskmag.

Starting a worldwide survey

The results are the basis for a worldwide survey that de Pellegrin will start with in the next few months at the 600 or so coworking spaces worldwide.

And users can participate directly. How do you feel about the results? What important questions were overlooked? What do you want to know more about coworkers or coworking spaces? You can send your questions and comments to Deskmag, or simply tweet on our Twitter page. Your contributions on Twitter will be included in the survey. The results will be published soon.

:::::

study@deskmag.com

By Carsten Foertsch

:::::

Lukas De Pellegrini is about to graduate in architecture. His home university is Berlin’s Technische Universität (TU Berlin).

Deskmag is a magazine about the new places we work, how they look, how they function and how they could be improved. We especially focus on workspaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers, such as coworking spaces, private shared studios and executive offices.

5 Features To Look For In A Coworking Space

If you have more than one coworking option to choose from, or you need help comparing the features of a coworking facility to those of an executive suite or dedicated office space, here are 5 things to look for.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

If you have more than one coworking option to choose from, or you need help comparing the features of a coworking facility  to those of an executive suite or dedicated office space, here are 5 things to look for.

1. Comfort and Ambiance

Ok that’s two, but they go hand in hand. The worst thing about working in a traditional office space or (gasp!) cubicle jungle is that they aren’t comfortable. Fluorescent lights, worn out desk chairs and stark white walls belong in hospitals, not your everyday workspace. Check out the space’s website and look for pictures of the interior. If you don’t find any, it might be because they’ve got something to hide.

2. Multiple Workspaces

Does everyone have to crowd around the same table? Do you have to fight off other early risers for the “good desk”? A prime coworking space will provide different places for you to work, so that you can choose the environment that is most conducive to your productivity on any particular day. Couches, tables, open and enclosed desks, nooks and comfy chairs all within ten feet of a white board? Yes please!

3.  Conference Space

Freelancers and small business owners are constantly having meetings. Lots of them. Being a member of a coworking community means that you no longer have to take these meetings in crowded coffee shops. Make sure you find out whether there is a classy looking room with a closeable door for you to use. If you take a lot of meetings and there’s no meeting space, it might not be the right facility for you.

4. Multiple Membership Plans

The whole reason people are attracted to the idea of freelancing or owning their own business is because they feel trapped in the traditional 9 – 5. What’s the use of coworking if it isn’t flexible enough to fit into your life with ease? Look for coworking facilities that offer multiple stages/styles/levels of membership. This will ensure you get the most out of the experience and your investment.

5. Good People!

It’s called coworking. That means more than one. Every space has to start somewhere, and there are always those days that everyone stays home, but the people are the most important part of coworking. Find out how large the membership is, what kind of work the other members do,  and ask the space owner/host/curator which days tend to be busy or empty. This can help you plan which days you want to come for quality interaction.

Thinking Outside-the-Office at CAMP Coworking in Omaha, Nebraska

Sunny, light-hearted, open, bright.

These are the adjectives that come to mind when coworking in Omaha’s newest collaborative workspace, CAMP Omaha.

Snuggled secretively inside a former furniture warehouse that’s getting a creative make-over, CAMP has the feel of a 1950′s elementary classroom gone horribly right.

Gone are the intrusive fluorescent lights and clumsy chalkboard. In their place are giant windows, spacious desks, comfy couches, and a map of America so giant it’ll make you want to want to play Twister all over the Midwest.

In its own words, “CAMP is a dream realized through creative friends, late night pancake runs, Double Dead Guys, supportive parents, great friendships and a passion to give back to Omaha.” Translation: if you’re into private offices and library-like workspaces, don’t bother going to CAMP.

BUT! If you like comparing musical playlists, longboarding to the bathroom, and pulling all-nighters with freelance fashion designers,  software programmers, writers, and photographers…CAMP has a bunk with your name on it.

Wanna learn more? Follow @CAMPomaha on Twitter or join their page on Facebook. If you’re passing through Nebraska, be sure to stop in and say hi to Megan and the whole CAMP gang.  (And be on the lookout for the wandering mannequin!).

Click here for more pics of the CAMP Omaha coworking space.

