Where are the best shared working spaces?

What’s the big deal about shared working spaces?

Shared working spaces are one of the fastest growing environments to be used by startups, new & small businesses.  So why do people love them so much?

I really think you have to work in a shared office and experience it, to get a feel for it.  My first experience of a shared office was at Baltic Creative sheds.  Baltic Creative is unique in that all the “offices” are sheds – literally – in one big warehouse.  I have a friend who visited Baltic Creative in a hard-hat, when it was just an empty warehouse with a roof, she couldn’t believe the vision that Managing Director Mark Lawler and the team had for the creation of a shared space.  Suffice to say, it’s become a hugely successful venture with dozens of new businesses growing in the region as a result.

Is sharing good though?  Can you be productive in a shared space?

The best bits

We are taught to share by the responsible adults in our lives from an early age.  Sharing can be very good – 100% – the association of being in a shared workspace where other great businesses are located can do wonders for your start-up credibility.

The visibility you gain by being part of a bigger picture, also is really critical for start-ups and small businesses.  The opportunity to collaborate surely has to be the most popular, for small businesses, freelancers or those with only 1 or 2 employees, you can create a whole agency out of the numerous business from a shared working space – the designer, copywriter, videography, event organiser, app and website developer can all collaborate on many projects, share contacts and build their businesses quicker because of the shared space.

They are also a great place to be in if you literally are one or two people running your business, the benefits of having more people to interact with, to go to an office and feel like you are properly grown up and not sitting writing a proposal in your PJs with daytime TV on in the background*. (*talking about a friend…)

As well, there is often an event space as part of the co-working space. This can be perfect for small businesses who need to conduct private meetings and also for meeting together and collaborating ideas at events, generally over some pizza and beers.  (This is our personal favourite aspect of shared working spaces, but do we really still needs events?  You can see the answer to that question in this post here.)

And of course, it is cheaper and more flexible than committing to renting your own office.

It’s not all fun, food and shared business growth everyday though – what are the drawbacks?

The not-so-good bits

Sometimes you literally cannot move in a shared cafe space in a co-working area for people stopping you to say hi, ask how you are and generally catch up and chat.  Which is lovely generally, but when you’re on a deadline it can take an hour to get a coffee.

Having to build up credits for the meeting space – some spaces offer a meeting space, but only after you’ve built up enough credits – can be a pain.  This could potentially limit the time some businesses stay, as the ability to meet and connect with others is often critical to your business success.

Sometimes the access can be tricky, you can’t have visitors access your office directly, or occasionally it’s a rabbit warren trying to find your office… (Yes i’m talking about you We Work London!)

And what about dogs? Are pet dogs are the new must have accessory in offices?  There’s not many days when I go to shared office space and don’t come across a bounding furry dog!

I am fully aware people love dogs and generally pleasant and non-smelling dogs are well liked by most people (including me).  However, this new trend in bringing dogs to work, can make those people who dislike dogs feel uncomfortable and just “not in the gang”, or able to express their dog-dislike, as they will be seen as mean and un-accommodating.  Sadly, some people just don’t like dogs and don’t want to be jumped up at or slobbered on at every opportunity.  How about displaying a sign saying: “Well behaved, non-smelly dogs welcome” like they do at some pubs?

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So, shared workspaces do have their pros and cons but I think it’s pretty clear we’re big fans – the benefits definitely make up for any frustrations.  What’s left is to let you know about where some of the best one’s are…

Here’s a few suggestions:

London: We Work

Newcastle: Campus North

Campus North Newcastle

[Photo cred: The Next Web]

Brighton: The Skiff

The Skiff, Brighton[photo cred: The Skiff]

LiverpoolBaltic Creative sheds

Manchester: The Assembly

Bristol: 11 Backfields Lane

Bournemouth: PO Box 44

Which ones have you used?  Which other ones would you recommend?

Where are your favourites or do you have a favourite coffee or tea shop to work from?

Or… are you starting your own co-working space?  We’d love to hear about it!

Founder and Director @ Autumn Live Ltd

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