Company Culture

Why Starting Out in a Coworking Space is Good for Your Startup

Since the inception of coworking spaces in 2005 at Spiral Muse by Brad Neuberg, the practice has spread to major countries in Asia and Europe.

So, What was so Great About Coworking?

The emergence of a 'Coworking space' provided a great networking platform that balanced independence of self-employment with involvement in a community of working with others. This appealed to entrepreneurs and freelancers, leading to a widespread adoption.

According to an infographic released by Officevibe, 70% of coworkers felt healthier than they did while working in a traditional office setting.

Source:    officevibe.com

It also reported that 40% of workforce will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors, and solopreneurs by 2020. These findings signify the growth of a coworking culture in future.

Is Coworking a Great Idea for Startups?

Anthony Marinas, the sales and marketing manager at Grimes, puts it simply in 'The State of Coworking in 2015',  that people now want to be a part of a community and not a company.

Stressing on how coworking is a great option for most startups, Anthony further explains-

Instead of working with a team of 2-3 members, working in an environment surrounded by 100 people on a daily basis, gives you an opportunity to make a professional as well as personal connection.

This not only cuts down your office space budget but also opens up the possibility of bringing forth innovations with other like-minded people.

Coworking Space or Traditional Office Space: What is Right for You?

As Rebekah Kowalski, VP & Principal Consultant at Right Management shared her views in an interview for Centre for the Study of the Workplace. During the interview she said, to choose between a coworking space or a traditional office space, businesses need to evaluate their workforce and understand their employees’ needs.

To help you arrive at a decision, here are some questions that you should be asking yourself:

  1. What is your office culture and what do you want it to be?
  2. What is right for your workplace profile?
  3. What are you trying to achieve?
  4. Who are your talents and what are their needs?

However, if you prefer control over your work environment or crave for a personal space, a traditional office space is a better option for you.

When it comes to cash flow, coworking spaces become an attractive option as economy and resources are shared. Unlike traditional startup costs, like office furniture, Internet & telephone bills, utility & service charges, etc., in a coworking space, you are not required to spend a lot of cash upfront. It lets you focus on your growth.

In a story published at Nerd Wallet, Nick Clark, founder of The Common Desk, maintains that a business could save 75% in total costs in opting for a coworking space, making substantial savings over the years!

Various Benefits of Opting for a Coworking Space

1. Affordable Office Space in Prime Locations

For a small business, one of the biggest challenges is getting an office space in prime areas while they are still bootstrapping. Saving this trouble, coworking spaces provide affordable in-demand spaces, the types of offices and locations that you couldn’t otherwise afford to have.

Once you have chosen the place, you can get to the work right away as the amenities and utilities are already set up.

2. The Flexibility and Scalability for Startups

Another major benefit of opting for coworking is the flexibility of accommodating changes to the size of the team. Whether your business expands or contracts, you can easily upgrade or downgrade your space requirements anytime as needed without requiring a yearlong commitment from you.

In most coworking spaces, you can opt for a one-time pass, monthly, or yearly membership plan accordingly. You can also opt for a private office or an open coworking space.

It also gives you the flexibility to change your location as you please since your leasing terms are not binding.  

3. Collaboration: All in One Place

It gives you the opportunity to collaborate with a community of  talented people from different professions who you otherwise might have never necessarily interacted with. It provides an opportunity to trade skills to get a project done, or outsource projects to other teams when they are more specialized than you.

As Dodd Caldwell, founder of Loft Resumes and MoonClerk, explains in 'The Future of Coworking and Why it Will Give Your Business A Huge Edge,' sometimes it is as simple as tapping someone outside of your team on the shoulder and asking their opinion. Other times, it is catching a quick whiteboard sessions with other team(s).

Cutting to the chase, coworking gives you the opportunity to tackle and solve problems from a variety of angles.

How do You Know Which Coworking Space is Right for You?

With the boom in coworking spaces, you can choose one that focuses on a particular industry or varied ones. A focused space gives you the benefit of working with people who are thinking about the exact problem that you are thinking about and thus, leading to a greater productivity.

In a coworking space that is open to varied industries, you are surrounded by professionals coming from different backgrounds, where you get more ideas for running your business successfully. This diversity in turn promotes your creativity by giving you a perspective on things each time.

To find the right working space for you, here is a to-do list for you:

  • Make a list of things that you would like in your workplace and the things you would hate.
  • Visit the workspace and find out the things you like about it. Ask yourself if they will make you more productive.
  • Find out if their work culture fits yours. For example, if you are looking for a more focused space, then you should opt for one that has the flexibility of private work stations.
  • Find the coworking space that offers simple registration, billing and leasing terms. 

Most importantly, while you are short-listing coworking spaces to work in, remember to choose the one where members are complementary to each other and not competitive.

