by Geraldine Gatehouse |

As a meetings and event professional working from a home office located in my garden, I appreciate many of the benefits my setup provides. It's a short commute time -- a walk of 12 seconds door-to-door; it's very dog friendly and convenient -- everything I need for my work world is right there, and it allows me the flexibility to set my own schedule. 

I don't find myself overly distracted by the possibility of doing household tasks or heading to the kitchen every few minutes, something I've learned that other home-working professionals sometimes struggle with. But I do miss the interaction with colleagues and co-workers, especially when it comes to brainstorming ideas and strategies. With lunch mostly being a 10- to 15-minute break, it's easy for the day to go by with no one to interact with, unless I happen to catch the postman on his deliveries.

So, it's not difficult to see why co-working is such an appealing option for many. Co-working space provides convenience, a community and probably a much bigger array of equipment and services than individuals could provide cost-effectively for themselves. Additionally, it offers networking and potential collaboration and the chance for serendipity to play its part in launching new ideas and even new companies.

Co-Working Success Stories for Meeting Planners

Tracy Stuckrath, president and chief connecting officer of Thrive Meetings & Events, took advantage of co-working when she started her own business and decided she wanted the interaction of other people around her. Living alone with a home office, the outside co-working space provided the social aspect she needed as well as a change of scene. Stuckrath felt the main benefits were networking with people involved in so many different things, as well as the interaction and having a space to work outside her home. You never know who you might meet. In fact, she hired a marketing person that she met through the co-working space. 

San Diego-based Hornblower Cruises and Events turned to co-working space when its offices were being refurbished and upgraded. Mandy Brown, Hornblower's charter sales manager and SITE SoCal's immediate past president, quickly become a big fan.

"Change sparks creativity and inspiration," notes Brown. "The space we are in provides many areas where we can move around and test new environments. The other tenants are very kind, considerate and pleasant; it's been really fun to get to know them and learn about their companies. We've also been able to find some business opportunities with our new 'co-workers.'"

Brown has found the new perspectives and human connections to be a major benefit. Contrary to what she had anticipated, she prefers and is more productive in the open-floor plan. She enjoys solving challenges and brainstorming new ideas in the vibrant, bustling co-working space. 

As a social media strategist for the meetings and events industry, Miguel Neves moved into co-working because of the simplicity of a month-to-month contract and the desire to find a creative environment in which to work. Flexibility and adaptability were key to his strategy in managing unanticipated changes in his work life -- the decision to grow his company or move to a different city, for example -- which made co-working a great option. He found co-working facilities superior to his home office, useful for meeting with clients, and he, too, appreciated the opportunity to meet people from other companies and potentially connect over projects. 

Unlike both Brown and Stuckrath, Neves found the environment less social than he thought it would be. There was minimal interaction between co-workers, mostly taking place in the kitchen and ad hoc chats, but in general, everybody used headphones. The biggest pluses were that it was affordable and professional, enabling him to keep his home life and his work life separate. 

Even with the drawbacks Neves encountered, he recommends it as a much more sustainable and flexible way to do business than in a formal office environment, and a big step up from working from home or cafés. He was working in a small co-working space in Copenhagen, whereas both Brown and Stuckrath utilized bigger facilities in the U.S.

We recognize that people like to work in this way, and at IMEX in Frankfurt this year visitors can enjoy spending time in Nook -- co-working pods, sponsored by Costa Rica. 

Last autumn, the entire IMEX team of 60 shipped out of their company HQ in Hove in the U.K. whilst their office was being refurbished. IMEX Group COO Nalan Emre notes that "even though our team is very adept at relocating to Frankfurt and Las Vegas for the shows each year, it was exciting to experience a new office environment at the Freedom Works space in Worthing, U.K. As we 'hot desked' each day, it gave us the chance to collaborate with colleagues we wouldn't usually spend so much time with. However, there were also a few challenges surrounding insurance and accounting procedures that we had to find solutions for. 

Hotels Getting in on the Action

Hotels are taking notice of the co-working trend and growth opportunity, and they are offering both guest and non-guests comparable services to those found in WeWork, one of the largest co-working space companies. Individuals can: 

• Work without leaving the property;
• Connect with other fellow travelers;
• Feel more engaged, and 
• Potentially become more loyal to the brand.

It also has the potential to draw local residents in as well as guests from nearby hotels who do not have similar facilities. Anyone using the space is likely to also try out the bars and restaurants, thus providing the hotel with additional revenue.

The AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore, a Marriott hotel that opened in October 2018, offers complimentary space and services in its AC lounge; more than 5,000 square feet include couches, a large communal table with electrical outlets at every seat and a 20-seat-high table that's a working area by day and a bar after 4 p.m. In Boston, The Revolution, a Provenance hotel, decided to create a reasonable daily membership for local business people for its co-working space. For guests of the hotel, the fee is included in the room rate. 

In Las Vegas, the home of IMEX America, Zappos partners with the Venetian, the Palazzo and Sands Expo to offer guests access to a co-working space in the heart of the Venetian | Palazzo Congress Center. The 1,170-square-foot pop-up lounge offers space to recharge, huddle areas for collaboration and a conference room for small meetings. This taps into the growing trend of creating collaborative workspaces that can be used on a temporary basis in addition to traditional offices.

While co-working is the right answer for many, spaces vary considerably in style, price and facilities, so it's important to do some research before signing up.

Issues to consider when selecting a co-working space:

• Where possible, try the service in advance. Some facilities will offer a complimentary pass for this purpose.

• Review the costs carefully to make sure there are no extras, it's cost-effective and within your budget. Is there parking and if so, is that an additional cost?

• Decide what is most important to you -- are you looking primarily for services and equipment, or you looking to network and experience creative collisions with others?

• If you're looking for networking, make a plan to talk to one new person a day, for example, or bring in treats. Know what it is you want from your networking and develop a strategy to achieve that.

• Check that your company or individual insurance covers you in a co-working space.

Co-working is a great solution for a lot of people. So, watch this space. The offerings are only going to become more diverse, innovative and creative. What would your future co-working space look like?

Geraldine Gatehouse is the Western Region Marketing Consultant for IMEX America. She lives in Southern California, is a passionate believer in giving back and writes on a wide range of subjects. and IMEX America September 10-12, 2019