Previously, we talked about the origins and definition of a coworking space as well as the benefits of working in one. Now you want to try coworking out but there are too many spaces to choose from! How will you ever decide? Our checklist is here to help you do just that.
To briefly recap, a coworking space is a shared office where people from different organisations and individuals like freelancers come together to not just work but to be part of a special community too.
The benefits of such a work style include affordability, increased productivity and creativity, great facilities, and access to exclusive business resources.
There are many advantages a coworking space has over a traditional office. As such, it is no wonder that more and more people are warming up to the idea of coworking.
But knowing you want something and actually getting it are two different things. The hard part now is picking the right coworking space for you.
In Penang alone, there are currently about eight coworking spaces. Now, imagine what other cities around Malaysia and even the world must be like! The options can seem endless.
Every coworking space has an X-Factor that makes it unique and stands out from the rest.
I have created a handy checklist to help you narrow down your choices to the most suitable one and soon, you’ll be on your way to coworking for real.
1. Look at the location
The location of your workspace is of high importance. You will need to consider location-specific aspects such as available transport, noise level, nearby facilities, and so on.
If the workspace itself is perfect in every way but you have issues with the location, then it’s not going to work. You’ll end up being inconvenienced anyway.
If you’re not driving to work or own a vehicle, you should make sure the coworking space is easily accessible via public transport.
Find out if the buses, LRTs, or monorails pass through the coworking space. If they do, then you’re in luck because now you can conveniently commute to and from work without spending a bomb on petrol- or for most city dwellers, Grab fares.
Many coworking spaces these days are situated right in the heart of the city so public transport should be relatively easy to come by.
Of course, no one likes a long commute so pick a space that is close by and not all the way in Narnia.
We need to be surrounded by peace and quiet to really focus and get our work done, which is why you should make sure the coworking space you choose is not in a busy area.
Busy here could mean a number of things.
For example, are there construction sites nearby the space? Do a lot of vehicles pass by that particular area?
Such questions are necessary so you can avoid getting distracted or irritated by pounding jackhammers and angry drivers honking.
This is also why cafés really aren’t the most conducive workspaces because the sounds of people chattering away and eating make it extremely hard to concentrate or think.
Besides the noise levels, your potential coworking space should have convenient facilities and amenities within a short distance.
While some coworking offices have snacks available, you’re not going to survive on biscuits and coffee alone. So do look out for places like restaurants, cafés, banks/ATMs, and shops.
2. Get a feel of the community
(Source: The Star)
A coworking space will provide you with the incredible opportunity to join a vibrant community bursting with members of various backgrounds, careers, and nationalities.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you may be interested in a space where established entrepreneurs, start-ups, and SME owners come to work.
Or maybe you’re a tech geek. If this is the case, you’d rather surround yourself with programmers, coders, designers, and the like.
There are many different communities to choose from but you just need to find the one you see yourself fitting in well with or ones that will help further your career goals.
Being part of a new community, however, doesn’t happen instantly. This explains why your chosen coworking space should also be frequent hosts to exclusive community events.
That way, you can mingle and build professional relationships with potential clients, mentors, and collaborators.
Through its events, the coworking space will be your source of industry knowledge, important contacts, as well as stress-relief and good fun after an exhausting work week.
When you find a community you can vibe with, you’ll definitely enjoy your work more because you’ll have people eager to help you. You also won’t be talking to yourself like you did when you worked from home.
Some communities sound good on paper but you won’t know how well you suit them until you put yourself out there and give it a go.
3. Check out the actual coworking space.
Before you buy a car, you take it for a test drive.
Before you buy a home, you visit the place. The same applies to your office.
If you have the means, then you should definitely tour the coworking space before making any final decisions.
Pictures and reviews can be misleading, so it’s best for you to see it with your own eyes.
Pretty much the majority of coworking spaces are very accommodating and will gladly let you have a look around the place. The tour is also your chance to ask any questions you may have regarding the office, its facilities, pricing, and so on.
This is perhaps the most crucial element in your consideration for a coworking space. The actual office you will be working in has to suit your needs and personal preferences.
During your tour, check out what the desks and chairs are like.
Do the desks look spacious enough? Are they too close to one another? Are the chairs comfortable for hours of sitting in front of your computer?
Shared office spaces tend to have different areas for the various packages, meaning the desks and chairs are probably different too.
For example, you might see hot desks, dedicated desks, private offices, bean bags, plastic chairs, and ergonomic chairs all in one coworking space.
Actually seeing these differences can help you decide which pricing plan will give you your money’s worth.
Did you know that a little thing like the temperature of the space can be a deciding factor too?
Some offices have centralised air-conditioning, which basically means you won’t be able to do anything about the temperature even if you’re freezing to death.
I would suggest offices where they have individual air-conditioning units so you can adjust the temperature or switch it off as soon as you start to feel a little too cold for comfort.
Another aspect that will distinguish the many coworking spaces out there are the perks they offer to you.
What are the available facilities and amenities at this office?
