By Cat Johnson, a well-known writer and speaker in the coworking industry and a happy member at Nextspace Santa Cruz.
Berkeley is a hotbed of ideas and innovation. As part of the Bay Area’s rich tech and startup ecosystem, and home to the renowned University of California at Berkeley, the city is a perfect location for coworking and collaboration.
There is a growing number of coworking spaces in Berkeley so it’s important to find the right one for you. I spoke with Danielle Sebastian, Community Manager of NextSpace Berkeley Powered by Pacific Workplaces about what to look for in a Berkeley coworking space, how members can thrive in a shared space, and how coworking spaces can support local students and entrepreneurs.
Location, Location, Location
Find a coworking space that is easy to get to and has transit access nearby. If your coworking space is across town or requires a long commute, you may find that you don’t use it. If your space is conveniently located and close to transit hubs, however, you’ll likely use the space regularly.
NextSpace Berkeley is near the downtown Berkeley BART stop and on popular bus routes, including the AC Transit. Many of the members use transit to get to the coworking space as it’s easy to get to, even if they commute from San Francisco.
The space is also across the street from Berkeley City College and down the street from UC Berkeley. It’s in a high-traffic area and provides easy access to businesses in the area.
Partnerships with Surrounding Businesses
NextSpace Berkeley partners with neighboring businesses and organizations, including the YMCA gym, which waives the activation fee for NextSpace members. They also support entrepreneurship among students and recent graduates. As Sebastian says, “We’re trying to foster more entrepreneurship within the schools by giving students workspaces to develop their businesses and ideas and translate them into tangible businesses instead of general concepts.”
If you just want a desk and wifi, you can go to any coffee shop. If, however, you want to be part of a vibrant, supportive coworking community, you need to find a space that suits your style and preferences.
NextSpace Berkeley is a close-knit community of approximately 200 members. The space itself is open, inviting and spacious, with two levels.
“In a close-knit community, we see the NextSpace Effect more,” says Sebastian, referring to the serendipity and collaborative ethos so common in NextSpace coworking. “There’s a community feel that benefits all the different businesses here.”
Coworking spaces generally boast professional networks, but some of the larger ones tend to be tech silos. Professional diversity benefits coworking spaces as members have immediate access to a variety of perspectives and skillsets.
NextSpace Berkeley has tech professionals, freelancers, digital creatives, sound professionals and community organizations, including the Incorruptibles, an organization fighting corruption in government, and Insight Garden Program, an organization that supports inmates in growing their own food in prison yards.
“We have a diverse ecosystem of businesses, which is a selling point and a point of pride,” says Sebastian. “A lot of the up-and-coming businesses are tech-centered and focused, which is great and forward-looking, but we like to have a mix of businesses, as well.”
It may seem like a small thing, but having ample bike parking is a major perk in a coworking space. Rather than locking their bikes out on the street, NextSpace Berkeley members hang their bikes in the bike hallway or on wall-mounted bike racks. If you plan to bike to your coworking space, make sure they can accommodate your wheels.
Professional Inspiration and Support
Coworking empowers members to start businesses, launch projects, collaborate with fellow members and put their interests and passion to work. It also helps grow the small business sector.
“Coworking allows people to make a name for themselves,” says Sebastian. “What NextSpace provides is something deeper than just workspace. It’s a place to attend events, socialize, meet leads and connect with potential business partners.”
When looking for a coworking space, make sure you’ll have easy access to amenities such as restaurants, pubs, outdoor space, a library, coffee shops, a yoga studio, a gym and other businesses.
Being surrounded by these types of places lends an energy to coworking that you don’t find working from home. It also provides options for meeting new people, connecting with potential clients and just getting out to stretch your legs with a walk around a bustling block or a midday yoga class.
Amenities in the Space
Essential amenities to look for in a coworking space include a high-quality printer/scanner/copier; phone booths for making private calls; conference rooms and meeting rooms for presentations and connecting with clients; mail service; white boards for brainstorming; projectors for presentations; and a space for events.
Events are a big part of coworking at NextSpace. From weekly happy hours and regular meetups to events hosted by local businesses, organizations and professionals, NextSpace coworking spaces have a variety of event offerings.
NextSpace Berkeley hosts events with Women Who Code, an organization offering free mentorship to all coders, with an emphasis on bringing more awareness and support to women in the tech sector; OffPlanet VR (virtual reality) events to introduce members and the public to emerging VR trends; crowdfunding events for community organizations, including Insight Garden Project; music events; and much more.
“We tailor events based on whatever members recommend to me,” says Sebastian. “We gauge the community and see what they like best. Food really brings people together and is a big part of our culture. It’s like a family party at each happy hour.”
Variety of Seating Options
Look for a coworking space that has bustling community spaces, quiet areas, places to take calls, places to meet clients, places to relax and unwind, and places to eat. Throughout your work week you’ll likely need different workspace and seating options, depending on what you’re working on.
NextSpace Berkeley is a gorgeous space with high ceilings, tons of natural light, colorful art on the walls, and lots of seating options, including a meeting room inside an old bank vault, and the grassy knoll, which is a comfortable, casual area with a couch, bean bags and artificial grass. The space has traditional desks and tables, as well gorgeous living edge tables made from raw wood.
Room to Grow
If you start coworking as an open space member, make sure you’ll be able to grow into different membership options, if needed. NextSpace Berkeley has dedicated desks if you’d like a set workstation where you can store your things and keep a desktop computer; shared offices when you need a little more privacy than what dedicated desks and open coworking offer; and private offices when you’re ready to move into your own space.
The work world does not operate on a 9 to 5 schedule. Work happens at all hours and you need a coworking space that supports your unique schedule and style. With 24/7 access to a space, which NextSpace Berkeley provides, you can work at your own pace and during your own peak work times.
Community, Community, Community
Beyond a desk and wifi, what coworking really offers is a community of professionals from all walks of life working in a mutually-supportive environment.
“What I like the most about NextSpace Berkeley is how friendly the members are—not just with me but with each other,” says Sebastian. “When we have a new member, the members take it upon themselves to introduce themselves and get to know the new member and their business. People are super-friendly and willing to get out of their comfort zone and bring others out of their comfort zone, and possibly work on business endeavors together.”
Find a coworking space that feels comfortable, welcoming, and inspires you to participate in it. When you do, you’ll find yourself doing your best work.
Schedule a tour to learn more about our NextSpace Berkeley community.