Shared Workspace Pitfalls


Thinking of sharing workspace with one of your major clients?

Be very wary with shared workspace where there is an existing business relationship with each other as supplier/buyer as one relationship can affect the other when things go wrong. If the relationship deteriorates then your shared work space may disappear overnight.

One of the biggest issues for startups is cost and the ability to control costs is an important element especially when you are at the early stages of starting your business, you want as many as your resources as possible going towards growing your business and not to your landlord's business!

When an office or workspace is shared it allows the people who share the space to share the costs - so if you share a space with one friend for example, your costs dramatically reduce by half. Getting more friends or colleagues in on the action reduces your cost even further, so sharing space can be a godsend when you need to keep costs to a minimum.

One of people's main concerns when sharing office space is will they get along with the other people in the office? Will there be a noise problem (with them or others making too much noise), will they like the people in the office? Will they be able to leave easily if they don't like it? All these questions will normally be racing through your mind as you hunt for that perfect space.

The first port of call would usually be to ask existing clients, or friends or colleagues if they know anyone who has spare capacity in their offices to fit you in. If that doesn't turn up anything suitable then searching google or gumtree for shared workspaces is the next port of call. These searches can bring back literally hundreds or thousands of results and it can be quite daunting to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Which one's are any good? how can you get feedback for existing businesses in the workspaces?

Doing some Googling around the space might bring about some extra information, like what businesses are located there at the same address but it will often be difficult to find feedback on any space which is mainly made up of one large company renting out some extra-to-requirements desk space - after all they are not in the business of providing desk space, just topping up their income and helping themselves to pay their own office rent.

One of the benefits of renting space from a client is that it makes it easier for that client to use your services and therefore may very well start using your services more and more, so you get more income simply by your proximity to one of your clients (when in sight, in mind). The downside is that your client will expect you to drop everything and work on their requirement and unless you draw certain work boundaries they may start expecting you to put their work at  top priority ahead of all your other clients, thus lowering your overall productivity with constant interruptions and 'urgent' tasks.

You may well get the impression that your needs are put to one side and that you are the ‘David’ in a 'David and Goliath' relationship - after all - it is their office and they can choose to do as they wish within reason. They get to choose if music is played, whether food can be eaten at the desk, even what type of milk gets ordered - and you need to fit in, without much of a vote to change any of it.

So without control of your environment you are at the mercy of your host - they may fit your requirements perfectly and you get lucky, or as often happens the initial harmony may change because your host's needs change - perhaps they are growing and now need that space for their own staff, or perhaps they no longer want to use your services so would prefer if you left and found some other shared office space.

The possibilities for issues such as these are endless - all based on the inequity between the people who are the original tenants in the office (the leaseholders or owners) - being in effect your landlord and therefore not being your equal but being a supplier of services. If those services were been supplied 'below cost' because of a special relationship between you (their supplier) and them then if the relationship changes then your tenability for having space at their office may also change.

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