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Flexibility Attracting Business of All Shapes & Sizes to Coworking

Susan Post Susan Post Flexibility Attracting Business of All Shapes & Sizes to CoworkingDedicated desks and private offices at Serendipity Labs Short North. Photo by Susan Post.
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Five years ago, Columbusites would have struggled to find even a handful of coworking spaces in the city. Now, there’s over 25 to choose from, representing small, single-location operations, to locally-owned franchises, to national chains.

Coworking spaces bring a spectrum of workers from different businesses together to a communal office where they can choose a set up that fits their needs, like a private office or an open workspace. Coworking generally offers a shorter time commitment and more flexibility that a traditional office lease. Shared amenities like WiFi or copying are included in a tenant’s monthly rate, lowering the barrier to getting a business up and running.

If people aren’t familiar with the coworking concept, they soon will be. Research confirms coworking has been growing – and there’s no signs of slowing. Commercial real estate professional services firm JLL finds that these flexible workspaces have grown at an average annual rate of 23 percent since 2010. They are also the primary growth driver within the U.S. office market.

Looking at the global market, coworking conference GCUC estimates that the number of spaces worldwide will grow from 14,411 in 2017 to nearly 30,500 by 2022. That will represent a potential membership growth from 1.74 million individuals to more than 5 million.

Kelly Cox, general manager of Serendipity Labs Columbus Downtown, says the growth of the industry speaks to the modern age of convenience. In today’s on-demand society, people want what they want on the spot, and can find that flexibility in their workspace through coworking.

Coworking offices like Serendipity Labs offer a variety of options to their tenants. There’s the obvious, like a desk or a private office, but also options like a business mailing address, a local phone number, access to meeting and conference rooms, or event space.

“We can take all of these things and piece them together in a way that creates an environment or a perceived environment for a small business who is looking to grow,” Cox says.

The modular approach helps business owners stay in budget by picking and choosing the services that they need.

Cox says this has been a big attractor of clientele – a pool she describes as a mile wide and an inch deep.

Coworking is often seen as a means of ending isolation for freelancers or consultants. Out of the home office or the coffee shop, entrepreneurs organically interact, turning strangers into potential business parters or customers.

Taking it further, coworking offers a viable option for small teams looking for something beyond a traditional, long-term lease.

“There are those individuals and those organizations who are maybe not ready for the traditional office space, or maybe they don’t ever care to have that level of three-to-five year commitment and that level of responsibility in terms of just managing your office space,” Cox says. “They get to focus on their business.”

There’s a perception that these two camps can equate to a lot of younger, tech-focused workers – which are certainly part of the demographic – but Cox says, “I do see a lot of people that are more mature in their professions looking to a space like this as well and trusting us to work with them and make their business successful.”

Serendipity Labs has had app developers, event planners, authors, energy companies, graphic designers, attorneys and more utilize their space. They’ve also seen more and more larger organizations finding ways to make flexibility work for them.

Cox sees larger companies using coworking to attract younger or different talent that historically wants to work from home or work remotely. Coworking spaces can also be a good stepping stone for a bigger company looking to establish itself in a new market. They can easily exit if it’s not a fit, or move on to a more traditional office space as operations grow.

Differentiation will become key as the coworking industry continues to grow. These shared offices are finding ways to tailor themselves to their clientele and the neighborhoods in which they are located.

For Serendipity Labs, the differentiator starts with being purpose-built. Coworking is their business. Cox says they also make a point to stay plugged into neighborhood organizations and civic associations, which provides topics of interest for events and involvements that can build awareness in the greater community.

Events, both professional and social, take coworking from a work style to a lifestyle. Coworking can provide the community that a freelancer or small business otherwise wouldn’t have access to. As the popularity of coworking continues to grow, work-life balance will shift to work-life integration.

This mutli-part sponsored series on co-working in Columbus is presented with paid support by Serendipity Labs.

Serendipity Labs is introducing a network of inviting, inspirational members-only workplaces to Columbus, Ohio. We have combined state-of-the-art workplace design, technology, and security with the highest service level standards to deliver a consistent and peerless workplace experience.

Our mission is to deliver an upscale, hospitality-based workplace experience that can serve as an extension for businesses and a home base for established, independent professionals.

Learn more about coworking in Columbus, including Serendipity’s Downtown & Short North Locations in The Metropreneur’s Coworking & Creative Workspaces Guide.

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