According to Deskmag’s annual Global Coworking Survey, 71% of professionals reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space, 62% in an improved work quality.

Therefore, if you are an entrepreneur with a small team seeking to lease a private office, you should consider leasing a coworking space before you sign the final contract.

10 Examples of Companies With Fantastic Cultures

Having a great company culture is no longer just an option. Today’s workers consider it as much as they consider salary and benefits. In fact, fantastic company culture is almost expected along with other traditional benefits.

While the culture that works for one company might not work for another, you can learn a lot from companies who are doing it right, and get started on company culture hacks of your own.

1. Zappos

Zappos has become almost as well known for its culture as it is for the shoes that it sells online. What does that culture look like?

It starts with a cultural fit interview, which carries half the weight of whether the candidate is hired. New employees are offered $2,000 to quit after the first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them.Ten core values are instilled in every team member. Employee raises come from workers who pass skills tests and exhibit increased capability, not from office politics. Portions of the budget are dedicated to employee team building and culture promotion.

Great benefits and a workplace that is fun and dedicated to making customers happy all fit in with the Zappos approach to company culture -- when you get the company culture right, great customer service and a great brand will happen on its own.

Takeaway: Zappos ires according to cultural fit first and foremost. It has established what the company culture is, and fitting into that culture is the most important thing managers look for when hiring. This promotes the culture and happy employees, which ultimately leads to happy customers.

2. Warby Parker

Warby Parker has been making and selling prescription glasses online since 2010. It designs its own glasses, and sells directly to customers, cutting out the middleman and keeping prices low.

Company culture at Warby Parker instigates “culture crushes,” and one reason for that level of success is a team dedicated to culture. That team means that a positive culture is on the forefront, setting up fun lunches, events and programs. The company makes sure that there is always an upcoming event so the entire team has something to look forward to, and it uses methods to make sure the entire team works well together by insisting everyone helps keep break areas clean or sending random employees out to lunch together.

Takeaway: Warby Parker has made company culture deliberate by creating a dedicated team tasked with coming up with events and programs to promote community. Great company culture doesn’t happen on its own.

3. Southwest Airlines

The airline industry is often mocked for grumpy employees and poor customer service, but Southwest Airlines bucks those trends. Customers loyal to Southwest often point to happy and friendly employees who try hard to help.

Southwest isn’t new to the game. It’s been in operation for 43 years. Yet somehow, during all that time, the company has managed to communicate its goals and vision to employees in a way that makes them a part of a unified team. Southwest also gives employees “permission” to go that extra mile to make customers happy, empowering them to do what they need to do to meet that vision.

Takeaway: Employees who are convinced of a larger common goal are people who are excited to be part of a larger purpose.

4. Twitter

Employees of Twitter can’t stop raving about the company’s culture. Rooftop meetings, friendly coworkers and a team-oriented environment in which each person is motivated by the company’s goals have inspired that praise.

Employees of Twitter can also expect free meals at the San Francisco headquarters, along with yoga classes and unlimited vacations for some. These and many other perks are not unheard of in the startup world. But what sets Twitter apart?

Employees can’t stop talking about how they love working with other smart people. Workers rave about being part of a company that is doing something that matters in the world, and there is a sense that no one leaves until the work gets done.

Takeaway: You can’t beat having team members who are pleasant and friendly to each other, and are both good at and love what they are doing. No program, activity or set of rules tops having happy and fulfilled employees who feel that what they are doing matters.

5. Chevron

While oil and gas companies are prime targets for a lot of negative PR and public ire, Chevron employees responded favorably towards the company’s culture. Employees compared Chevron with other similar companies and pointed out “the Chevron way” as being one dedicated to safety, supporting employees and team members looking out for each other.

Chevron shows it cares about employees by providing health and fitness centers on site or through health-club memberships. It offers other health-oriented programs such as massages and personal training. Chevron insists employees take regular breaks. In other words, the company shows it cares about the well-being of employees, and employees know that they are valued.

Takeaway: Your company culture doesn’t have to be ping-pong tables and free beer. Simply providing employee's with a sense of safety and well-being and creating a policy where everyone looks out for each other can easily suffice.

6. SquareSpace

This successful startup is regularly voted as one of the best places to work in New York City. Its company culture is one that is “flat, open and creative.” A flat organization is one where there is no (or very few) levels of management in between staff and executives. This approach is more common among startups, and can be tricky to maintain as a company grows larger, generally requiring groups to form.

SquareSpace also offers robust benefits and perks, including 100 percent coverage of health insurance premiums, flexible vacations, attractive office space, catered meals, stocked kitchens, monthly celebrations, relaxation spaces and periodic guest lecturers. Solid benefits such as these help a culture, but are not the sole instigator of successful culture. Down-to-earth leaders and direct access to management have a great deal of impact.

