01/15/2015 07:54 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

Shared Office Sprawl Creates Conveniences -- And Headaches -- For Business Owners

In business, it's all about location, location, location -- a mantra that rings especially true when it comes to finding and leasing office space.

A 2013 office tenant survey conducted by BOMA International found that more than half of the 1,261 respondents consider proximity to clients and public transportation a "high" or "very high" priority when searching for office space. In addition, 49 percent of tenants surveyed said being downtown is a must, while more than a third ranked being close to current and prospective employees as a top priority.

But as any office tenant will tell you, all of these "wish list" items come at a cost -- one that many small business owners may not be able to afford. That is, unless they lease space in a shared office environment.

While the majority of shared offices have some common attributes -- most are more affordable than traditional office space and facilitate teamwork and collaboration -- not all shared office centers are alike, especially in terms of location. As the market has become increasingly crowded, shared offices have spread from the central business districts of Chicago and other major U.S. cities into new neighborhoods that, historically, have been more residential than commercial. That's good news for entrepreneurs who already live in these neighborhoods and want their office to be closer to home, but can create headaches for clients and employees who have to commute from other areas, potentially undermining a company's growth.

Below are three location-related questions every business should ask when considering a shared office in a non-core location:

  1. How far away are major expressways? In some neighborhoods, it can take 15 minutes or longer to reach a main thoroughfare during peak travel times. It's therefore important to consider how accessible the location is for people who are driving to your office. A drive that takes 30 minutes at 2:30 p.m. could take an hour or more in the morning and evening rush.
  2. Is public transportation available? A growing number of U.S. households do not own a car, according to a 2014 study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. This is especially noticeable in larger cities like D.C., New York and Chicago, where public transit is readily available. By choosing an office center near train and bus stops, which are typically concentrated in downtown districts, businesses can save car-less visitors from expensive cab rides and long walks that cut into their workday.
  3. Are there any alternative modes of transportation? Bike-sharing programs have popped up in cities across the country, providing residents with an alternative mode of transportation that's available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Today, many young professionals want to have this option, even if they don't take advantage of it on a daily basis. As a result, businesses should consider "bike-ability" - that is, proximity to bike-share stations and designated bike routes - when searching for a shared office, and ensure there are bike racks and/or secure rooms on-site where bikes can be stored. Cities like Chicago, New York and Seattle also offer water taxi services as an alternative transportation option for those who prefer a more leisurely commute to work.

While office centers in non-core locations may look similar to their downtown counterparts, they often lack the one thing that matters most to clients and employees: accessibility. A downtown address allows shared office tenants to cross off almost every item on their wish list - all at a fraction of the cost of traditional office space - without inconveniencing the people who will help them grow and manage their business.


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. For more information, visit