As the number of startup incubators and accelerators has continued to climb, so, too, has demand for flexible workspaces that cater to early-stage companies with big ideas and small budgets. For many, a shared office is a logical "next step" after graduating from an incubator environment, allowing them to enjoy many of the same benefits - state-of-the-art amenities, networking opportunities and a downtown address - at a price they can afford.
Yet startups account for only a portion of shared office users, with everyone from freelancers to national and international companies utilizing these spaces to reduce overhead while growing their respective businesses.
Just as there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to office design, there's no single user for the shared office environment. Many people, regardless of their profession, want the social benefits of an open coworking space while maintaining some level of privacy and professionalism.
The majority of shared office users fall into one of four categories, each of which benefits from the collaborative work environment in different ways:
- Freelancers - Freelancers may be on a first-name basis with their local barista, but that hasn't kept them from exploring more professional alternatives to their local coffee shop, where everything from noisy espresso machines to a shoddy internet connection threaten to undermine productivity. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the shared office environment is the built-in professional network, which can lead to new business opportunities, whether it's a fellow freelancer who needs assistance with a one-off project, or an established company looking for a part-time copywriter. Most shared office providers also host regular networking events for their clients, giving freelancers yet another opportunity to mingle with their peers and, ideally, secure new business.
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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space.
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