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An introduction to co-working: is it for you?

Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or a virtual worker, one thing you probably love about your job is the ability to work wherever and whenever you want. You’re not beholden to the 9 to 5 office life of the average corporate worker bee.

It’s great, right?

Perhaps not always. Undoubtedly you’ve had days where your motivation to work has been sorely lacking. Flipping through Netflix is way more fun, and you can always pick up the slack in the evening … or so you tell yourself. And then there are the days when you miss having coworkers to chat with. Even eating lunch by yourself all day, every day can get a little lonely.

So you skip out of your home office and head for the nearest coffee shop. But you’re distracted by someone in the corner loudly taking a call, and the bustle of traffic is overwhelming. You end up people-watching for a solid half hour before you realize you haven’t gotten a lick of work done.

Amid all your concentration troubles, you start to wonder if that corporate office life is pretty good after all.

Co-working Keeps Things Professional

Well, parts of office life are nice, and others can definitely be tossed by the wayside. Co-working is a concept that tries to combine the best of both worlds.

A co-working space is a shared office for freelancers and anyone else who needs a professional atmosphere to focus on their work. When co-working was still in its infancy, the work spaces were rather basic. There may have been desks, couches and a kitchen. These days, co-working offices have gotten a major facelift. Regus Australia, for example, has a receptionist that can field phone calls for you and accept your business mail, giving you a big boost in professional credibility. It’s also more common for meeting rooms to be available, as well as snack bars, phone centers (where you can talk without disrupting your fellow workers) and office equipment like photocopiers and fax machines.

If your line of work means that you consult with clients in person, you might feel like your home office doesn’t give the professional vibe you want. Nor does a coffee shop, which doesn’t lend much privacy. Instead, tell your client to come to “your” office at your co-working space. You’ll benefit from a professional first-impression and all the amenities you could ask for, including projectors to help you give a presentation, or white boards to help you brainstorm ideas. In fact, if you have a small team of employees but don’t want to spend money on the overhead of your own personal office, purchasing a co-working membership for each of your employees is an excellent choice.

Social Perks of Co-Working

Of course, the biggest incentive that co-working has to offer is the ability to socialize and make business connections. You can network locally and pick up new gigs via referrals. For example, your co-worker might be a freelance graphic designer who has a client with web coding needs. Your co-worker knows you’re a coder, and refers her client on to you.

Professional development events might be sponsored by the co-working space, giving you free or low-cost access to unique learning opportunities. And of course, you can participate in office parties throughout the year. Who doesn’t love an excuse to eat sweets and drink wine?

But you can also form lasting friendships at the water cooler. And because you’re no one’s boss or manager, nor are you competing for a promotion with anyone, you don’t have to feel awkward about being friends with the people around you.

Rules for Peaceful Co-working

Co-working spaces typically operate with membership plans. For example, you can choose to drop in on limited days of the week, or upgrade for 24/7 access. Some spaces employ a cleaning crew, a caterer or on-site IT support. Others require members to pitch in to keep the space neat and tidy, to bring their own food and to troubleshoot their own IT problems. With co-working gaining popularity, however, the perks are becoming more and more competitive. Full-service co-working spaces are definitely trending.

But each space will also have its own etiquette, whether spoken or unspoken. For example, some spaces tolerate more noise than others. But if there are multiple private rooms available, use one to take your conference call. Likewise, if you are the sort of person who needs almost complete silence in order to concentrate, plan on bringing sound cancelling headphones, listening to ambient music or stuffing yourself in a remote corner of the office.

Know that everyone around you is trying to concentrate or “get in the zone.” Your neighbor might be annoyed if you break his or her concentration to ask how to format something in Word. Try to figure it out on your own first, and then ask someone who seems to be taking a break or whom you are confident can help you.

Following kitchen etiquette is extremely important in a co-working space, as it is in any office. If you didn’t bring it or it is not obviously for everyone, don’t touch it. There’s no faster way to get on someone’s bad side than to eat the snack they’ve been looking forward to all afternoon.

In short, if you need to refresh your work life, try getting out of your home office and join a co-working space.

About the Author:

Cathy-HabasCathy Habas is a professional writer, editor and Spanish-English translator. She collaborates with entrepreneurs from around the world to market their innovations and to reach a diverse audience. Cathy is also a member of the Build Niche Links writing team.

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Cathy Habas

Cathy Habas

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