Collaborative WorkspaceOk. So you’ve managed to get your freelance business up and running – you’re getting tons of work and the money is flowing in on a regular basis. But there’s one big difference compared to the job you had in that office down the street – you’re the only person in the office! You can no longer torture Steve about Friday’s party  or get relationship advice from Sherry. You are now stuck talking to yourself or listening to the refrigerator make funny noises because you are now alone!

If you recently figured out that working from home can be a very boring lifestyle, you are not alone. When I first started working from home, I felt in total control – I created my own schedule, ate lunch when I wanted, and ran errands on my own schedule – until I gained a few pounds and found myself being less social compared to my office job several years ago. Once I realized that working from home offered no social opportunities, I began to realize that something had to change.

After having a discussion with my brother-in-law about this situation, he had mentioned working in a collaborative workspace.

What is Collaborative Workspace?

The concept of collaborative workspace is simple – it’s an area where several home-based business owners come together and work in a single location. When you consider that renting a physical office space yourself can be expensive, combined with the loss of social interaction that you had from your past jobs, the concept of collaborative workspace makes sense. And there’s a hidden benefit – collaborative workspace offers you the ability to network with other people who have a diverse set of skills. If you’re a web developer who runs into an obstacle during setting up a program, then there just might be another web developer who has the solution you need, right in the same room.

How Much Does Collaborative Workspace Cost?

There are a few options when it comes to the cost of collaborative workspace. Some workspace centers will charge a monthly fee for you to use their facilities, or you might pay a fee for some of the services provided inside of the workspace. For example, you might pay a small fee for using the Internet, making copies, or using their audio/video studio.

Do you own a business and employ several employees who need workspace? That also shouldn’t be a problem. Collaborative workspace provides a solution for you and your employees to reserve a specific space inside of the room. You will pay a fee to rent this space – it can run anywhere from $250-$500 per month and it will likely depend on how many employees you have and the type of business that you run. But you can have a full-time office of your own and pay much less for this space compared to that of an office building.

Collaborative workspace can also be entirely FREE. I currently use workspace at a free facility located here in Chandler, AZ called Gangplank. There are fees to use a reserved space on a monthly basis; however, you are allowed to walk in at any time and use their FREE workspace on a first-come, first-serve basis. As long as you have your own computer and there’s space at the table, you can use their Internet connection and all of the amenities for FREE. Gangplank is able to provide this type of workspace for free because they have a contract with the local municipality that facilitates a win/win environment for both parties. Gangplank is able to provide local workers with low-cost services while the municipality gets the benefit of using the skills and services provided by the contractors who work there. For example, if the municipality needs changes to their website, Gangplank is required to provide those services for FREE to the municipality, even if the contractor has to be paid. Workers who use the facility’s free services on a regular basis are encouraged to help contribute to the workspace community when a task needs to be done, which I’m finding works fairly well. No one is “required” to follow through on helping out, although there is a sense of accountability at the facility.

What Are The Drawbacks?

Although collaborative workspace is a great solution for home-based workers, a few minor drawbacks exist, although in my opinion they seem to be minor. The first time that I visited Gangplank, I noticed that working in the FREE workspace was somewhat noisy. Although you do have the option to use one of the private rooms in the facility, you will most likely experience distractions in the workspace at all times. If you’re the type of person that needs complete quiet in order to complete your work, this might be an obstacle for you.

Another drawback is that you will likely become part of the community in some form or another, even if you decide not to become a paid member. Especially in a FREE environment, there are other members who are looking for help in running the workspace. You might be asked to volunteer for certain tasks, such as taking out trash, cleaning the workspace tables, or making coffee. The point is that, although you’re not required to take part in the community work, you will likely be encouraged on a consistent basis to take responsibility. If you’re not ready to do this, it might be an obstacle for you.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the benefits of collaborative workspace far outweigh the costs. If you’re looking to get out of your home and experience a more social work environment, then you can’t go wrong with collaborative workspace. In addition, the costs of using the workspace are low and you will likely be able to utilize the help of other workers if you need it. Other benefits include being able to use copiers, fax machines, or even using the facility’s refrigerator to store your lunch.

I challenge you to try a collaborative workspace on a consistent basis for at least 3 months to see if it works for you. Again, it all depends on your work style and preferences, and your ability to handle distractions that are normally not found in a home-based office.

So get out there and give it 100%! Leave us your comments to tell us about your experience!

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