9 questions every start-up should ask when choosing a co-workspace

With so many flexible open-plan workspaces available, how do you pick one that’s right for you? We pose the key questions

So, you’ve started a business and you’re looking for a friendly, flexible space to give your fledgling company the best start in life.

But with myriad different spaces, places and options available, how do you decide what kind of environment is going to help your business thrive? Do you want to hot-desk with your tablet and smartphone or hunker down somewhere more long term?

To help you decide, here are the nine things you need to consider to find the right co-workspace for your business:

1. Where is it?

OK, this one’s obvious. You’ve probably already set your mind on a location – somewhere close enough to commute to, near your target market or the community you want to mix with, a great place for employees to work and get to, and somewhere to socialise after work.

Whether it’s train stations, tube stops, universities, eateries and bars, or something else you want in close proximity, location is always key so ask the workspace owner what’s near.

2. Who else is there?

If it’s where you’re going to be putting the hours in, you should know what kind of company you’ll be keeping.

While some spaces cater for a broad range of businesses, others have a more sector specific offering with an environment tailored to businesses in particular industries or of a certain size.

For example, The Trampery’s Hackney Wick site focuses on start-ups which fuse technology and the arts, while OpenSpace in Manchester only accepts applicants that follow socially and environmentally conscious business practices.

Surrounding yourself with individuals and businesses that have similar practices and ambitions allows you to bounce off and learn from each other – you might even go into business together.

At the same time, there’s something to be said for being in an environment with businesses that are bigger or in a different sector altogether – you may gain unique insights and knowledge that you wouldn’t find in a homogenous space.

3. How much does it cost?

You may have worked into your business plan how much you’re prepared to budget for your office. Do some research to see how prices compare in your area and whether the facilities and location are worth the cost.

Obviously a central London location such as Co-Work’s £699 per month City location is going to be a bit steeper than DoES Liverpool’s £10 a day membership price. Consider the needs of your business and their relative merits against affordability.

Sites such as Hubble and Deskcamping allow you to compare and book flexible space up and down the country. And NearDesk enables you to rent desk space by the minute wherever you are.

You’ll also want to check what the different options are. Some co-working spaces allow you to book one-day hotdesk sessions, while others require a longer commitment.

Newcastle’s tech community space Campus North offers a variety of packages to suit different needs – from £100 per month hotdesking to £160 per month co-working for small start ups and £400 private office space for fully-fledged businesses.

4. What facilities does the workspace offer?

Any self-respecting place advertising as a co-work space should include the deal-breakers – high-speed internet, desks, chairs printer/scanner and of course free tea and coffee to power you through the day – but to compete in the modern market you may look for somewhere a little better equipped.

Meeting rooms are very useful if you want to have a discussion with a number of employees or a private meeting with a client. Rainmaking Loft in St Katherine’s Dock has six retro arcade game themed meeting rooms and a 150 capacity event space.

A private booth to take sensitive work calls on your smartphone can also be a nice and very handy extra.

Not all places will have a reception or intranet, but these can certainly take some of the strain of the administrative side of the business. If you cycle to work you may want to consider somewhere with secure bike storage and shower rooms so you don’t have to spend the rest of the day feeling sticky and offending the noses of your peers.

Most places will let you come and have a look around to see if it’s all up to scratch, and some – like Le Bureau in Battersea – will even let you in for a free trial day to see if it’s the right environment for you before you make a commitment. Opening hours are also important depending on your schedule – some places will only be open during the working day, while others are 24 hours, such as Hackney Wick’s 90 Mainyard.

5. What extras can you pay for?

On top of the price for the standard facilities you may have to pay extra for things like phone systems and parking. Make sure you know what’s included in the up front cost and what’s additional before you choose.

Full members of The Clubhouse, which has two locations in Fitzrovia and Mayfair, gain access to a premium concierge service, lockers, charging facilities and showers, and virtual office/virtual PA services. Impressive, but it comes at a price of £2,750 a year.

6. Is there a fun social side or something educational? 

The clue is in the name – co-working. One of the advantages of working in a non-traditional office environment is the ability to collaborate and communicate with like-minded people and help each other’s businesses thrive.

Many spaces foster connections with networking and community events. Canterbury’s Fruitworks, a tech start-up community, hosts coffee mornings, informal chats, training workshops and a Christmas party.

It’s also nice to give your brain a break and have a bit of time out, so it’s good to find somewhere with a well equipped breakout space. Fruitworks has a pool table, ping-pong table, 100” cinema/gaming screen and even a fully stocked beer fridge!

7. Can you grow your business there?

You don’t want to get settled into the perfect office, start to grow your business and then find you’ve immediately outgrown the space. Many places will understand the needs of a growing business and have flexible packages and options to nurture your growth.

The Office Group, which has locations in London, Bristol and Leeds, has designed its offices specifically to allow you to increase or decrease your space depending on your needs – and at Central Working, with locations in London and Manchester, there are no leases or long-term contracts, so you’re not tied down.

8. How safe will your tech equipment be?

If you want your physical possessions and sensitive data to be safe, make sure the space has adequate safety features. Do the doors use a code or a FOB? Is there someone keeping an eye out on reception, a security guard round the clock or CCTV? What personal items are you able to leave on site and do they have lockers?

Le Bureau has 24/7 manned security and CCTV, as well as pre-authorised personalised photo-generating electronic key-fob and a lockable pedestal for your laptop or tablet on every desk.

Finally it might be worth meeting some of the other tenants to see if they are reliable and responsible – you want to feel secure with the people you work with.

9. What tenancy break agreement do they have?

It’s important to find an agreement that works with the needs of your business –and generally the more flexible the better.

Co-Work, which has six shared office locations in key London hubs, offers desks from £499 per month with a minimum one-month stay. If you travel frequently, there are options of business lounges, clubs, and platforms to rent desk space by the minute, giving you a wealth of mobile working options.

This article was produced in partnership with O2 Business. To be inspired or read more about working anywhere, working smarter, marketing, and for tech advice go to businessblog.o2.co.uk

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