Mobile technology and an economic shift toward entrepreneurship have redrawn the modern workplace, giving freelancers and entrepreneurs human contact to keep them connected, yet allowing them to color outside the lines.
Even the most independent business owner can benefit from a buzzing, creative workplace filled with like-minded workers.
The Triangle co-working spectrum offers many choices - coffee shops, public libraries and shared office space, all hives of activity giving small startups and freelancers a physical presence, internet access, conference facilities and a sense of belonging.
Ian Henshaw is the managing partner of Technology Tank, a think tank that studies technology, communication and engagement.
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He is also managing director of the Cary Innovation Center, a co-working space that houses a handful of startups, and Oak Haven, a low-cost co-working space for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Many spaces offer flexible leasing terms for cubicles, workstations, or enclosed offices by the day, week or month. Most are open seven days a week, and people come and go all the time.
But anyone who envisions a co-working office as noisy and distracting may be surprised, Henshaw said.
"You can find noisy spaces as well as quiet ones," Henshaw said. "Entrepreneurs are getting more choices, and developing coping skills to work in shared spaces is part of the co-working culture."
Most co-working offices offer trial periods for prospective members to use before making a full commitment.
"Visit different spaces," Henshaw said. "Most of them have the ability to offer you a day for free. Some will offer a short-term membership, such as a one- or two-day-per-week plan so you can see and feel the environment before you join."
Some co-working communities schedule social and after-hours events and lunch-and-learn programs to encourage interaction and camaraderie. Others are more impersonal, offering a 24-hour office environment for those who just want to get out of the house, even if it is in the middle of the night.
"The No. 1 number one reason people join co-working communities is they are lonely working from home and they want to get into a more professional area with people they can bounce ideas off of," Henshaw said.
One co-working style may not suit all, but there are enough choices to help most Triangle entrepreneurs find a space that's a perfect fit.
Reach Teri Saylor at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @terisaylor.