If you’re familiar with the term coworking, than you know it is a concept where independent workers come together in a shared office space to conduct business. They are not employed by a single agency, nor do they have to answer to anyone in the shared space. Those that take advantage of coworking spaces typically work from home, are independent contractors, or are employees of an organization who might travel frequently for work and seek to settle for the day in a space where others also dwell.
While some see coworking spaces as an absolute asset to their work life, others feel they are distracting and unnecessary. And while it is believed the concept was originally born in Berlin in the mid-1990s, there is no question it has taken off with severe popularity in the U.S. and has evolved enough to raise hairs for some.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a coworking space, and how to navigate the cons, should you decide to give the concept a try.
The Pros of a Coworking Space
Working in a communal environment can’t be all that bad. If that were the case, the United States wouldn’t have over 11,000 coworking spaces on the map, with an estimated 26,000 slated to host almost 4 million people by 2020. Here’s what’s good about mixing it up with people from all walks of life and businesses:
There’s Always Wi-Fi
If you’re an entrepreneur and you work most days from home, there are bound to be days where you want to get out. Cabin fever sets in and you can only stare at your dog for so long. The next best thing is to go to your local bookstore or cafe to work. But the WiFi is spotty and unpredictable. And even if it’s not spotty, sometimes you can’t find a space because every chair is full.
At a coworking space, there is reliable WiFi. Without it, the desks and chairs in the shared office space would be empty. There is always a place to sit, too, thanks to inexpensive desk rentals. Rental fees guarantee users a space to work and reliable WiFi ensures users will keep paying rent. For digital nomads or CEOs looking to access shared files via the Internet, the last thing they need is uncertainty and zero connection in an overcrowded cafe.
It’s Not Home
Working from home for many is ideal. You can sit in your jammies and whittle the hours away, unseen. But it can get lonely. And quiet. A shared coworking space offers ambiance, like-minded people to talk to, and the opportunity to network with others.
Stepping away from our own personal four walls to sit among the rest of the world is a much-needed reprieve for many work-at-home freelancers. While quiet time at home is nice, being around positive people with the same drive as you can be crucial for your growth in business.
You Meet Potential Collaborators
Sharing a space with dozens of other independent workers isn’t just about filling a teamwork void. It’s also about finding an opportunity to meet and collaborate with other businesses or entrepreneurs. From insurance agents and graphic designers to freelance writers and video editors, the hidden faces behind the laptops might be the answer you need to help your own business thrive.
This is why coworking spaces are ideal for start-ups. While the Internet provides us with just about everything we need to start an online business, collaborating and networking with other start-ups can increase opportunity and visibility.
Speaking of start-ups, the cost to rent a desk in a coworking space is much cheaper than the cost of renting or leasing office space. With little to no overhead, a team of three or four employees can accomplish the same goals in an affordable shared coworking space, versus spending hundreds of dollars a month to set up shop in a professional office building.
A good coworking space offers private rooms and conference rooms for meetings or Zoom calls. It’s not unusual to find a new business with three or four partners building their passion inside the walls of a coworking space. With small budgets and big learning curves, utilizing a shared space can take financial pressure off of new businesses.
The Cons of a Coworking Space
Most coworking spaces rely on the users within to maintain the area and make sure everyone plays fair. It is communal, after all. But like any office space, there’s always someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules. Here’s a look at the cons of working side-by-side with a complete stranger:
It’s Not Just For Freelancers Anymore
When the idea of shared office spaces really began to take off, independent contractors and freelancers alike flocked to the buildings to reignite their creativity and try something new. But then start-ups and other small businesses came in, taking up more desks and talking louder than they needed to.
When this happens, the independent freelancer is inadvertently nudged out of his or her space by a smaller business with more people. Their privacy is compromised and the “feel” of the shared space is dissolved. With so many coworking spaces showing up in bigger cities, freelancers or solopreneurs might consider seeking out a shared space created specifically for independent contractors.
It Can Be Distracting
There’s a loud person in every office. It could be their voice, their laugh, or the video they keep watching over and over again to avoid finishing a marketing plan. No matter the reason, the noise can be distracting.
While many coworking spaces encourage quiet as a courtesy, some rules are lost or not considered. It’s not unusual to find a digital nomad with earbuds stuck in his ears. Not only does it keep him from being distracted, it also discourages others from turning his workday into an unwanted social hour.
There’s Never Any Coffee
Large coworking spaces have kitchen areas where coffee and other treats are kept. Refrigerators allow coworkers to keep their lunch fresh until it’s time to dig in. And fresh brewed coffee greets each person when they cross the threshold into their shared space. The problem is that some people are all about drinking the coffee, but never actually making it. They’re also all about leaving their food in the fridge for months on end.
In shared spaces, collaboration is key. If you’re tired of making the coffee over and over again, learn to bring your own. If the refrigerator is filled with moldy, green sandwiches from last month, carry a lunch tote that can stay with you at your desk. Hopefully, these issues are resolved quickly by the person who manages the coworking space. But to avoid these issues altogether, play it safe and bring your own coffee and snacks.
Many coworking spaces are in buildings that don’t provide parking. And if they do, the parking may have a fee attached to it, especially if the building is shared with other businesses.
If you determine that the cost of parking on the street far outweighs the savings of working from home (and you can’t choose an alternative like bicycle commuting), coworking may not be for you. If you’re on a budget and money is a factor, find out of there are parking garages or lots nearby that won’t cost you a dime. If you don’t mind a short walk through the city, then it won’t be an issue.
The best way to determine if a coworking space is right for you is to spend a day or two working in one. Some spaces allow you to “test drive” the office for a day to help you determine if the space is right for you. Each one is different aesthetically. Some are more relaxed while others have more rules to adhere to. And each one offers a different level of rent.
Knowing you have to buck up to sit down means you should really be comfortable with your new shared office space. Ask questions, look around, and most of all, make sure you’re happy with the kind of people that will soon surround you.
The coworking space and its shared concept continue to evolve. Some businesses are using the spaces as “organic ecosystems” that can change on a dime to fit the users’ experience. From small informational meetings and presentations to off-campus options for employees, businesses and corporations are finding ways to utilize the coworking space to better serve their customers.
With 26,000 spaces projected to populate U.S. cities by 2020, is it an option for you?