In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift both globally and locally from traditional stand-alone offices towards co-working spaces. Photo: File

DURBAN - In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift both globally and locally from traditional stand-alone offices towards co-working spaces. 

While the added flexibility and obvious cost efficiencies continue to drive this shift, the question of whether these proven benefits ultimately outweigh the potential drawbacks of co-working spaces remains up for debate.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, Spokesperson for the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition. She notes that shared working spaces are proving particularly popular among South African business owners.

"Broadly defined as membership-based workspaces for independent professionals seeking a communal working environment, co-working spaces are definitely gaining popularity among local entrepreneurs referring to the 2018 Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey which found that, while the majority of respondents still work from home, there has been an evident increase in entrepreneurs working from shared spaces over the years," said Mjadu.

Structured to provide the utmost in terms of flexibility, while allowing for professional collaboration at an affordable price-point, Mjadu says there is little mystery in why co-working spaces are deemed attractive by a growing number of entrepreneurs.

"In addition to offering a more affordable alternative to renting out a stand-alone office space, many of these co-working spaces also allow for shorter-term leasing arrangements. With the option to hire desks on a daily or even hourly basis, business owners are no longer forced to commit to a fixed-term lease with a set monthly capital outlay," explained Mjadu. 

However, Mjadu does warn that a shared working environment is by no means suitable for everyone. The potential high noise levels and lack of privacy in these shared spaces can be disruptive and troublesome, especially for entrepreneurs who may be working with sensitive data or intricate research in their day-to-day business proceedings.

With that being said, for entrepreneurs who have made the decision to go the route of a co-working office, Mjadu offers some advice on what to look for in a winning shared space. While most co-working spaces will offer similar basics, like a desk and internet connection, it is important that business owners do their research on what else is available to ensure that they get their money’s worth and have access to all the resources they need.

In addition to stable and high-speed internet, some entrepreneurs may require the use of a landline, printers, or other office specific equipment, while others may need access to conference rooms to host client meetings from time to time,” she explains, adding that it is critical to confirm whether these resources come at an extra cost, or are included in the rental price.

Over and above physical resources, however, Mjadu emphasises the importance of finding a co-working space that feels like a community. Feeling comfortable is a non-negotiable when it comes to choosing a co-working space, but some spaces go one step further by providing a real sense of entrepreneurial community and inspiration.

"So, in looking for the right co-working space, it’s important that you and your colleagues physically go to the office space in your area to get a real feel for the ambiance and atmosphere. After all, a co-working space can be more than just an office, as it offers the invaluable opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and establish potentially fruitful business relationships," concluded Mjadu.