These are the bare basics:
- Fast wireless internet
- Meeting rooms
- Printer and copier access
Examples of additional perks are:
- Game room
- Nap area
- Vending machines
- Swimming pool
- Massage services
Bare basics are the facilities and amenities you are very likely to find in ANY coworking space you encounter. If you want something casual and simple, then the basics are all you need.
But, if you’re keen on having an enhanced and modern working experience, then go for the spaces with those additional perks and enjoy them.
I mean, how many people can say they have a swimming pool in their workplace, right? So get out of your comfort zone that consists of home offices and traditional corporate offices and have fun with the cool facilities offered by coworking spaces.
4. Be aware of the accessibility and security.
(Source: The Balance)
While plenty of coworking spaces are full of fun features like slides, game rooms, spas, bars, and so on, sometimes they lack the practical stuff.
What do I mean by that?
Well, I’m talking about accessibility.
Accessibility is the quality of being easily reached, entered, or used by people.
The most common accessibility feature that comes to our mind is wheelchair ramps. Wheelchair users would not be able to enter coworking spaces lacking this facility.
If you’re a wheelchair user, you’ll know to look out for lifts, wheelchair-friendly doors, and disabled washrooms to ensure you can get to your workspace and go about your business in a convenient and safe manner.
Depending on your disabilities or health requirements, some things to consider are:
- Proximity of parking lot to the coworking space
- Staff who are understanding and aware of how to communicate with disabled people
- Railings, buttons with Braille on them, and control panels placed at the appropriate height in the lifts
- Clear passages and direct routes to the building
- Washrooms are easy to open, enter, and sinks and dryers are at appropriate levels
No matter how great a coworking space is, if it lacks these features that YOU or anyone else in your company need for daily activities or getting around easily, then you may have to reconsider working there.
Safety and Security
No one wants anything bad or dangerous to happen to them but things can and DO happen, which is why we need to be prepared for the worst!
The main concern for any building is fire safety. As such, you need to know the exit routes should there be a fire or other emergencies.
Make sure the coworking space you’re considering going to has sprinklers, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and clearly marked exits or fire escapes.
Don’t let the charm and aesthetic appeal of the coworking space prevent you from taking your own safety into consideration
Additionally, the security of your chosen coworking space is very important as you will be spending hours and hours, day in and day out, at the office.
Although most coworking spaces are open 24/7, they are able to maintain a high level of security by employing guards, installing CCTV cameras and alarms, as well as providing coworkers with special access cards.
These measures are there to ensure only registered members are allowed to enter the space and use its facilities and services.
Besides your personal security concerns, you need to be reassured that your belongings are safe too, of course.
You should look for coworking offices that have lockers for you to store your valuables such as computers, laptops, and tablets so you don’t have to worry about people stealing or misusing your stuff.
CCTV cameras and access cards for limited entry are also important to help reduce any thefts at the coworking space.
5. Compare pricing plans.
At the end of the day, deciding on the right coworking space for yourself pretty much boils down to what you can afford.
You need to strike a good balance between your estimated budget and what you’re looking for in a coworking space.
If your budget is small, seek for less fancy coworking spaces. The ones that offer the mere basics for your working needs but nothing too over-the-top like a swimming pool or a gym.
Maybe the thought of a bare-bones coworking space doesn’t excite you.
Maybe your heart is still set on an awesome looking place that really sells the idea of coworking to you.
Lucky for you, even those fancy coworking offices have various priced packages for you to choose from. Just pick the one that most suits your budget and you’re in!
The only downside is you may not get as many perks and privileges as the other coworkers but it’s okay. At least you’re still enjoying a different kind of working experience.
Although it’s not exactly common, there are some spaces that offer specially discounted packages specifically for brand new startups.
This is to aid financially-strapped startups by providing them access to business resources and mentorship programs within a supportive community.
Aside from your financial capabilities, the right pricing plan depends on your commitment as well.
On websites of coworking spaces you’ll notice they have daily, weekly, and monthly membership plans.
Say you’re a digital nomad who’s only going to be here for two weeks max. You would probably get the one-week package and renew it as needed.
For long-term coworkers, they can opt for monthly subscriptions which can often amount to more savings.
However, some coworking spaces may require you to commit to a membership for a certain period of time, e.g. three months. This means you’ll have no choice but to purchase that package even if you’re only here for a month.
So, choose wisely.
If the thought of committing to a coworking space long-term frightens you, check out places that offer trial coworking periods.
For example, we have Free Coworking Day every first Thursday of the month. Enjoy a whole day of coworking where you will experience what every other coworker does. It’s entirely free and all are welcome to join us!
Choosing the right coworking space doesn’t have to be a brutal decision-making process.
It’s simple once you understand what you need and what you want.
Then, what’s left is to find the best space that can give you all of that at a budget-friendly price.
I’ve made a summary of my checklist so you can use it to narrow down your options for coworking spaces. Let me know in the comments section below if this guide has helped you. Do share it with others so they too can find the right coworking space and reap the benefits of coworking!