@GoneCoworking is the adventure of Beth and Eric, two crazy kids traveling the country to find out whether it’s really possible to be a location independent freelancer! The coworking community provides a unique opportunity for traveling telecommuters/freelancers/business owners to have a professional workspace and remain connected with their peers while away from home. Here’s an inside look at some of the coworking people and spaces we’ve met along the way!

Getting Busy at Impromtpu Studio in Des Moines, Iowa

Driving through Iowa on our way to Des Moines revealed exactly what you might expect about a midwestern state: corn, tractors, wind farms, and more corn. But nestled inconspicuously in a warehouse just outside the downtown area is a hothouse for creativity and technical innovation called Impromptu Studio.

As Iowa’s first home for coworking, Impromptu is proud to have inspired others with the spirit of coworking and led the way in igniting growth in Iowa’s technology scene.

The mix of coworkers that call this comfortable space home is eclectic and refreshing. From artists and writers, to developers and remote workers, many different types of people have come to depend on the community and collaborative potential of Impromptu Studio.

Chatting with @catrocketship, it was easy to see that a common coworking problem affected the professionals in this space as well: the inability to avoid coming up with new projects, business ideas, and website themes on a daily basis. Coworkers are constantly inventing and creating, a process that is effortless when working an elbow’s length away from likeminded people.

The other half of this delightful spacecrew, @scottrocketship, was clearly passionate about what coworking can do for the still-developing cultural and technological scene in Iowa. Striving to push the envelope, whether it be throwing rockin’ parties or offering the only voice of criticism in room full of yes-men, it’s creative thinkers like Scott that will continue to reinvent coworking into something even better.

@DanielShipton is the space’s founder, and dedicated advocate of the coworking lifestyle. CEO of @BitMethod a company that has quickly grown to support five employees, Daniel refuses to retreat to private office space. Instead, his company proudly inhabits the upper section of the loft space, happily brainstorming and inventing out in the open at a long conference table.

In the future, Daniel sees coworking as a recruiting tool for technology companies like BitMethod. Companies that contract out their work to freelancers can offer a cafe-like space on the company grounds as a way to take the “remote” out of remote worker. Morale and productivity go up, while the company is able to keep wasted space and resources down. And the company will have a built-in pool of awesome people to pick from when it’s time to expand.

If you’re ever passing through Iowa, I highly recommend stopping into say hi to the coworkers at Impromptu. Even if it’s just for an afternoon Mario Kart tournament.

Follow them on Twitter: @ImpromptuStudio

Join them on Facebook.com/impromptustudio

Four Questions With Gerard Sychay of Cincinnati Coworks

Author: @GoneCoworking is the adventure of Beth and Eric, two crazy kids traveling the country to prove that it really is possible to be a location independent freelancer! The coworking community provides a unique opportunity for traveling telecommuters/freelancers/business owners to have a professional workspace and remain connected with their peers while away from home. Here’s an inside look at some of the coworking people and spaces we’ve met along the way!

Chatting with Gerard of Cincinnati Coworks

GC: How were you first introduced to the concept of coworking?

Gerard: Honestly, I don’t remember at this point. I knew about coworking for the longest time, but I mistakenly defined it as rented office space. When I had the glimmer of a wink of a thought about opening one I started digging deeper and realized that coworking was very different from office suites.

GC: What are the benefits/challenges of coworking?

Gerard: I like to tell people that coworking offers self-employed workers all the benefits of working in an office, and none of the bad stuff. That is, you get to chat with colleagues, go to lunch with them, but nobody answers to anyone, so there is no boss, no politics.

The primary challenge with coworking is really the working environment. Working in an open space, next to one another, is not for everyone. Working in a dusty loft, with second-hand furniture is not for everyone.

GC: What sets Cincy Coworks apart from other facilities a traveling freelancer might visit?

Gerard: If you are a freelancer and work in Cincy Coworks you will be working right next to someone who is at least somewhat like-minded. Our current space is too small to avoid this.

There are plenty of office suites in town. Even better, market rates are so low right now, that you could get your own office for cheap. But you won’t talk to anyone and you will work alone. And if you work alone, why not just stay working at home?

GC: I love how part of your slogan is “not just for working.” What other benefits does coworking provide for entrepreneurs/freelancers that an office suite can’t?

Gerard: In addition to the benefits above, we are located in an up-and-coming neighborhood with a coffeeshop, an Asian restaurant, an organic market and deli, all within a couple blocks.

