A friend recently asked my advice about finding the right coworking space. She’s new to coworking but wants to get away from the working-from-home and coffee shops routine. She planned to tour a few local spaces and asked what she should look for.
Here are some of the tips I shared with her:
1. Atmosphere: When you walk into the space does it feel welcoming? What’s your first impression? Is it stiff and impersonal or warm and human? Does the space feel like a place you’d like to hang out? You’re going to spend a lot of hours here, so look beyond the surface details of the space and ask yourself if it’s a place you could see becoming your home away from home.
2. Community Feel: Does the vibe of the space suit you? Is there a diverse, engaged group of people? Is it deathly quiet or are people connecting, chatting and working together?
3. Noise Levels: Some coworking spaces have music playing in the background, some have white noise, some are extremely quiet and some are buzzing with activity. Which of these do you prefer? If you struggle to focus with noise around you, or if quiet makes you uncomfortable, make sure the sound of the space will work for you. Keep in mind that noise levels change throughout the day so ask the community curator what the general tone is.
4. Event Offerings: In the interest of supporting and growing their communities, many coworking spaces feature events, including happy hours, workshops, presentations, hackathons, networking events, art openings and more.
Take a look at the offerings and see if they speak to your interests, needs and skills you’d like to develop. You don’t have to go to all of them, but you should be able to tell from the schedule if the events generally held in the space are a good fit for you.
5. Seating Options: The best coworking spaces have a variety of seating options to accommodate different preferences and needs. If you like working at a community table, an individual desk and/or a standing desk, make sure the space has options that work for you.
6. Buzz: Is the space buzzing with energy or kind of flat? That collective energy is one of the best things about coworking and, if it’s missing, it may signal a less-than-vibrant space.
7. Meeting rooms: Do you need a place to meet clients or make video calls? If so, make sure the space offers easy (and affordable) access to meeting rooms. In some spaces, you get a handful of free meeting room hours each month with your membership. You may not need this perk, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
8. Phone Booths: Coworking spaces have different rules around making calls in the common space. Some frown on it, while others welcome it. Many spaces have phone booths or other areas you can duck into when you need to make a call.
These are great for keeping private conversations private and not being the loud, rude person who’s exposing everyone to the details of their long call.
9. Community Curator: Is there someone in the space making sure everything runs smoothly, answering questions, introducing new people to members, actively engaging the space, dealing with issues and connecting people?
They may be called a host or community curator or cultivator or any number of other titles, but having someone there whose priority is cultivating community can be the difference between a so-so coworking environment and an outstanding one.
10. Location: Is the space near things that are important to you: transit lines, good restaurants, a park, the library, a bike path? Everyone’s needs are different—make sure the location works for you and your needs.
11. Wifi: While you can do analog work while coworking, having fast and reliable wifi is one of the absolute essentials in a coworking space. Not only is it frustrating to have spotty wifi when you’re working online, it’s impossible to stream or have video calls of any kind.
You can ask the curators how their wifi is (or run a quick speed test of your own), but, better yet, ask one of the members coworking there. You’ll get an honest perspective on the reliability of the service.
12. Kitchen: Is there a kitchen in the space? Can you make your lunch there? Is there a fridge? Are there plates? Are these things important to you? For some, having a kitchen seals the deal on a space. For others, they can take it or leave it.
My experience is that in coworking spaces, much like at parties, the kitchen becomes that place where authentic, human connection takes place. It’s hard to put on airs when you’re making a sandwich or cleaning your mug. I’ve overheard, and made, many great connections while standing in the kitchen of a coworking space.
13. Coffee: This could be lumped into the kitchen category, but I’ll give coffee its own section. How important is coffee to you? Most spaces (all?) offer coffee, but the offerings range from junky bulk stuff that us coffee snobs turn our noses up at to delicious, locally roasted, craft blends...and everything in-between.
Depending where you fall on the coffee snob scale, make sure that what they serve in the space is aligned with your tastes. It may seem like a small thing, but if you have to go out of the space to get a good cup of coffee every time you want one, that will grow old quickly. All of this goes for tea, as well.
Regardless of the coworking space, it will take you some time to find your place, connect with people and get familiar with everything. But if a space suits, not just who you are, but who you want to become, you may have found your new home space.
What have I missed? What should coworking newcomers look for in a space?