Words by Co-Work Orange co founder, Joanne McRae

18 months ago, I didn’t know what “co-work” meant. Now, I’m a co-owner of a Co-Work space in Regional NSW. Here’s how it happened!

I was running my small business start-up from the front room of my house. I met clients in coffee shops, libraries or even the lounge of the RSL Club. Anywhere with Wi-Fi and a spot to sit.

It wasn’t ideal. I felt my clients mightn’t have the best experience, worried about whether we could have a private conversation about how I could meet their needs. I felt disjointed without a dedicated workspace, and when I was working from home, work life intruded into quality time with my partner. It was too easy to ‘pop in to the office’ in the front room and disappear for hours. I had poor work-life balance. For me, working in my living space was making me less productive, more stressed and inefficient.

My life as a co-worker started by accident. I met someone at a local networking event, who proposed I consider sharing her office space in central Orange – in the heart of the CBD. It didn’t work out, but the idea of a shared space with other small business owners was the planting of a seed.

From what I have read, seen, and experienced, every co-work space is different. At the most basic, it provides a hot desking solution, with a space to sit and get work done. Many have open plan and shared office spaces, while some have private office space, a meeting room, and board rooms. Some co-work spaces are mixed into large organisations – less about a mix of business, than renting out a spare desk. Some have multiple sites across multiple cities (and countries) while others have partnerships that allows access to different locations in a network of coworking spaces. Most have a spot for coffee, kitchen, or provide social opportunities such as networking nights, breakfasts or even annual events and celebrations. When you are working solo, being invited to a Christmas party with other small business owners can be a really nice touch.

There’s a culture about co-work which is important to understand. Finding the right mix of people, particularly as a small business owner, made a huge difference to me. It was the informal conversations which helped build a collaborative space – to discuss problems with cash flow, tenders, time management or marketing. It made a big difference having someone to share the entrepreneurship journey, frustrations and successes with. It was great to be able to high five someone when you got a new client or project tender!

I’ll admit, sometimes it can be noisy when there’s a buzz of engagement and excitement. Like communal living (share house memories spring to mind), you might need to have some awkward conversations from time to time about hygiene, tidiness and etiquette. Don’t go passive aggressive on the kitchen but consider how to ensure all co-workers understand the expectations of a shared workspace.

Whether short-term office space is what you need, or you are looking for the social interaction and networking opportunities that come with co-working, don’t be afraid to ask, visit sites and explore the options available. You don’t have to be a solo operator either, as remote workers for large organisations, or even teams can often be accommodated in co-working spaces. With coffee, tea, and other human beings, it’s a way to help productivity thrive.

Co-Work Orange is in the heart of Orange, NSW, co-founded by Shah Alford, Hayley Barrett and Joanne McRae. Co-Work Orange is designed with you in mind. Space to do your work. People to share ideas with. Tea to drink. Plenty of greenery to inspire bold thinking. And a stone’s throw from all the best eateries in town.