Finally ready for that first office? Here’s what to look for in a coworking space

For the past couple of years, working at home was the norm. For many small businesses and startups, home is often their initial “headquarters.” Whether you’re ready for that first office or preparing for a return to an office environment, here are some tips on what to look for in a coworking space.

The top two reasons to think about moving to a coworking space are the flexibility and the amenities, said Sarah Downey, area manager for Industrious, which has 11 coworking locations across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia now and will open several more in the coming months.

Flexibility is critical because often “smaller businesses, or even midsize businesses, they’re just getting their feet wet,” she said. For instance, they might not know initially how many people they’re going to have on staff. A coworking space can adjust as the business grows, Downey said.

Amenities matter for a completely different reason — they take the stress off the business owner. “We try to serve as sort of this incubator for them to grow and focus on their business so that they’re not focusing on, ‘Oh my gosh, my printer’s broken,’ or you know, the power’s out or anything like that.”

For WTOP’s Small Business September, we asked Downey to share some advice on what businesses should look for and consider when evaluating a co-work space.

She offered three things that a business will want to consider.

Coworking Consideration 1: What’s included in the price?

What comes standard and what comes for a fee can vary from one workspace company to another. That’s why “what’s included is absolutely number one,” Downey said.

Some workspace providers have additional costs for use of the different spaces and for some amenities, like printing and meeting room usage. “There are providers out there that have a credit card swiper on their coffee machine,” she said. “You want to be really mindful of what those additional fees might look like, as they can quickly add up.”

Coworking Consideration 2: What types of spaces are there?

It might seem obvious, but what is overall work environment like, not just the office the business will call its own, but all the different areas within the space? What types of office setups are available? Can you shrink or grow the business as needed?

Take a thorough tour. Look at the lobby area, event spaces, different meeting rooms and common spaces. Maybe even camp out and give a phone booth or the common workspace area a test drive.

At Industrious, “our members love having access to phone booths, focus rooms and wellness rooms, for our nursing mothers,” Downey said. Typically, a small or medium-size business might not be able to afford that variety of spaces in a traditional office rental, she noted.

Coworking Consideration 3: What intangibles are there?

Meet the team. Watch how they interact with the members and with guests. Is it a good experience? Find out about events. Do they seem like they’ll foster networking and a feeling of belonging?

Intangibles matter because they’ll impact the business’s day-to-day experience and be the public image that the workspace provides for the business’s clients and guests, Downey said.

“We try to foster that community for new members and introduce them. It’s very calculated. It’s very deliberate,” she said. It helps businesses support one another and grow too.

To discover more insights for entrepreneurs, startups and SMBs shared during WTOP’s Small Business September, click here.

Listen to the full interview:

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