Column: Co-working space can boost professionalism

09/01/2014 8:00 PM

08/31/2014 5:55 PM

After two years of running his on-demand recruitment business from his home and coffee shops, Bill Opal joined HQ Raleigh, a co-working space near downtown Raleigh.

Instead of conducting client meetings in cafes, he had access to a conference room and was able to present a more professional image without investing in Class A office space. Co-working places allow business owners and freelancers to rent space within the building, typically with a month-to-month contract.

But for many, the main benefit of a co-working space is being around other people.

“Even though the others in the co-working space may not be in your same industry, it gives you a collaborative atmosphere and opportunity to bounce ideas off others,” Opal said. “You also just feel more motivated when there are other people around you hustling and bustling.”

Opal recently upgraded from a shared space at Raleigh HQ to a private office at Wake Forest Coworking, which opened in July. His biggest advice is to use the space to get the most out of the investment.

“Be sure to also interact with the other co-workers as well as participate in co-working events,” Opal said.

Robert Petrusz, founder of Durham’s Bull City Coworking and WorkShift conference, said the rise in popularity of co-working has come from an increase in mobile workers.

“If you have a chaotic and crazy lifestyle like most of us, then a co-working space can really help you create division between work and home,” Petrusz said. “Previous generations took this separation for granted, but our culture requires that mobile work creates this intentionally.”

But Petrusz cautions business owners about signing up for a space with the intention of getting leads.

“If you do that, you will be disappointed,” he said. “But if you sign up to remove the negative parts of other mobile working solutions, such as the noise at a coffee shop, isolation at home and no ownership of space at a library, then you will find yourself being more productive.”

Petrusz said each co-working space has its own “vibe” and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

“Each space is a little different in terms of atmosphere, clients and space, just like a restaurant,” he said. “Our space is defined by our members in terms of their personalities and what they want to deliver in terms of collaboration. You want to choose a co-working space where you relate to the other members of the community.”

The rate for membership varies based on the hours of access, type of space rented and the specific venue. Some spaces offer a trial or day-pass membership. Wake Forest Coworking is offering September free for business owners who are considering signing up for co-working space.

“The biggest return on investment for a business owner is when a co-working space makes you more productive,” said Petrusz. “And when a co-working space is the right fit, it is very obvious by your work habits and energy level.”

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