Innovative, fresh ideas can help drive a thriving business — from what you sell to how you work.
The business trend of coworking demonstrates the value of reconsidering where — and how — you set up shop.
The coworking model, which eschews the traditional cubicle format in favor of more open, shared workspaces, is growing. According to Deskmag's 2018 Global Coworking Forecast, approximately 1.7 million people are expected to adopt coworking by the end of 2018.
"Technology has made work-from-anywhere teams a reality, and coworking spaces have capitalized on that cultural shift," says Eng Tan, CEO and co-founder of customer service outsourcing platform Simplr. Tan's startup operates from a coworking space in San Francisco.
Understanding the rewards (and potential challenges) of coworking can help you determine if it's right for your company.
Breaking up the cubicle and corner office layout to make way for an open flow plan with shared desks and communal rooms is a defining feature of coworking offices. Jessica McCune, a marketing specialist for Kansas City-based digital marketing agency Sellozo, said it has transformed how her company operates.
She and her colleagues work together in one large room with open seating areas where employees can gather together to trade ideas. McCune says sharing workspace "promotes teamwork, fosters quick and open communication, and allows for insights across departments into what everyone is working on. It also creates an atmosphere where workers can provide input to help solve problems when conversations are happening, and fosters a more cohesive and collaborative atmosphere."
Relationships — whether they're with mentors, industry influencers or other business owners — can shape long-term success. Shared workspaces are fertile ground for making a wide range of professional connections.
In addition to flexibility, the potential networking opportunities are what drew Song to coworking. The coworking building he uses is home to hundreds of other businesses, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. He's been able to broaden his professional circle and his knowledge base by engaging his fellow coworkers on a regular basis.
"When I have a complex challenge, the environment makes it very easy for me to pop in to see my friend at the company down the hall," Song says. "I've been able to 'borrow' time from several people to help develop a marketing strategy, sales tactics, and design strategies."
Sharing space facilitates sharing information and it goes both ways. "Not only am I receiving help, but I'm also giving help," Song says.
His coworking space makes that even easier by offering its own social network that members can use to contact one another privately and post about challenges or services they need help with publicly. The diversity of companies in the space inspires interesting discussions, fueled by a variety of perspectives.
To decide if coworking is right for your business, consider the big picture.
Start with the cost. Weigh the various factors — relocation fees, amenities, space needs — to see how much money you might be able to save with coworking.
Next, talk to your employees about sharing space. Be prepared to answer any questions they might have and consider doing a test run. There are coworking spaces that let you rent out space on an hourly basis, which is an affordable way to let your staff try it on for size.
Finally, think about the tools and resources you could use to overcome potential challenges. For example, Tan says video conferencing with screen share and project management software has been immensely helpful for accommodating remote team members' schedules and keeping everyone on the team aligned and accountable. Song's company uses cloud-based document storage and group messaging apps to make collaborating easier.
Covering all these bases beforehand can make the transition to coworking a smooth one for you and your employees. McCune, Song and Tan all agree that coworking has been an overwhelmingly positive choice for their businesses. Perhaps it could be for yours as well.
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