In between client meetings, Ray Knight, a business-development strategist, has popped into a business lounge in Hollywood to occupy workspace on the fly. He is suited up, seated in an open work pod, and putting finishing touches on a presentation. Knight calls this routine part of his lifestyle. “I have my briefcase and laptop and access to workspace without distractions.”
This hot new trend of grabbing workspace on the go has me perplexed. Business lounges and co-working spaces are sprouting up in cities and suburbs nationwide, even fueling websites and new apps designed to help those looking for temporary workspace. But why are people incurring the cost of using shared office space when they can hole up in a coffee shop or work from home? I set out to find out.
Knight tells me has a home office. Yet, he pays a monthly fee of $30 to work as needed from Regus business lounges throughout South Florida. As he travels from the Keys to West Palm Beach, he will stop by a center, occupy a desk, print documents, use WiFi, tap the support staff, and get access to conference rooms to meet with clients. “It’s convenient and helps me give off a professional image.”
Image, it turns out, is a big part of the attraction. For today’s growing crop of free agents, entrepreneurs, and remote workers, pulling off the image of serious business person can be hugely important.
One professional explained to me that rent for a day is worth keeping up appearances. Having your guest greeted by a receptionist and offered coffee adds an extra layer of creditability, says attorney Cynthia Arevalo who frequents business centers in Aventura, Boca Raton, and Plantation.
With a shift in how people work, co-working spaces are being created in cities across the country by big industry players, such as Regus with 1,200 locations, including 25 centers in South Florida, and small operators like the new Pipeline opening on a floor of a Miami office tower. In these business centers, desks or private offices are rentable by the hour, day, or month. The usage comes with amenities such as access to a receptionist, copy machine, printer, fax, scanner, and kitchen. Rates vary depending on amenities, but rates for a desk can run about $15 to $20 a day or about $200 a month, while private offices can start around $25 an hour, $100 per day, and $400 per month.
When Arevalo arrives at the Regus Aventura center, she checks in with a receptionist who finds her reservation on the computer. She then sets up shop in a conference room to meet with her client, a business owner looking to hire foreign nationals. Arevalo, an immigration attorney, says it would be uncomfortable to hold meetings in her home office. Instead, she keeps overhead low and rents an office as needed. “This way, I can look professional and meet my client where it’s convenient for them.”
Luis de Silva, a road warrior looking for a temporary home away from home, has laid down his laptop for the day in shared office space on the tony Brickell Avenue. Visiting from Brazil, de Silva has finished his dealings with a Miami banker and now wants a quiet place to work while he waits for his flight home.
“Our customers see the appeal in going to a business center instead of the hustle and bustle of Starbucks,” explains Diana Tigani-Amador, Regus Miami area manager. “You can never take a conference call from a Starbucks. Here it’s a true professional setting and if you take a call, no one knows where you are at.”