The problem with working out of a coffee shop is that you're working out of a coffee shop. Need to work in a real office, but only occasionally? Book short-term office space the same way you'd book an apartment on Airbnb. Even from your smartphone.
This is a little different than co-working, which is a fixed workspace shared among people with diverse jobs and skill sets. One of the attractions of co-working is that it gives freelancers, entrepreneurs, and start-up workers a chance to develop a community akin to that of a regular office, and to access the benefits of social and professional networking.
The "co-working meets Airbnb" model brings together those who need short-term office space with those who have excess office space. Everything is available by the hour or by the day -- from meeting rooms to boardrooms to private offices to a simple cubicle -- without signing any long-term contracts or making any other commitments. Use the space once a year or once a week.
The Airbnb model has been tremendously successful. According to Urbanland, "by 2020 more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce -- about 60 million people -- will be freelancers, contractors, or temp workers."
Given that, the office space version of Airbnb seems equally promising. The convenience and wide selection is attractive to the modern mobile workforce. The attraction for the facility owner is better utilization of real estate. Technology platforms match demand with supply, much like the Uber ride-sharing app. What's in it for the matchmaker is a percentage of the rental fee.
Here's a look at four hot companies helping small businesses manage their real estate needs.
One of the leading innovators of this model is LiquidSpace, a venture partnered with the Marriott hotel chain. LiquidSpace, founded in 2011, offers workspaces on demand in more than 500 cities in the U.S., Australia, and Canada.
While it originally focused on the needs of freelancers and start-up companies, companies such as AT&T and Accenture are using the LiquidSpace platform to book and allocate office space internally among workers who no longer have fixed offices or workstation assignments.
The LiquidSpace mobile app displays a map of where you are (or want to be) with pins marking available workspaces. Once you've identified where you need to work, select the type of space you need (e.g., conference room or cubicle), and see a descriptive list of available amenities (e.g., Wi-Fi, coffee/tea, projector), along with the hourly, half-day, or daily rates. There are user reviews and a five-star rating system.
Book the space, and check in and check out from your computer or smartphone. If you need to cancel, you can get a full refund if you do it within an hour of booking or at least 24 hours before the reservation start time.
As more companies move to the "hoteling" concept of allocating workspace among employees, the economics of renting out excess capacity become more attractive.
Flexible Office Space
And it's not just companies and hotels doing it, but also public libraries, co-working spaces, and even home offices. ShareDesk, for example, offers not only desks or offices, but also studio space from photographers and artists, and bands sharing their recording studios.
PivotDesk is a similar business that is now available in 29 major cities, according to the company's website. One of the things that makes PivotDesk special is their payment processing platform, which removes a lot of the painful paperwork involved with leasing office space.
One of the things that makes PeerSpace unique in the space-sharing business is their integration with business network LinkedIn. PeerSpace is a mobile app that let's people who have extra space list it at no cost; you are only charged a fee if and when the space rents.