Susan Smith is a 20 year veteran of the Office Business Center industry. Throughout her career, she has strategically opened 20 business centers, developed propriety OBC software and systems, as well as managed, mentored, and trained hundreds of team members to strive to be the best they can be. As the Director of Training & Development for two of the largest business center operators in the U.S, she gives us her professional opinion about shared office space.
1.What’s the main benefit someone can take advantage of when working from a shared office space?
A shared office environment provides a source of social support for independent and remote workers. Working remotely means missing out on the human interaction and social aspects that being in an office provides. That means, a wide variety of people, personalities, and professions to make friends and business associates.
In fact, there have been several studies that support this, like a recent Harvard review which states that 83% of people reported being less lonely since joining a coworking space and 80% reported that they are happier and turn to other members for help or guidance.
In other words, we all need human interaction and a shared office environment is a perfect way to combat loneliness!
2. Do you recall any situation where different companies began working together after meeting in a shared office space?
Throughout my career of operating shared office centers, my goal was to get business for my clients. If they needed an attorney, accountant, marketing firm, etc., I was their go-to person for business resources. My best example would be a logistics company that I highlighted during a client breakfast. They were a start-up and needed a payroll provider, employee insurance, and an attorney. They found all three resources just a few doors down. If you bring business to your clients, your space becomes a valuable part of their company. I still have past clients calling me to help them fulfill a business need.
3. If someone comes from a very formal office space, what would you recommend if he is going to start working in a coworking space?
Some people would say to “ditch the suit”. I say be yourself and wear what makes you feel good. You will also have to adjust to a new noise level and keep in mind other ground rules like no speaker phones and having a private conversation in private. Your personal secretary is gone, so you will need to be self-sufficient and clean up after yourself. Remember, you are in a new environment that thrives on connections and collaboration. You are now part of a community and that means you need to get involved and share your experience.
4. What are some of the trends that will be expected in 2018 in coworking spaces?
There are so many trends and niches coming out of our industry this question could be a stand-alone article. I will just focus on the most recent one I discovered.
A few weeks ago, I met with Brian Cain with The Oak House in Canton, Georgia. Brian operates a coworking center located within a church. He is creating a church planting model that helps the church benefit from their under-utilized space and to get closer to their community. There are 168 hours in the week and for most of that time, the church sits vacant. The resources are there for a coworking model and most have daycare rooms available. I have discussed this with my pastor and we are in the process of creating our coworking center at GRACE Marietta. If you are in the area, stop by for a visit!
5. How can a business establish a collaborative culture in their workplace?
It starts from the top down. If your boss does not have an open door policy, then you won’t either. Openness, complete transparency, and trust are the cornerstone of collaboration. Your team has to feel safe to share new ideas and question outdated processes. Reward those who challenge the process, celebrate their personal life, encourage personal connections and smile.
6. If a company starts working in a fully furnished office space, how can they reflect their brand’s personality?
It all starts with the story. Does every team member know your company history? Do they believe in the solutions you provide? Do they feel that they directly contribute to the success of the business? Your team is your brand!
7. Why do you think business are opting to rent office space rather than buying office space?
The world is changing so rapidly that your 5 or 10-year business plan is obsolete in 12 months. Businesses need to pivot quickly and that includes real estate. We are seeing traditional space adapt to this trend by offering shorter term leases and open community spaces. Larger corporations are starting to understand the benefit of coworking to provide their team access to the next big development or to connect with their next customer segment. Coworking offers something for every stage of a business and beer.