Takeaway: Employees feel their voices can be heard when they aren’t muffled under layers of management. This level of freedom and empowerment creates confident employees and improves morale.

7. Google

It would almost seem wrong not to mention Google on a list of companies with great culture. Google has been synonymous with culture for years, and sets the tone for many of the perks and benefits startups are now known for. Free meals, employee trips and parties, financial bonuses, open presentations by high-level executives, gyms, a dog-friendly environment and so on. Googlers are known to be driven, talented and among the best of the best.

As Google has grown and the organization has expanded and spread out, keeping a uniform culture has proven difficult between headquarters and satellite offices, as well as among the different departments within the company. The larger a company becomes, the more that culture has to reinvent itself to accommodate more employees and the need for management.

While Google still gets stellar reviews for pay, perks and advancement, there are also some employees who note growing pains that you’d expect from such a huge company, including the stress associated with a competitive environment. Hiring and expecting the best from employees can easily become a stressor if your culture doesn’t allow for good work-life balance.

Takeaway: Even the best culture needs to revisit itself to meet a growing company’s team. The most successful company culture leads to successful business, and that requires an evolving culture that can grow with it.

8. REI

For outdoor enthusiasts, REI has long been the company to turn to for great gear. Employees of REI, a cooperative where profits benefit its member-owners, also agree that this is a place where greatness happens, even beyond the beloved camping and outdoor products. REI’s mission is to equip both customers and employees for the outdoors, not just to have fun but also in promoting stewardship of the environment.

REI says that its employees give “life to their purpose,” firmly attributing company success to workers. The CEO of REI has acknowledged thatemployees can get benefits anywhere, but allowing outdoors-oriented employees to immerse themselves in REI culture is what makes it unique. Employees can win equipment through “challenge grants” where they submit a proposal for an outdoor adventure that would be challenging. Regular townhall-style meetings are held where employees can submit questions anonymously to help management understand what’s happening in the company.

Takeaway: When your employees are completely immersed in the same interests as your company, the culture propels itself forward almost on its own. Culture that is owned and propelled by the same people puts value in their voices.

9. Facebook

Just like Google, Facebook is a company that has exploded in growth as well as being synonymous with unique company culture.

Facebook offers, as do many similar companies, lots of food, stock options, open office space, on-site laundry, a focus on teamwork and open communication, a competitive atmosphere that fosters personal growth and learning and great benefits.

Yet, Facebook has the same struggles as similar companies: a highly competitive industry leads to a sometimes stressful and competitive workplace. Additionally, a free and organic organizational structure that worked for the smaller organization is less successful for the larger one.

To meet these challenges, Facebook has created conference rooms, has separate buildings, lots of outdoor roaming space for breaks and has management (even CEO Mark Zuckerberg) working in the open office space alongside other employees. It’s an attempt at a flat organizational culture using the buildings and space itself to promote a sense of equality among the competition.

Takeaway: When your company depends on new hires who excel in a competitive field, your company culture and any associated perks will likely be the tipping point for applicants. You must stand out from other companies vying for attention.

10. Adobe

Adobe is a company that goes out of its way to give employees challenging projects and then provide the trust and support to help them meet those challenges successfully. While it offers benefits and perks like any modern creative company, Adobe's is a culture that avoids micromanaging in favor of trusting employees to do their best.

Adobe products are synonymous with creativity, and only through the avoidance of micromanaging are the people who create those products truly free to create. For example, Adobe doesn’t use ratings to establish employee capabilities, feeling that that inhibits creativity and harms how teams work. Managers take on the role of a coach, more than anything, letting employees set goals and determine how they should be assessed.

Employees are also given stock options so that they know they have both a stake and reward in the company’s success. Continual training and culture that promotes risk taking without fear of penalty are part of Adobe’s open company culture.

Takeaway: Putting trust in your employees goes a long way towards positive company culture, because trust leads to independent employees who help your company grow.

Conclusion

Many of these companies offer similar perks and benefits, but those do not determine the culture completely. The approach taken with how employees are treated and what level of ownership and trust they are given is also a key part of company culture.

One word of caution: focusing on company culture to the exclusion of other workforce considerations (safety, laws, regulations) can lead to abuses or create situations where employees aren’t comfortable. Even the best examples of culture on this list have detractors.

Remember that the best culture makes all employees feel safe and welcome, never excluded or uncomfortable. Focusing on “culture fit” alone makes it difficult to hire and welcome employees who are different than the prevailing culture, even if they’d be an asset and great counterbalance at your company. Your company culture needs adjustment if it causes you to end up with a homogenized team who think and act the same.

The article first appeared on Entreprenuer.com.