Whether you’re a digital nomad, remote worker, or an employee at a startup, co-working spaces aim to provide you with the opportunity to curate your ideal work life. And when it comes to the perks of memberships, we have so many to choose from.
Most spaces provide the obligatory strong coffee and fast Wi-Fi, of course. But depending on the space, you might also have access to on-site gyms, relaxation treatments, or even break rooms complete with arcade games to offset the stress of your day.
Those extras might sound like random incentives on offer to tempt you to sign up (and they might be), but you can also use them to your advantage. They can improve your mood, boost your productivity, and even enhance your professional development.
Here’s how all those perks can do more than distract you from your to-do list and actually help you build your career.
1. You Can Focus on the Work, Not the Logistics
It almost goes without saying that conducting face-to-face meetings in an actual workspace rather than a random coffee shop makes you look more professional—whether it’s to impress prospective clients or carry out a job interview.
Noël Duan, a writer and the founder and CEO of Argos & Artemis, used to find it challenging to find a suitable coffee shop in New York where she could hold a meeting. “You would get there and couldn’t find a seat or it would be really loud and then I would be really embarrassed,” says Duan, who became a founding member of The Wing, a membership club and network of spaces for women.
Now there’s always seating and coffee available to have a casual catch-up with a long-time partner in a communal space or to pitch a prospective client in a conference room. And she can focus on the meeting, not on the surroundings.
When you’re not rushed, stressed, or relying on unpredictable amenities, your meetings will be more productive—and potentially more profitable. It might sound like a small advantage, but the benefits add up over time.
2. You Can Upskill Your Workforce (Even if That’s Just You!)
A key perk of most memberships is the access you have to professional development opportunities, such as seminars, panel discussions, or workshops. Duan, for instance, has taken part in workshops at The Wing on investment and branding to expand her knowledge in areas that are important to her business.
The possibilities run the gamut. At Galvanize, for example, you can study coding and machine learning, and at Hacker Lab you can get hands-on training in woodworking, 3D printing, and studio photography.
Amber Monaco, Community Manager at Bridge Space in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, curates an education program with at least five free events per month, including legal, accounting, and social media training. Monaco points out that on-site opportunities like the ones she organizes are practical options for those who might not have the resources to spend on training and development, such as freelancers or members of a small team.
“It’s unrealistic to think that a company is going to pay for one or two people from the team to leave for a three-day conference,” she says. Factor in accommodation and travel and the expenses accumulate. In the context of a co-working space, you can attend as and when you need to. It saves time and money—and if there is a work emergency, you’re only steps away from your office!
Community managers are also conscious of how their members organize their time and schedule events accordingly. If you can’t step away from your work during traditional working hours, look out for “lunch and learn” programs or evening events.
With so many options for professional enrichment at most co-working spaces, you can discover new ways of working and brush up on your existing skills and knowledge to help drive your career forward.
3. You’ll Enable Organic Networking and Team Building
Co-working spaces don’t just put on work trainings and offer development opportunities. They also host a variety of social events, from pasta-making classes to guest speaker talks. These activities are a fun way to break up your schedule, sure, but they also enable you to meet new people without forcing connections.
“Personally I am not someone who likes to go to events that are made for networking,” says Duan. “I hate having to introduce myself and having a business card and people trying to figure out what they can get from you.” Instead, she values interesting programming which allows for natural conversation, so that, for example, “when I go see Hannah Gadsby speak I can just say hi to the person sitting next to me instead of feeling like we’re networking.”
For Duan, these serendipitous interactions have developed into professional collaborations. “The whole reason I’m starting my company is through mentors and people I’ve met through my co-working space,” she says. By making casual acquaintances, you build up a network of people to call on in the future: Maybe you’ll find someone to exchange ideas with, approach for advice, or even hire at a later stage in your business.
These social events are also a great way to connect with your own team. And getting to know your colleagues outside of work helps create stronger bonds, makes for a more pleasant working environment, and pushes everyone to do better work with one another’s support.
It’s also important to remember that while a co-working environment can be an incubator for innovative ideas, your career and business will flourish if you extend your outreach beyond other members. “I think the greatest perk for our members is integrating the larger business community into our building,” says Monaco.
It’s not uncommon for local business owners to attend events at Bridge Space, which has strong relationships with key networks like the Chamber of Commerce, the school board, and even the mayor. Making connections with the people and businesses beyond your shared co-working space can be instrumental in moving your career forward in a specific location.
4. You’ll Cultivate Creativity
Make the most of not being in a traditional office environment and soak up your surroundings for inspiration and motivation.
Some of that can come from the space itself. According to a study by researchers from Harvard University, Syracuse University, and SUNY Upstate Medical University, a greener office environment can have a positive effect on your productivity.
Some setups, such as Green Spaces in Denver, are specifically designed for sustainable co-working with natural light and even outdoor spaces.
You can also find stimulation in the people and events around you. Your co-members are all kinds of different people doing different things, and just a friendly chat at the coffee machine can provide new perspectives and ideas to enhance your work. Even taking advantage of the professional development opportunities and social events can refresh how you work so that you don’t get stuck in a stale routine.
5. You Can Make Time for Wellness At Work
It can be easy to neglect personal care or sacrifice gym commitments when you’re swamped with work. But a co-working space that integrates work with wellness could accommodate a demanding schedule that still allows for activities that sustain your mental and physical health.
“There are moments where I know it’s gonna be a very busy period with my clients and any moment I spend outside of [work] I feel personally will be a waste of my time,” says Beverly Rose Nevalga, a communications strategist and digital nomad who uses daily or weekly passes instead of a full-time membership. “So if there happens to be an extra perk where they can bring in those other benefits—like yoga [or] haircuts—and that aligns with my schedule I’m very open to that.”
Don’t forget that even if your co-working space doesn’t offer these types of perks in-house, your membership could give you access to deals with local gyms and other lifestyle facilities. So although you’ll have to leave your building, you won’t have to travel too far.
And if the offerings in and around your co-working space make it easier to sustain your well-being, you’ll be in a healthier state both physically and mentally to cope with the demands of your work.
If you’re paying for a membership at a co-working space, why not make the most of all the perks that come with it? Stop viewing it simply as a space with unlimited refreshments and stylish seating and start using it to your advantage: to develop your skills, find inspiration, and drive your career forward.
Photo of people at a workshop courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Naomi is a freelance writer based in the UK. She writes extensively about arts culture and work culture. Naomi is also a theatre-maker and enjoys devising projects with collaborators as well as performing her own work.More from this Author