Thanks to the rise of the gig economy, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups are finding coworking spaces more attractive than ever. It's for a good reason: coworking spaces offer fully equipped offices with more flexible rental arrangements than a commercial lease, where you can rent by the hour or day, or by the number of desks you need.
We're seeing a massive trend in coworking spaces, with new ones opening every week, and reports predicting we could reach over one million workers in co-working spaces by 2022. The appeal is twofold: community and affordability.
Private office space can be expensive, and while you're building your company into something more cohesive or simply looking to get out of the coffee shop where you've grown roots at a particular table, a coworking space could be the answer. However, any work arrangement must be carefully considered, so here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of coworking offices.
The Cons of Coworking
- Lack of privacy. This is the biggest deal-breaker. While packages vary in the different coworking options, there's a good chance a totally walled in office could cost more than you're prepared to pay, perhaps even more expensive than a private office elsewhere. With more communal arrangements among the desks, the open style rooms can be noisy and distracting as well. Be wary of loft-style coworking spaces that don't have any acoustic furniture or sound barriers. The sound of someone drinking their coffee may eventually drive you crazy. If you need to take a lot of work calls during the day, make sure the space offers phone booths or nooks for private conversations.
- Competition under the same roof. By generally shopping around for an environment suitable for your type of work, you're potentially going to run into people you're competing against for business. However, this could turn into a perk, if your goals are like-minded and perhaps collaboration is more beneficial to you. But if you aren't interested in working together, there could be some uncomfortable moments.
- Personality conflicts. As with any amount of people sharing a space, there will inevitably be some conflict. Perhaps it's a personality clash or maybe it's an actual space issue. The lack of an HR department means arguments must be handled between the parties involved.
- Work hours. If you're launching a startup and putting in long days or if you're a freelancer who works better setting your own hours, the fact most coworking spaces are open from 9-5 isn't conducive to a flexible schedule. Some could consider this a perk, since working from home can make you feel like you're always on call, but for a business that needs to stay flexible, limiting the time the office is open to the usual workday hours may not be the best fit.
- Ability to expand fast. While renting such space can be cheaper than a commercial lease, if you're a rapidly growing company with an expanding number of employees, it could become cost prohibitive quickly if you require more and more space. Some coworking spaces can be rented by floor, but others, you could end up paying more in the long run than if you were to find a working commercial space to rent.
Coworking Office Advantages
- Community and complementary skills. Many coworking spaces attract like minds, so it's possible you could find people with valuable skills you could use to further your company goals, or perhaps build your client list by being valuable to someone else.
- Structure. One of the drawbacks of working from home is the lack of structure. All the best intentions for a productive workday mean nothing if you sleep in and get distracted by watching a movie or reorganizing your closet. Going to an office and having a dedicated work space keeps you accountable and establishes a routine, putting you in the mindset to get the work done and done well.
- Amenities and perks. Renting office space versus coworking space isn't just about the building. It's also about the amenities. A commercial lease would require you to furnish the space yourself with desks and storage solutions as well as expensive computer equipment and phone systems. A coworking arrangement gives you all of this for a fraction of the expense, providing access to copiers with scanning and fax capabilities, built in wifi, conference rooms, and even kitchens and break rooms for those afternoon doldrums when you need to get away from your desk.
- Inspiration. Finding a coworking space that fits you and your working style could be a source of inspiration by surrounding yourself with people who stimulate your creativity. Maybe it's the group culture or a shared sense of helpfulness, but whatever gets the juices flowing for your best work, you could find it in a coworking space.
- Company culture. If you love the coworking environment you've found, you could use it as the foundation of your company culture. With success comes growth, and it's quite possible the coworking space is a temporary stepping stone on your path to bigger and better things. When you're ready to make the move to a larger, more autonomous space for your business, the things you learn from your coworking environment could prove beneficial for establishing a later culture you can be proud of.
The idea of a long-term commercial lease, especially for someone just starting out in a new venture or freelancing alone, can seem daunting, but there are office solutions out there that share some of the risk. Many coworking offices offer day passes, so if you choose that option, spend your time looking for the right one for you and see why coworking spaces are becoming more viable for a startup or small team.