Cabin fever is a clear risk when doing your nine-to-five plus glued to a desk at home. Have you considered operating from a co-working space?

Written by Liz Swanton

There are many reasons to consider a co-working space, says Nicole O’Brien, CEO of co-working space, Fishburners – but you must understand your needs to make the environment work for you.

Fishburners was established in 2011 as a co-working space for tech-based start-ups but has grown to provide a range of support services for its members. Everything from a desk, the internet and a coffee machine through to a range of business-related workshops and access to people who help grow good ideas.

The pros and cons

“First and foremost, you must be clear on whether this will work for you,” says Nicole.

“There will be lots of people around so, if you’re not comfortable with that, it’s not the right fit.

“Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the lack of privacy and the distraction, but most co-working spaces have smaller rooms where you can do video conference calls or private phone calls, or just work quietly for a while.”

Nicole suggests putting a ‘pros and cons’ lists together in terms of your own needs, then checking out different spaces and what they provide. Take a trial period if it is offered.

Can you afford it? You pay for what you need – a hot desk, a designated desk or a private office – on a weekly, monthly or yearly plan. Always read the fine print.

“We try to make it as cost effective as possible,” Nicole adds.

“We also have a casual day rate which includes all the advantages of being here without committing to a long-term contract. It’s a good way to try before you buy, particularly if you are in the early stages of your idea.

“Coming in on a casual basis allows you to hook up with other people, run the idea past them and do some trouble shooting before committing to that idea.”

The cost of co-working space is lower than renting commercially, with the bonus that the services and amenities are included. You can also rent extra space as your team grows – around 40% of Fishburners’ members are small teams.

Consider compatibility

What’s the make-up of the members at a particular space? Will you fit into the mix in terms of everyday work style, and is there potential to collaborate? It’s important to check it out – and know you may be checked out in return.

“We do vet our applicants,” Nicole says. “We spend time with potential start-ups before they join our community, to make sure they are the right fit.

“We’re not just providing a desk. It’s about everything they need, the best opportunity to succeed. The last thing we want is people coming in with a half-formed idea and not going further, because they lose their confidence.”

What’s on offer?

Benefits of co-working spaces go far beyond having a desk and a coffee buddy. Ask what’s on offer. Networking opportunities are a given, but the good ones will provide support, contacts and resources to help your business to the next level.

Nicole says it doesn’t suit everyone. If you need other people’s energy and the chance to pick their brains, a co-working space might be perfect. If your work requires privacy or even secrecy, you might need to pay for a private space or keep working from home. The choice is yours.

Fishburners is a not-for-profit social enterprise model that operates with government and corporate community support and has been a member of NSW Business Chamber since 2014.