Balancing Act: Mobile workers flock to co-working spaces

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In between client meetings, Ray Knight, a business development strategist, has popped into a business lounge in Hollywood, Fla., to occupy workspace on the fly. He is suited up, seated in an open work pod and putting finishing touches on a presentation.

Mr. 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 applications 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?

Mr. Knight tells me he has a home office. Yet he pays a monthly fee of $30 to work as needed from Regus business lounges throughout south Florida. "It's convenient and helps me give off a professional image."

Image, it turns out, is a big part of the attraction.

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 multiple business centers in south Florida.

When Ms. Arevalo arrives at the Regus center in Aventura, Fla., 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.

Ms. 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."

Increasingly, the newer shared office space concepts are marketing their centers to entrepreneurs as places for collaboration where they can benefit from each other by socializing and sharing ideas. Some landlords even host networking and educational events, providing forums for users to increase their business opportunities.

Alex Patino, operations manager for quick prints, used to meet with clients in his company's warehouse. Now, he and a creative director stretch out in a corner office in a Plantation, Fla., co-working space. Mr. Patino recently attended a networking social sponsored by a new renter, a CPA.

He wound up scoring her printing work. "Being here has been really good for business."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com.


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