Coworking enters the mainstream

By Martin Lenkowsky

The concept of companies sharing workspaces is not new, says Laura Kozelouzek, CEO and founder of Quest Workspaces.

“Sharing of space has been around for decades,” she says. “It’s evolved based on workers’ needs and how technology has changed the workplace.” Plus, it’s undergone a name change: “It’s been rebranded ‘coworking,’ and with its most recent popularity, it’s becoming mainstream,” Kozelouzek says.

Executive Suites and Shared Workspaces, which are the subject of this issue’s The List on page 68, have many advantages from both a business and social standpoint.

“Nowadays, people want flexibility in business,” Kozelouzek says. “Long-term leases are very costly and time-consuming. The biggest benefit and draw of coworking is, it provides the applicant the ability to connect, elaborate and attract. People working together can help one another. They can draw on each other’s experience and collaborate.”

Another advantage is socialization, by enabling people to feel they belong to a larger group, she adds.

Asa Sealy, the CEO and branding specialist of A Branding Shop, agrees. His company shares office space on Miami’s Brickell Avenue through Quest Workspaces. “The biggest advantage of coworking is, it gives us access to other companies,” he says. “It’s a light environment. The center programs a lot of outside activities. I applaud them for that.”

Sealy’s company specializes in helping other companies brand and market themselves. By working in proximity to other firms, he’s been able to establish new clients.

Coworking is particularly attractive to work-at-home individuals looking to establish a “virtual address” oftentimes in a prestigious building. Renting even a small space provides access to communal areas, programs and workshops. Companies also can book conference rooms and other space at a center. “It gives them the ability to mingle with others in the lounge,” says Kozelouzek. “It gives a company an opportunity to have a bigger ‘footprint’ at a lower cost.”

Sharing office space is also popular among business people who travel frequently and want to avoid working in relative isolation.

Other amenities available to coworkers might be a full cafe serving—in some cases—lunch and breakfast, as well as informal chatrooms called “huddle” spaces, more formalized conference rooms and boardrooms.

Micki Scavone, general manager at Carr Workplaces, says coworking is very millennial friendly. “They like the concept,” she says. “It’s a very social setting. Some places even sell alcohol during the day and have beer on tap.”

There are many reasons companies might gravitate toward coworking. “It can give them ‘virtual’ use of a business address,” Scavone says. “They might get phone service. They might want to rent a conference room to meet clients rather than at Starbucks.”

Carr Workplaces’ location in Fort Lauderdale (401 E. Las Olas Blvd.) provides its clients with a prominent downtown location, Scavone says. “This makes it possible for them to have a great address,” she says. “It’s status. I have very high client retention. It’s a secure building. We constantly upgrade our technology.”

Scavone says coworking has reversed the trend toward people working out of their homes. “There was no socialization, no collaboration,” she says. “I do social events, educational events. I even did a ‘snuggle’ visit with the Humane Society. They brought in puppies. I’ve done continuing education courses for lawyers.”

Cindy Barr, the director of sales and marketing at Crown Center Executive Suites on West Cypress Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale, says the key to the popularity of coworking is the flexibility it affords. “Folks don’t want the commitment or overhead of a regular office. They don’t need it. They want a well-wired place with reliable internet where they can come and go as they want. It’s ‘easy-peasy,’ as we say. You might want to just have a meeting or conference. You can rent space just for a day.”

Barr says some centers are concentrating on shared spaces. “It’s very strong in urban areas and with millennials,” she says. “Shared space offers something for everyone. People might just share an office. A lot of people in sales need a home base, but not the expense of a full-time office.”

There’s been a trend of those who previously worked at home to seek shared office space, she says: “They were at home but didn’t like the environment of being shut away.” She adds that some people missed being Monday morning quarterbacks at the water cooler: “It’s just a pleasant way to do business.”

Bobby Condon, WeWork general manager for the Southeast, describes his company as a global community providing space and services for businesses of all shapes and stages.

Laura Kozelouzek, CEO and founder of Quest Workspaces

Cindy Barr, the director of sales and marketing at Crown Center Executive Suites on Cypress Creek Road

“Our members include entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and large corporations,” he says. “We believe that the draw to this type of working environment is size- and industry-agnostic. Our member companies, large and small, find a great return on the benefit of working within an environment that’s positive, collaborative [and] enables them to focus on the work they are passionate about and growing their network without having to deal with the day-to-day operations.”

Condon says WeWork centers offer many desirable amenities. “WeWork members have access to a number of services, including health insurance, an internal social network, weekly events and workshops, and other business services to help them succeed.”♦

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