We’d like to hold more evening and weekend events and encourage our members to hold events, but this is a work in progress.

Check out this cool video for a sneak pick into life at Cincy Coworks!

If you’re in the Cincinnati area, and are looking for a place to cowork, you’ll be please to know that Cincy Coworks is a proud member of the Coworking Visa program, and are happy to welcome drop in visitors any time they’re open. Follow @cincycoworks on Twitter, or head over to www.cincycoworks.com to learn more!

Entrepreneurial Amnesia

Bringing coworking to nearby Loveland, Colorado has been an adventure. We’ve roved around looking for fast, reliable and secure internet. We’ve picked up shop and moved mid day for greener pastures. We’ve celebrated milestones and then suffered disappointment when things didn’t work out after all. I’ve asked myself several times if I can really do *this* again. Can I?

Bringing coworking to nearby Loveland, Colorado has been an adventure. We’ve roved around looking for fast, reliable and secure internet. We’ve picked up shop and moved mid day for greener pastures.  We’ve celebrated milestones and then suffered disappointment when things didn’t work out after all. I’ve asked myself several times if I can really do *this* again.  Can I?

It seems like a hundred years ago when the Fort Collins crew was crammed into that reception area at RMI2  for free coworking.  I have to think hard to remember how every Tuesday morning I would arrive twitter-pated to start the day and explore the concept of coworking with my new little circle of friends.  I’d drag tables and chairs together and arrange them in some sort of semblance of a “real office” and then wait for the first freelancers to start arriving.  We did this for just 5 weeks.  Five weeks was all it took to grow a little community of coworking addicts in Old Town.  6 weeks after that Cohere opened.  Ah, Cohere.  Our (near) perfect little slice of historic Old Town with exposed brick, original hardwood floors, sunlight everywhere, sweet high back chairs and fun furniture. Comfort.  Bliss.  Sweet productivity and calm all at once.  Hasn’t it always been this way?

Flash to today: in the back room of Dazbog in downtown Loveland.  Four freelancers, 8 cups of coffee and the weirdest collection of music playing over the loud speaker (think The Beatles, funk and Bruce Springstein together at last).  Don’t misunderstand me.  Dazbog has been great.  The owner has been flexible and helpful (the free snacks didn’t hurt)!  But we’re in a coffee shop.  You’ve all heard me talk about the horrors of freelancing from coffee shops and yet here we are again.  We’ve found about the best possible coffee shop situation.  To have a private room with a door, windows and a caffeine source 12 steps away is really, truly delightful.

I have to keep reminding myself that our beginnings in Fort Collins really were humble and not the perfect, flourishing community that we are today.  Remember dragging those tables around?  I mean, really dragging that stuff from the way back of the building? Remember those not so comfy plastic chairs?  How about trading off and on for power with the only outlet?  Remember that?   What about the day we browned out the internet connection because there were 14 of us in a room built for 6 on an internet connection that was probably meant for 4?

In discussing the current coworking situation in Loveland today, we realized that the reason the U.S. economy needs entrepreneurs is because entrepreneurs can’t remember what it was like to start the first business.  Much like child birth (or so I’ve heard), I just can’t remember if or how much pain there was when I started Cohere Fort Collins. I can remember the facts of having to move furniture back and forth but I don’t really remember the irritation or exhaustion of it all.  I remember having a hundred things to do each day but I have no idea what I was feeling other than excitement.  I think that this is the ONLY reason that entrepreneurs carry on.  We take the risks, we take the plunge, and we’re never, ever looking over our shoulders into the past to remember how it was the last time. We just can’t remember the pain.

So we lost our free internet connection in Loveland today and will remain in the coffee shop for many more weeks.  So we’ll be cold and need to wear jackets while we cowork. So we’ll be distracted by the weird music playing.  So what? The most important part about coworking is being together.  Just being together.  We did it at RMI2, we’ll do it at Dazbog and we’ll keep doing it until we crash their internet and use up all of their chairs!

Sure, I don’t really remember the pain of starting Cohere the first time around. I’m sure to forget the little quirks that Loveland has held so far.  But when we open in Denver next year, I’ll be just as excited and just as blissfully unaware of the past points of pain as I am today.