As every remote worker knows, finding a productive work environment is of the utmost importance. Instead of renting overpriced office space or sipping on expensive lattes in overcrowded coffee shops, many are choosing a more affordable (and social) alternative: coworking spaces.
Free from the cattiness and competitiveness that tend to accompany the typical 9-to-5 corporate workplace, coworking spaces instead provide the opportunity for a diverse group of creative minds and entrepreneurial spirits to collaborate, learn from one another and network.
In addition to workstations in a social atmosphere, many spaces offer kitchens stocked with food and beverages, member-only seminars and events, along with a host of other amenities. For freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers, the question is not why to join, but why not to join. Even more traditional companies are jumping on the bandwagon and electing to use coworking spaces in lieu of the office.
Sold yet? Not so fast! Instead of hastily joining just any coworking space, follow the steps below to be sure you are choosing the one that is the best fit for you.
1. Determine How Often You Will Actually Use It
You know the scenario: It’s January, and pursuant to your newly declared New Year’s Resolution to shape up, you sign up for a year-long gym membership. But by the time March rolls around, you are only going a few times a month (if at all).
Don’t let that happen here. To avoid wasting hard-earned money on an unused membership, make sure that you will actually use the coworking space on a regular basis. If you travel often or prefer a change of scenery each day, maybe this option doesn’t make much sense for you. Ask yourself: Is this really in my best interests financially?
2. Figure Out the Commitment
Is it a month? Three months? A year? If you are a digital nomad traveling around the world, it probably wouldn’t make sense to commit to a coworking space for a full year or even six months. Even if you think you will be in one place for a long time, circumstances can always change that, so you might want to find a coworking space that gives you the flexibility to cancel with a month’s notice.
3. Think About…Location, Location, Location
Be sure that the location is convenient enough for you to want to go there anytime of the day (or night). You may love the space, but if it’s in a rough neighborhood, difficult to get to, or located in the middle of nowhere, the hassle of getting there might not make it worth it.
Even if Google Maps says it’s a mere ten minutes from your house, do a test commute to be sure. It would be a shame to commit to a space only to find out after that the traffic is horrendous and the commute takes hours. Or to find out that the commuting expenses are just too costly in the long run.
4. Spell Out Your Needs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a coworking space. Do you need private space to collaborate with other team members regularly? Maybe opt for a coworking space with an abundance of conference rooms. Do you need to print 100 pages a day? It might be worth it to look for a coworking space that includes printing in its membership services—many charge separately for it. Are you a night owl? You might want to find a space that is open 24/7. Do you need to store valuables overnight? Make sure that there is a secure way of doing this.
Whatever your needs may be, write down the services and features that are most essential to you and search for a space that’s conducive to those needs. This may seem like such an obvious step, but it can easily be overlooked if you let your emotions and excitement override logistical reasoning. You may love the look and feel of a place, but if it doesn’t offer what you’ll need down the road, it’s probably not the best investment.
5. Test It Out
A coworking space may seem perfect in photos and on paper, but until you spend a day working there, it’s pretty much impossible to really know if it’s a good fit.
Visit the space and work there for a day or two to get a feel for it. Talk with the members and see what they think. What’s the ambiance like? Consider factors like the noise level, lighting, WiFi speed, seating arrangements and chair comfort…even the taste of the coffee (daily runs to Starbucks would add up quickly).
6. Get to Know the Other Members
Joining a coworking space is like joining a (sometimes exclusive) club—since much of coworking revolves around socializing and networking, it’s important that you get along with the people you are going to see every day (or at least several times a week). Every coworking space boasts a unique vibe and culture. So you will want to ask yourself some basic questions: Do I like these people? Do I have stuff in common with them (whether work-related or personal)?
Perhaps you are less concerned with making friends and more interested in networking and collaborating. In that case, you will want to ensure that the current members will fulfill your needs. For instance, if you are on the hunt for your future CTO, but your favorite coworking space is made up almost exclusively of writers, you should probably take that into consideration when making your decision.
Making Your Final Decision
Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll presumably have narrowed down the selection to just a few. If you are in a big city, you might still have a long list of coworking spaces that seem to fit the bill.
So the question remains: how do you settle on just one space if you have a slew of winners?
At the end of the day, it really comes down to how you feel in the space. Trust your gut instinct—it’s almost always right. And if not…well, onto the next one! After all, you’ll have chosen a space with a flexible cancellation policy, right?