Flexible work arrangements are a reality in our modern workplace: 89% of Australian employers believe flexible work is important for employee engagement and retention. And to date, a third of all employees across the nation are enjoying some form of flexible work conditions.

Flexible work is a career objective for many professionals and, in turn, it can supercharge productivity and employee wellbeing. When it comes to the workplace, one main difference between full-time, part-time, casual workers and flexible workers is where an employee completes their work. However, the most common alternative to the office — working from home — isn’t always the most suitable.

This is where co-working spaces or shared office workspaces come in.

A shared office space is an ideal solution for employees who want an alternative to the office but cannot (or do not want to) work from home. With the rise in flexible work, co-working spaces in Sydney, Melbourne and other states have rapidly sprung up. But how do you choose the right one for yourself or your employees?

If you’re looking for the right environment for flexible work, here are the main factors you must keep in mind:

Reliable infrastructure for flexible work arrangements

All co-working spaces should have the basic foundation in place for offsite efficiency: reliable internet access. Internet and cloud access form the backbone of flexible work and before committing to any shared workspace, it’s essential to test out the wifi and connection speed to ensure everything works as it should.

It’s a good idea to schedule a time for your flexible workers to visit any of your shortlisted co-working spaces and have them work there for a few hours to get an idea of the connectivity strength and consistency i.e. signal or connection repeatedly dropping out. It’s also best to visit at different times and on different days in order to accurately gauge the reliability – after all, internet speeds may vary if it’s a busy Monday morning compared to a Friday afternoon. Or the workspace may be using an internet service provider known to be unreliable.

Accessibility and location of the shared workspace

Co-working spaces should be easy for your flexible workers to access, which translates to location, location, location. After all, there’s no point investing in a co-working membership for your team if the location is inconvenient and they need to spend a significant amount of time and money on the commute.

One of the easiest ways to find co-working spaces in your local area is to Google “co-working spaces near me”. This will narrow your search down to those within your general area, and from here you can start to read reviews (the co-working community is extremely active on social media) and shortlist any spaces that look suitable.

Like office spaces, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the surrounding neighbourhood and consider:

  • Is it close to public transport options?
  • Are there cafes and restaurants nearby?
  • Are there supermarkets within walking distance?
  • Can employees find pockets of nature for a break, such as local parks?
  • Are there other local amenities nearby (doctors, dentists, schools and so on)?

Budget for a shared office space

No matter which co-working space you choose, a big part of your choice comes down to cost. Co-working spaces have a range of membership options but most offer a dedicated desk or office option and a flexible desk space that isn’t allocated. Some co-working spaces also have pass-based membership packages, where you buy a set number of passes to use within a certain time period.

To determine what’s best for your team, it’s important to take a look at your needs. If you only have one or two flexible workers that may need a space to go to once a week, a flexible membership pass may be best. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a desk that different team members can use throughout the week, a permanent space may be the way to go.

A strong sense of community

One of the greatest benefits of a co-working space is that it brings together people from all walks of life: digital nomads, professionals, freelancers, entrepreneurs, artists, and more.

Diversity in the workplace is key for driving innovation. By working in a shared office space with a thriving community, your flexible staff may be inspired to see and do things differently, and ultimately have a positive effect on their work outcomes.

To understand the community in a co-working space, it’s as simple as paying a visit. Try to take in the atmosphere: are people talking to one-another? Are there meeting or brainstorming rooms? What about shared kitchen and relaxation spaces for people to connect? It may also be helpful to speak to the manager of the space, as well as some of the members to get a first-hand account of the type of community in the space.

Many co-working spaces also offer organised events or social activities. These can generally be found on the co-working spaces’ website, and are indicative of how much effort the managers put in to building and maintaining the community.

RELATED: How to keep motivated when working from home

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