Working from home is something most first-time home business owners/the self-employed view through a very large pair of rose-tinted glasses.
Being able to work from the comfort of your home or apartment is seen as the best possible outcome, but that’s not always the case.
In this article I’ll explain why every entrepreneur should consider co-working in addition to working from home.
There are far more benefits to working in a “communal office” than you might have realized.
What Is Coworking?
Coworking is where several freelancers or small businesses work from a shared office space, with the option of “renting” a desk on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
The people sharing a coworking space all typically operate completely different businesses from each other.
If you’re still struggling to get a visual on what coworking looks like, then imagine an open-plan office.
Now imagine that everyone you see is working for a different company. Some of them choose to sit at a desk, and others want the privacy of an office.
People might choose to work in that space for a day, a week or a year.
You’re free to come and go as you wish, as long as it’s within regular opening hours.
It’s an informal community shared by people who who need a dedicated office or desk space, but either can’t afford or don’t want to take out a lease on an office for an entire year.
Coworking is popular with software developers, digital marketers, digital nomads etc because they can turn up, plug in and get to work without any of the usual office politics to distract them.
What Do You Get With A Coworking Space?
You’ll have the option of choosing between a desk and an office to work from, and your electricity, furniture and Internet/Wi-Fi access is also covered in any basic coworking package.
Obviously an office costs more than a “hot” desk, but even then a coworking office is usually way cheaper than renting your own office, paying for broadband, electricity, furniture, etc.
Some coworking spaces also offer kitchen or food prep facilities, chill out areas, games, etc, but it all depends on the location.
If you spend a few extra dollars/euros per month you’ll find co-working spaces that also run networking and training events as an additional benefit for their members.
Are those events actually worthwhile?
Most of the presentations are usually from other co-working space members, so you’ll have to be the judge of whether or not it’s worth the extra cash. I’ve always been very “Meh” about them.
With a “hot desk” you get access to it from 9am to 5pm each day, but renting a coworking office usually means you get 24/7 access to it.
Either way you’ll get access to office facilities that very few businesses could afford in their first year.
This has encouraged a lot of tech startups to use coworking instead of leased office space.
What Are The Benefits of Coworking?
The main benefits of coworking include that you get access to an affordable desk or office whenever you need it, Internet access and seating is provided, and you surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs and freelancers.
What I love about the idea of coworking is that it gives self-employed people, entrepreneurs, and startups a kind of middle ground to work from.
The first few years of running your own business can cause enough headaches, but coworking removes one of the biggest ones – finding somewhere to work where you’re not being distracted every 5 minutes by dogs barking, neighbours arguing or whatever.
Here are some of the reasons why coworking might just be the best thing, ever:
13 Reasons Why Coworking Spaces Rock
- You get access to the facilities you need, whenever you need them
- You don’t have to lease an office for several months, even if you only need it for a few weeks
- Most of these spaces come with kitchen and recreation facilities of some kind
- You can use your paid-for space for just a few hours each day, or the entire day
- You can get 24/7 access, so you can escape from a noisy home to hit that deadline
- You are separating your working life from your home – this is essential!
- The photographer, social media expert or web developer you need is probably sitting a few desks away
- You can be way more productive because all your home-based distractions are gone
- You develop an actual working routine again, leaving work behind and having your evenings to yourself
- You’re no longer available to run errands, walk the dog or other activities that eat into your work time
- You get to meet and talk to other living, breathing human beings during the day – social interaction is more important than most people realize
- But you don’t have to socialize with others if you don’t want to, which is cool
- You get to absorb ideas, concepts and best practices from people you’d never have met otherwise
What Are Some Disadvantages of Coworking?
The pros of coworking far outweigh the cons, but here are some of the few cons I could come up with.
- They’re expensive – rates can run anywhere from $5 to $30 per day, or up to $400 per month
- You can settle into a rut where your productivity drops, although this is rare
- You can only really work from 9am to 5pm each day, unless you have $400 per month to drop on an office
- There is the potential for “noise pollution” from people who don’t understand how coworking etiquette operates
Why Is Coworking So Popular?
There are many reasons why this type of working arrangement is gaining in popularity with both businesses and freelancers, but the main one is flexibility – both financial and geographic.
The fact you’re no longer working solely from home means you also get a “mental break” from your family/housemates, and get some deep work done instead.
Working from home non-stop can lead to a lot of mental health issues that don’t become obvious for months, usually not until you’re too burned out to care much anymore.
Now, that’s not to say that working from home is a bad idea.
But the reason you started your own business is to have a better work/life balance, and that can be very difficult to achieve when your job is also where you sleep at night. The lines blur very quickly, and all of a sudden you’re watching a movie when you should be working, or enjoying some other form of goofing off.
Using a coworking office space means you’re removing yourself from the home environment and surrounding yourself with other professionals who have one, single focus – getting stuff done.
