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Co-working spaces allow you to access office space as you need it.

As an entrepreneur you may not always need an office to conduct business; however, not every meeting or conference call can be pulled off successfully in a coffee shop. On occasion, you may need more a professional space to conduct business, take in-person meetings, or collaborate with clients and vendors.

This is where the concept of shared workspaces — or “co-working” spaces — has become a viable option for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking for both flexibility and amenities to ramp up their businesses.

What Are Shared Workspaces?

Unlike the offices of the past, which were typically owned and occupied by one organization, shared workspaces cater to multiple kinds of businesses within a single work environment.

This can be particularly beneficial in markets where real estate prices have increased to a point that makes leasing space prohibitive for entrepreneurs. In markets like Toronto for example, shared workspaces can provide business owners a flexible way to have office space when they need it and keep overhead costs down.

While co-working environments can be beneficial for some small businesses, not all co-working spaces are the same. Evaluating the pros and cons can help you find the right environment for your business’s needs.

The Pros

  • Reduced costs: With pay-as-you-go models, many shared workspaces eliminate leases, broker fees and other commercial leasing costs.
  • Flexibility: Often, shared spaces have multiple options in terms of workspaces. From open-plan and casual environments, to private offices and conference rooms, you can find a space that suits your needs without having to work with a broker or visit multiple sites.
  • Short-term Commitment: Should you want to move to a more permanent space, co-working environments typically don’t require you to sign a 2-3 year lease.
  • Technology: To remain competitive, many shared spaces provide internet, phones, conference rooms with video conferencing, networked printers, and other facilities.
  • Collaboration: Leveraging a community of like-minded entrepreneurs or small business owners may provide opportunities to share ideas and collaborate.

The Cons

  • Privacy: Shared spaces may not work for the easily distracted. Open plan seating and having multiple businesses in the same space can mean more potential for disruption.
  • Personality Conflicts: Workspaces housing multiple different personalities can create conflicts. In your own space, you can establish your own office rules — space between workers, where to take calls, etc. — in shared spaces, you are less able to influence those around you.
  • Competition: While many co-working spaces try and keep direct competitors on neutral ground; however, sharing space could include a business you see as competition.
  • Limited Access: Depending on the location, you may not have access to space when you want. Spaces may have restrictive open hours or lack the available space you need when you need it.

Shared workspaces can be a great solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to branch out without having to commit to a full lease. And while it can be cost-effective, working in someone else’s office will mean giving up a degree of control. With the right expectations, however, the experience can be a positive one, providing the perks of a corporate environment, along with both flexibility and community.