Get out of your garage: A shared office for your start-up company can improve your productivity and help keep costs low.

In my recent outreach to keep costs low for entrepreneurs, “solopreneurs” and startups, a recurring suggestion from many of my “start-up warriors” was the idea of working in community.

Here’s why:

  • Community work spaces bring together people with different backgrounds, thoughts and approaches. This helps entrepreneurs develop more creative, robust ideas and solutions.
  • Top challenges for solopreneurs are managing time, staying productive, and maintaining motivation throughout the workweek. Co-working spaces help with these challenges–it’s easier to stay focused if you’re away from home’s distractions.
  • Respondents to a study done by DeskMag in 2011 said they are more motivated (85%) and have better interaction with other people (88%) since they moved into a co-working space. They also say they can relax more at home.
  • At least 42% of respondents also report earning a higher income since joining a co-working space.

I asked my friend Jeff Donaldson for the best things to look for in a shared work environment. Jeff works in Boulder, Colorado, at a workspace called “scrib”–short for “scribble,” because the walls are painted with dry-erase paint to spark ideas and collaboration.  Here are his recommendations.

10 Things to Look For

1. Test drive: Ask for a free day to test out the office space.

2. Office tools: Make sure they fit your needs. Everyone will have printers, faxes, etc. but make sure the space provides the tools that help you get work done (conference rooms for client meetings, phone rooms).

3. Culture: Every space will have a culture and not everyone will fit in.  Find one where you feel comfortable.

4. Inspiration: The people and the space should make you want to come to work–and be productive.

5. Lease terms: You want them flexible.

6. Room to grow: Look for multiple work zones that offer enough space to allow your company to expand and contract.

7. Good workspace management: You don’t want to be the one dealing with printer problems, phone service outages, etc.

8. Collaborative community: Some co-working facilities allow members to contribute by giving presentations, making introductions or taking other actions that enhance the environment.

9. Productive workstations: Don’t settle for just a flat table space. Look for offices that have put thought into a productive work environment.

10. Comfortable design. Collaboration can’t happen as easily in a cubicle jungle. The most productive shared office spaces are ones that are built for collaboration.

If you’ve worked in a shared work environment, I’d love to hear your feedback.  Post your comments in the comments section here.

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