Coworking: The Who, What, Why & Where for Startups & Entrepreneurs

As a marketer one of my prime resources for promoting all our products are the questions that potential clients ask about our services. Since coworking is a new offering in the flexible workspace category that we didn’t have a lot of questions about, I used a tool which identifies the questions in the suggestions that users get when they enter search terms into Google. The best content that I can add to a site is content that answers questions our website visitors may have about our offerings.

Coworking: What Does It Mean?

Easily the $64 question as even the spelling is disputed as to whether it is coworking or co-working. What it means depends on who you’re asking. To some users it means:

  1. All non-traditional office space (flexible workspace)
  2. A workplace design and environment
  3. Office space with themed amenities that are in tune with their lifestyle or business (women only, startups, themed incubators, child care etc.)
  4. A membership rather than a rental fee

Coworking office space providers would have you believe that only coworking office space can provide the above, but all flexible workspaces provide the same benefits. In reality coworking only differs from all other flexible workplace options in that it provides office space based on a membership fee rather than a monthly rental fee. Often the memberships are not less expensive than other types of flexible space because they provide fewer services for a monthly membership.

Flexible workspace providers have options that offer comparable services for a monthly rental with no lease. No lease is the main difference between traditional office space providers and flex space providers.

The “shared economy” disrupts traditional businesses and services by more efficient use of things. Some examples of disruption are hotels by Air BNB and taxis by Uber and others like it. The current obsession by millennials with disruption of traditional business models has made traditional flexible space providers join the “shared economy”. The changing attitudes of workers towards traditional office environments, their desire for flexible schedules, as well as significant cost reductions have the corporate giants embracing flexible office space and coworking.

Some of the same advocates and “providers” of coworking office space make it seem like mentorship, whereby support and collaboration only happen in coworking spaces when in reality most flexible workspaces offer the same benefits — they just don’t see the need for the hype.

Coworking: What it Really Means!!

Coworking has become a catch phrase for all office space that is not based on a lease. Yes, there is the myth that abounds that coworking is about workspace design and an environment of collaboration between members. However, in reality when you have 20 or 30 businesses working on the same floor and using the same coffee and break room, entrepreneurs are going to talk and it’s likely going to be about business. Serviced office providers have been providing networking events and “how to” seminars for decades. Providing collaboration and business opportunities to their office space residents is good and smart business!

The other distinguishing difference is coworking is based on a membership and generally the membership does not include services like reception services, phone services and mail services. Some coworking office space providers do provide these services. So be sure when you are comparing fees the services are comparable or reflected in the price.

Coworking: What Are Coworking office Spaces?

Coworking office space is a part of a bigger category of office space known as flexible office space. Flexible office space is considered to be all office space not based on a lease. Coworking office space is a paid membership for access to an “open office” design with many other business services available. Some coworking spaces have meeting rooms, however, some coworking office space is in churchs, libraries and restaurants when the premises are not being used by the public.

I recently read a report that the open coworking design was being rejected by SME and situations where unrelated companies are sitting in close vicinity. This has been problematic and more “private” options are being sought as a result. We have seen this reflected in enquiries for team office space and executive office suites where we offer private entrance from the hall with direct and private access to the adjoining team space.

Coworking: How does it Work?

Entrepreneurs and members pay a membership fee for the services and amenities of the coworking space. Seating and membership services are provided on a “first come, first served” basis. Often this also means that coworking space does not have 24/7 365 days a year access.

Coworking space works for many small and medium sized businesses because it is cost efficient and provides flexibility in rental terms and space used. It is worth noting that the greatest flexibility is provided by coworking spaces that also provide mail forwarding and call answering services which assures no matter what happens to a business’s revenue stream clients will always be able to contact them.

Coworking: Why is it so Popular?

Quite simply the popularity of coworking is no different than the popularity of flexible workspace and workplaces! Popularity is mainly the result of 3 factors:

  1. the changing attitudes of younger workers towards the workplace and office space
  2. younger workers desire for flexible work schedules
  3. significant cost reductions over traditional office space

It is not just coworking that is popular! All flexible workspaces and workplaces are hot office space markets for entrepreneurs, startups and SME businesses! Coworking and all flexible workspace is worth it because it provides business services and workspace that provide the benefits of all three of the factors that are driving the popularity of coworking and flex space.