6 things to check before you sign up for a collaborative workspace

By Sanjana Ray|27th May 2017
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Working from home can become very frustrating for entrepreneurs. After a while, even the fridge and futon are no longer welcoming. The need to physically be around other people becomes real. Sitting at your favourite coffee shop may be a solution, but it’s only temporary. You need to find a workspace that gives you the right blend of space, privacy, amenities and opportunities to collaborate.

The use of shared working spaces across the world, and in India especially, has grown four-fold. According to a recent survey by real estate consultancy JLL, the collaborative workspaces industry in India is expected to receive $400 million in investments by 2018. The same study also suggests that the industry is expected to grow by 40-50 percent in 2017.

No wonder then that a rising number of startups and solo entrepreneurs are actively considering the many benefits of setting shop in a collaborative workspace. What’s more, even large corporates are actively considering such spaces for some of their teams to promote active collaboration and creativity. Beyond the dedicated desk, internet connectivity, meeting rooms and unlimited coffee, there are several other factors that are critical to determining the right workspace.

So before you sign up to join a collaborative workspace, here are the six things you should check out. After all, when you're an entrepreneur, the boundaries between social life and work tend to get hazy, and you should opt for a workspace that makes you feel at home in as many ways as possible.

Check out the place in person

This place is going to be your second home, so you need to check out the workspace in person and like the vibe (yes, it’s a real thing, and it’s important). Do you feel like you could spend 12 hours a day, or more, in that building and love being there?

Does the layout give you the space you need along with the type of company you want? If you’re the type that loves a good break outdoors in between to get the energy going, then look for a place with a deck or an awesome balcony.

Is it located in the type of neighbourhood you like? Is it an easy commute from where you live? Does it have the type of stores and restaurants you love? What’s the traffic like outside? Zero in on a workspace where you answer yes to most, if not all, of these questions.

Check out the basics – what’s part of your lease? (And what’s not)

This is the boring part, but read the agreement carefully – what’s part of your monthly rental and what extras do you have to pay for? Most workspaces come with the basics of a communal desk, a certain bandwidth of Internet, unlimited coffee (and some basics like cookies), and meeting rooms that you can book in advance.

During your visit, check if you’re entitled to amenities like a printer, scanner, photocopying machine, office supplies, etc. Do the meeting rooms have whiteboards and pens? Are all of those facilities part of your deal or do you have to pay extra for any of those?

The whole point of signing up for a collaborative workspace is to make your working experience smooth and enjoyable, so you need to make sure it gives you everything you need on a day-to-day basis.

WeWork, opening in Bangalore and soon in Mumbai, offers conveniences like call booths where you can make your phone calls in private. It also gives you unique stuff like craft beer on tap, besides micro-roasted coffee and fruit water.

Do you have access to a diversified network of entrepreneurs and professionals?

One of the greatest advantages of a such a workspace is the access it gives you to an extremely diversified network of entrepreneurs and freelancers. You can connect with and learn a lot from the other tenants from a wide spectrum of industries. Most importantly, you can make new contacts, which will work in your favour in the future. So it helps to check out the other tenants before signing the contract.

WeWork has a membership base of 100,000+ worldwide and each member can reach out to another within the network. The Member Network is a private and exclusive social networking platform only for WeWork members.

The networking platform also has an app that allows users to create events and groups, book workspaces and conference rooms, register guests, list their company under different business services, and submit feedback or tickets, among other things.

What are the networking opportunities available?

Many collaborative workspaces host events, either their own or on behalf of one of their tenants. These events are an awesome opportunity to network with other folks attending and can lead to something that helps you both – expertise, mentorship, and even business deals. In most cases, at least two out of any five people will express an avid interest in your company or idea and be willing to work out a win-win deal with you.

The organisers often invite some of the most influential figures in a particular industry, or the business world at large, including investors, successful startup founders and industry experts, which means you have easier and direct access to them to pitch to, talk with or learn from.

Check if they host informal mixers. Sometimes, deals or partnerships can be worked out with members of the community that you’re a part of and an informal in-house mixer is the best way to get to know them better.

Is there space to grow (or shrink!) within the space available?

While the idea of ‘floating desks’ is common, and in some cases convenient, for startups looking for a collaborative workspace, it can become a nuisance. Say you’ve signed up for four desks and are paying a lump-sum for each. If one of your employees happens to leave the company, you are still stuck paying for those four desks as per the agreement. So, do check if you can get a flexible agreement that doesn’t lock you into paying for what you don’t need.

What are the additional support services you’re entitled to?

Many workspaces offer support services such as access to health care, payment processing, IT support, payroll and legal services. Some even give you discounts to educational courses or free sign-ups for important workshops, exclusively for their members. These are important things to consider.

Most collaborative workspaces do not impose a restriction on the number of working hours or schedule any fixed timings to access the premises. However, some services such as reception and support staff may be available only during regular working hours. So make sure you know these details before you sign up. There could be additional dos and don’ts and it’s a good idea to get the lowdown on it all before you sign on the dotted line.

As an entrepreneur or a startup looking to join a collaborative community, you have to gauge the reach and hold of the brand. WeWork is an international brand present in 16 countries and has just entered India. It's a massive global community where people can solve their business problems, find clients, and connect with other members. In fact, if you’re traveling to another country, you can drop in to a local WeWork centre and work from there too.

In other words, WeWork is a global network of creators, which offers a range of flexible plans and membership options for collaborative workspaces, with a host of add-ons and other benefits. So, pick the one that’s the best fit for you, and say hello to a world of collaboration, creativity and comfort.

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