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Thoughts on Coworking: Can you use it as a way to subsidize your empty office space?

by Steve Fisher on March 2, 2009

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With a bumpy economic road still ahead, here at Solutions Are Power, we brainstorm about creative ways you can leverage what business resources your do have to go that extra mile. In conversations with people a trend that I believe could develop as an aspect of this struggling economy is for businesses that may have laid off people or leased too much space to re-purpose some of the space for coworking.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the pros and cons of working in a coworking environment if you are a freelancer or independent consultant, but one aspect that hasn’t been discussed much is how to set up a coworking space.

Setting up a coworking space is not hard and there are a number of coworking spaces, some formal and some informal. There is a great directory of them around the world at the Coworking blog. But what if you have an existing space and want to set up a coworking space in office space that might now be freed up from reducing your full time work force or if you are a landlord and are finding it hard to locate new long term tenants? Setting up a coworking space might be the answer but there are certain advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of it you are considering this option.

Advantages:

Off-set costs

As I mentioned above, you might have space opened up from staff reductions and you are still paying for the space. This could be an excellent option to offset your monthly costs and possibly create an office space solution that really didn’t exist a few years ago.

Bring a pool of talent you can tap without hiring them

There are many talented freelancers and consultants who use coworking and many more looking for a coworking space in your area. While you may have reduced full time staff or are not as full as you thought you might be as you ramped up operations the talent that is usually in a coworking space is usually top notch. If you have an occupied office space in another part of the building these people can become virtual project team members when you need them.

Challenges:

Culture

I mentioned above that you might be able to access talent that you don’t need on a full time basis. In this case you should be aware of two things. Sharing a space that has full time people in another part of the office might cause friction between full time people who might not be as open to the idea. Also, a coworking space has a culture that is more loose and if you have a conservative office it might become a problem if you don’t clearly define the spaces and in this case keep them separated.

Security

One area that I am sure has been on your mind is the issue of security. Granted, the great majority, if not all your coworking tenants are honest and respect your space. However, with some coworking spaces, you may have people that come occasionally and people may not know them. My suggestion is to at the very least create separate office spaces with different entrances (if you can) and if you have card key entrances, be very precise about access to everyone. This might be the deal breaker and your space might not be the right fit but at least you have evaluated this new type of opportunity that while is not a solution now, might work in the future.

We want to hear from you

If you have space and might be thinking about doing this, please share your thoughts. If you have worked in a coworking environment, please share your perspective as to why this approach might work or not. If you are an owner of office space considering this option please share your questions and concerns in the comments below.

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    • http://www.coworkingsacramento.com/ Jeff Louie

      Hi Steve, the culture part is definitely the most difficult part to implement, but once it's working a CoWorking space can have wonderful benefits for not only the community within it but the surrounding community as well. Our CoWorking community in Sacramento started in August of 2008 @ Capsity Offices. We have what we call an Entrepreneurial Fueling Station. Everyone we speak to is excited about the concept, but they're not quite sure yet how it fits into their business models. We're hoping to see more coworking locations in Sacramento in the next few months, whether it be through us or through others.

      The main benefit that we've found is the collaborative networking. Since we opened 7 months ago we've been able to discover a lot more about Sacramento in regards to its creative people and social resources, particularly in Midtown. And what we're working on doing is creating a lot of win-win situations for everyone by strategically combining skill sets of the people that are here. These type of win win situations is allowing us to open up a 2nd location probably in April and take part in a lot of new projects (i.e. Bikeramento.org, SacTweetUps, etc.) to help bring more identity to Sacramento.

      I expect that a lot more coworking locations will pop up and it'll be very interesting to see how each location evolves the concept.

    • http://www.coworkingsacramento.com/ Jeff Louie

      Hi Steve, the culture part is definitely the most difficult part to implement, but once it's working a CoWorking space can have wonderful benefits for not only the community within it but the surrounding community as well. Our CoWorking community in Sacramento started in August of 2008 @ Capsity Offices. We have what we call an Entrepreneurial Fueling Station. Everyone we speak to is excited about the concept, but they're not quite sure yet how it fits into their business models. We're hoping to see more coworking locations in Sacramento in the next few months, whether it be through us or through others.

      The main benefit that we've found is the collaborative networking. Since we opened 7 months ago we've been able to discover a lot more about Sacramento in regards to its creative people and social resources, particularly in Midtown. And what we're working on doing is creating a lot of win-win situations for everyone by strategically combining skill sets of the people that are here. These type of win win situations is allowing us to open up a 2nd location probably in April and take part in a lot of new projects (i.e. Bikeramento.org, SacTweetUps, etc.) to help bring more identity to Sacramento.

      I expect that a lot more coworking locations will pop up and it'll be very interesting to see how each location evolves the concept.