It’s like taking the idea of working from a coffee shop and expanding it so that you get the same increased productivity but without the clanking of cups, and customers coming and going around you.
The reality is that you don’t need to be tied to a desk or fixed location to have a productive day.
In fact, most coworkers/remote workers will tell you that they can achieve more in 4 hours when not distracted than they can in an entire day in the office. There are just far too many distractions and negative inputs in most modern offices.
Cloud-based apps and services also mean that you generally don’t need access to any kind of network storage while working, so you can fully cut the cable and work from wherever you want.
After all what more do you need than a decent laptop, Skype, Meebo, Dropbox and Google Drive, to get a full day’s work done?
Avoiding Office Politics
Coworking spaces can increase your productivity for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest factors is being able to avoid office politics.
I’ve lost count of how many 9-5 jobs I’ve started out loving and slowly grown to hate because of internal BS, politicking and bickering.
It got so bad in some cases that I wound up leaving the job at short notice simply because the entire experience left me feeling like crap.
Two jobs in particular actually landed me in therapy – but that’s what a few months of low-level corporate bullying can do to you.
Can office politics get that bad?
For me it meant waking up with chest pains, but only after I’d spent a pleasant night grinding my teeth together.
The lack of office politics is one of the real beauties of coworking spaces. This is probably because everyone there has a shared experience of just how quickly gossip, rumours, and “ladder climbing” can ruin the vibe in any workplace.
Independent workers, digital nomads, start-up founders and entrepreneurs simply don’t have time to sit around gossiping about other people in the way you find in any typical corporate environment.
They understand that when they’re not working, they’re not getting paid.
Woe betide anything or anyone that tries to waste the time of a serious remote worker or entrepreneur – it’s our pet hate.
Coworking Can Boost Productivity AND Creativity
When you’re working from an office in your spare bedroom/basement/attic it’s all too easy to simply not take your work seriously.
You “ghost” onto Facebook or YouTube several times per day, without even realizing you’ve done it.
It’s all too easy to goof off and blow through several hours of the day without achieving anything of real value.
You do this because “…I can always catch up tomorrow”, but once you’re in that rut it can be pretty much impossible to break out of.
You procrastinate because you’re fed up.
So you get distracted.
Then you fall further behind…so you procrastinate some more.
So, that’s why coworking spaces can be a great idea when it comes to not only giving your productivity a kick in the pants, but your creativity too.
It’s amazing what can happen when you take yourself away from all the distractions you have at home.
That’s when you get those moments of absolute clarity because your mind is “empty”.
This is when you have “Eureka” moments that can transform how you run your business, or even give you ideas for your next business.
My writing is always at its best when my mind is empty of other emotional or psychological muck, or “toxic goop” as a friend of mine calls it. Achieving that state can be difficult when working from home, but I *never* have that problem when working outside my home e.g. in a coffee shop.
Your productivity can and will increase when working outside your home because you don’t have all day to waste on Facebook arguments and whatever viral video is doing the rounds on YouTube.
That means you’re effectively putting yourself “on the clock” again, but you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in just 2 or 3 hours of intense, focused concentration and work.
What Does Coworking Bring To Communities?
People choosing to work remotely and/or work from home are becoming increasingly common. Part of this is because some companies want to decentralize their workforce, but not all of them – as IBM proved.
Coworking spaces brings scattered workers back into the heart of a town or city, directly contributing to local businesses.
It’s the coffee on the way to work in the morning, buying a quick lunch at a local deli, and maybe picking up some groceries on the way home.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of why every village, town and city needs at least one coworking space – it contributes directly to the local economy in a meaningful way.
Why You Shouldn’t Join A Coworking Space!
It’s important to understand that renting a desk or office in a coworking space isn’t a magic solution for productivity problems.
If, for example, you’re already stuck in a rut you might find that you’re simply paying money to be stuck in that same rut somewhere else.
And on the subject of expense there’s no point in spending money on a coworking space if you’re already struggling financially. That just puts more pressure on you to earn more and work harder.
So you’ll wind up burnt out again in a matter of weeks, walking away from your desk with your tail between your legs.
These shared working spaces are, generally speaking, a great idea for anyone who finds themselves stuck at home and hating every single minute of it, but only because of the distractions.
The implications of coworking for creativity and entrepreneurship are more profound than people realize. What started out as a neat idea for people who were sick of being at home the whole time, has quickly become an industry all of its own.
Summing it up
The reality is that coworking spaces are here to say, but what the future holds for them is anyone’s guess. There’s a risk that they become so large that the informal and fun atmosphere they create is replaced by the starchy, stiff-collared bullshit you quit your last job because of.
But for right now, investing a few bucks every month on a coworking desk or office is an investment not just in your business, but in your well-being.