Coworkers enjoy Impact Hub Melbourne. Photo by Deskmag.
The sharing economy now seems to apply to almost anything that people value. Beds, cars, parking spaces, sporting goods, music equipment, hardware, vegetable gardens, and more are now being shared between friends and strangers alike.
As such, it’s no surprise that the shared office economy is also thriving. Yet while a number of platforms facilitate the sharing of unused desk and meeting room space -- such as Australia’s Hotdesk, Germany’s Deskwanted, US-based Liquidspace, and the Netherland's Seats2Meet -- reaping the benefits of a collaborative environment requires more effort than simply listing your space.
There are a number of things to consider before, during, and after you’ve leased your space to ensure that you keep putting butts in seats and get the rewards we’ve come to love about coworking.
Before you list:
- Determine whether or not you need a sub-lease agreement. You may not need one for daily or weekly bookings, but for longer-term bookings, you may want to clearly define the terms and conditions of the lease. Contract a lawyer to write the agreement once and re-use it with all of your guests.
- Review local real estate sub-leasing obligations and ensure you comply with them to avoid being slugged with penalties. In most cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, sub-leasing doesn’t require you to do anything more than get informal permission from your landlord.
- Ensure that your space or the booking platform has sufficient public liability insurance protecting you against any Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) mishaps and potential lawsuits. The chance of either of these is remote, but both have the power to end a business if they do come to fruition. Don’t chance it.
- Take your listing to the next level by adding some professional photos of your space. Be sure to capture working areas, common areas, the building exterior, nearby attractions, and some happy coworkers in the space, too. Nothing makes prospective guests skip over your listing faster than a lack of quality photos.
- Be as descriptive as possible in your listing, and outline what sets your space apart from the rest. Is it the community, the design, the location, the occupants, the free beer fridge, or the sporadic NERF gun battles? Don’t hold back, sell your space!
During the guest’s stay:
So you’ve secured a booking, that’s awesome. There are a number of things you can do to keep guests coming back and inspire them to spread the word to other prospective guests.
- Be prepared: Ensure that somebody is tasked with welcoming the new tenant to the space, issuing any necessary access passes, and showing the guest both around the space and to her desk. The desk itself should be clean and clear and ready for the guest to simply plug in her laptop and get to work. Wifi passwords, printing instructions, and OH&S related disclosures, such as evacuation procedures, should all be communicated at this point. These materials should be printed out and distributed to all guests upon arrival.
- Build a community. What’s made coworking spaces successful over the past several years is the community aspect. Community is built on shared values and experiences. Cost effective and easy-to-implement initiatives like Friday night happy hour and office-wide communication platforms can go a long way toward building a community.
- At the end of your guest’s stay, don’t forget to retrieve any access passes.
After the guest’s stay:
- Send an email to the guest thanking her for the stay, and asking her for feedback and suggestions on how to improve your coworking space.
- Leave feedback for the guest on the booking platform you used, and be honest. The sharing economy depends on it.
- Ensure that you meet your financial and tax-reporting obligations by recording all transactions in your accounting system. Your booking platform should help facilitate this.
Most importantly, have fun! Coworking and shared office environments are all about having fun and doing away with the motivation-sapping homogeneity of traditional office cubicles. People do their best work in inspiring, lively environments. If you can provide that, you won’t have any problem sub-leasing your unused office space, and you might also enjoy going to the office more than you thought possible.
Steve Glaveski is founder of the Australian shared office space platform Hotdesk.com.au. He currently covers emerging tech, trends and observations of Australia's startup ecosystem for Shoestring.com.au and maintains a personal blog at Steveglaveski.com.