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Five tips for making your shared workspace work

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

The nature of work has changed, bringing with it the end of the traditional nine-to-five workday. Nowhere is this more true than among the entrepreneurs and freelancers who are poised to make up almost half of the workforce by 2020.

Here, the divide between work and life is being replaced by work/life integration, with professionals blending what they do personally and professionally to make both work.

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Co-working spaces are becoming a permanent fixture in the lives of these workers. Our major cities are already home to many – Vancouver alone has more than a dozen, while Toronto is pushing steadily toward two dozen shared offices. As individuals, these spaces consist of solo-preneurs and start-up companies. Together, they make up a new kind of company, with collaboration at its core.

In a time rich with co-working options, finding the one that will propel you and your business to boss status, can be difficult – who's to know whether you're best suited for a centrally-located space like iQ Office Suites in Toronto, or something a little further West, like HiVE Vancouver? The Internet is rife with resources designed to help you find co-working spaces in your area, and there's something to be said for keeping your ear to the ground and listening to where your peers are flocking outside of their home offices. Here are my top tips for deciphering which co-working space is right for you:

Understand your work style

Do you thrive in the hustle and bustle, do you crave solitude, or are you somewhere in the middle? Too many times we fail to understand our style of work, which like a fingerprint, is unique to us. The diversity and flexibility inherent in co-working spaces, affords members the option to work in the environment that best suits them. We use the Prevue HR assessment test at Spacekraft to help our members understand what kind of worker they are, optimizing how they work and who they work with.

You need to like the hardware

Many people are initially drawn to co-working for the high-speed Internet, access to the latest office tech, and desk space (without the overhead of being in an office). But, for others, the aesthetic of the office is the draw. Whether it's verging on boutique (think, The Profile Vancouver), or imbuing a more corporate vibe (like, WorkplaceTO), the key is to find a space that fits your needs and those of your business as you grow. This applies not only to the physical workspace, but its hours of operation. Some co-working spaces keep the traditional nine-to-five office hours, while others are open 24/7, giving members the freedom to set their own hours. And don't forget to consider your commute – time saved from a commute makes for a more efficient workday.

Choosing your membership perks

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Some co-working spaces offer benefits like health insurance, wellness packages, and events. co-working events can be just what an entrepreneur needs to push their idea to the next level of fruition. At Spacekraft, our Creating Genius events give members the chance to sit down with leaders across various industries, as they talk through topics tailored for aspiring entrepreneurs, and visionaries alike. It gives our members the opportunity to bounce their ideas off of the pros, bettering their business and, by extension, all of our co-working companies.

Discover your fellow co-workers

We all know who you work with matters, so take a look at the other co-workers and ask yourself, are these the individuals that will not only help you develop professionally but inspire you personally. This means finding a community of like-minded workers that you'll enjoy working with and around as you grow your business. Having a network of individuals from a myriad of industries and backgrounds at your disposal, each offering their insights and expertise, can play a huge role in growing your company.

Do the financials make sense?

Before you sign on that dotted line and commit to your (co-working) home, make sure you're not locking yourself into anything you don't need. While private desks generally hover around $400+/month, private offices can range from $1,000/month to upwards of $2,500/month in Toronto and Vancouver, so be honest about your financial position, and read the fine print – be sure you're signing the right kind of lease for your business now, and down the road. If your needs do change look for the ability to upsize or downsize as needed, into a daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly rental space contract. The right co-working space will give you the flexibility you need to grow, fostering a stress-free work zone that fits into your own work-life integration.

Darryl Bosa (@darrylbosa) is the Founder of Spacekraft, a hybrid co-working environment where members can take a front seat in creating their own unique experiences through peer-to-peer mentoring, education, and collaboration.

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