I had two great days up in Lake Tahoe experiencing very different coworking spaces. Before that, I’ve been to a couple of different coworking spaces where I’ve stayed over in certain cities and extra day or two. I find that in coworking spaces I’m much more productive for me than sitting in a hotel room as it gives me a place to go and people with whom to interact.
What is Coworking?
Coworking is a somewhat newer trend where people from different organizations and professions share a common office space. I often compare it to the Airbnb of office space. Some people in the office are there permanently while others may come and go each day. Very early age startups will use coworking spaces to help bootstrap the company. A coworking space usually has basic amenities like Internet and often offers premium services like dedicated desks, conference rooms, and mail handling. For the casual coworker, day passes usually are the way to go.
1. Check out your coworking space online
Coworking spaces differ significantly in terms of price, amenities, hours, and vibe. Some coworking spaces may not have space for day pass users in larger cities or popular areas. Try to connect with the coworking space host to confirm availability and that all amenities you’ll need are fully functional. At one coworking space, the Internet wasn’t fully up to speed making it difficult to get work done when I needed to VPN into the office. Check out a few locations if available in your area.
2. Understand what’s included in your fee
At the daily rate, you’ll usually only get a desk and basic Internet. Just about all of the premium desks (those next to windows) usually are reserved for people who permanently work in the coworking space. While you can lust after the desk with a view, you’ll get the desk right by the bathroom. Internet is usually included. Premium services like a conference room often aren’t included. If you have a call during the day where you need privacy, confirm with the host that a space will be available and it’s included in the price. Be specific. For example, say “do you have a conference room available from 10 AM to 11 AM for a private call and what’s the fee for usage?”
3. Get to know people
One of the things I enjoy most about coworking is meeting people around me. Take the opportunity during natural breaks to introduce yourself. I’ve often found interesting things out about the area or learned about very different career backdrops than my own. A big part of coworking culture is networking across the office and meeting people in different companies and industries than yourself. For both of my days in Lake Tahoe, I was the only person in the office with a software job. A lot of the other people in the office were focused on environmental activism, civil and structural engineering, and a few were in school.
4. Respect the office
Treat the coworking space much like you would your regular office. People are there to work and need time to focus. While I enjoy getting to know people, I only do so it natural breaks during the workday. When meeting the host of the office, try to get all of the basic questions out of the way like:
- How do I get on the Internet?
- Where is the bathroom?
- Can I use a conference room?
- Are coffee and snacks included?
- By what time do I need to leave?
The host usually has some other job and isn’t fully dedicated to running the space. Don’t over tax him or her with multiple interruptions.
5. Optimize your tasks for coworking
Your coworking space is very different than your regular office or even a home office. Certain kinds of work won’t be good while coworking. I find focused, individual work, with light Internet usage tends to be best for coworking spaces. I’m not straining the office’s resources nor am I being loud (and a burden) for others in the office. Conference calls are distracting for everyone in the office unless you have use of a private room. Very high speed Internet isn’t always a given. Unless you hear from the host directly that truly high speed bandwidth is available, I use the airplane test. If airplane Internet isn’t good enough to get my task done, it’s likely not a great candidate for a coworking space.
Coworking is a great way to extend your reach in a different area. It allowed me to have a really fun motorcycle trip throughout Lake Tahoe and the Sierras. With a little bit of planning coworking can be an extremely enriching activity and will remain a regular part of my desired work culture.