Shared workspaces have grown globally over the last five years by 200%, making coworking less of a trend and more of an everyday spot. Freelancers, startups and established companies equally opt to share their space with other inspired professionals. But, before you jump in on the coworking wagon, it is worth learning what coworking entails, different formats and details to consider before signing up.
In this guide, we are going to walk you through everything you need to know about coworking and make sure you find your perfect space for success.
What is coworking?
“Coworking is a situation in which several workers from different companies share office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructures, such as equipment, utilities, and receptionist and custodial services. “
While the explanation covers well the practical side of shared workspaces, we can not forget about the community part of the equation. Coworking spaces are designed to facilitate a collaborative and productive environment between members. It effectively removes corporate silos and encourages members to share ideas and work together in a dynamic environment.
The story behind coworking spaces
Coworking was invented in 2005 by Brad Neuberg, a software developer.
Brad has been working unhappily for a while. He was not able to combine all the things he loved: the freedom and independence of working for himself with the structure and community of working in a company.
He went along to establish the first ever San Francisco Coworking Space and created the term coworking as we know it. At first, not many people signed up for this new form of work, as they did not understand what coworking might entail. However, several people came and visited the space to learn about the concept. An online community started to grow, and people were encouraged to establish their own coworking spaces. (Read the full story straight from Brad here).
First two coworkers from the first coworking space
Since the slow start in the early days coworking has immensely spread in popularity, and has been experiencing exponential growth in the last few years.
As shown by a study by EmergentResearch, there were 14,411 coworking offices in 2017 with projected strong growth in the following years. Similarly, the number of coworking professionals is expected to rise from 3.8 million in 2020 to 5.1 million by 2022.
Forecast based on estimates from EmergentResearch/GCUC for the data until 2017. Data projections until 2022 are from CoworkingResources’ data, and are based on the average growth in 2018 and 2019.
Who is coworking suited for?
From the millions of people jumping on the coworking trend, we can clearly see 3 emerging groups: freelancers, startups and corporations. Let’s see in detail what benefits lie in coworking for each segment.
While freelancers enjoy the maximum flexibility with their lifestyle and work, it often gets lonely working by yourself. Coworking provides a great opportunity for freelancers to find their tribe and connect with like minded people. It can also help to form business relations: the person next to you might just be your new client, partner or collaborator.
Coworking also has a more practical side for freelancers: for many maintaining an office space at home is not a possibility, while renting and individual office might be too expensive. Coworking provides a cost-efficient alternative with all the infrastructure necessary to do our best work.
Startups and SMEs can find the perfect home in coworking spaces. They do not need to worry about different utilities, office costs, meeting rooms or coffee, as everything is provided by the coworking place. They can flexibly scale their organization, while remaining in a great central location whichever city they may be in. It is also worth mentioning that the community within the space can be a great pool for talent, growth and collaboration.
That’s right- it’s not just the small fish who is getting caught in the coworking web. Many large corporations have realized that surrounding themselves with ambitious small companies from the outside world keeps them closer to the pulse of innovation. Employees enjoy the extra flexibility, great amenities, and the possibility to get to know people from other organizations.
It is worth noting that in 2019 coworking does not just mean a desk in a room. Coworking spaces have developed multiple formats of membership to suit the different needs of their clientele.
- Hot desking
A hot desk usually refers to shared workspaces where people can come in and work at random. In this case, the coworker does not have an assigned workspace but can choose from any free places. Many coworking spaces limit the number of hours per week or month for hotdesking memberships. This is a great option for those who only wish to spend limited time in the coworking space, or use it as a secondary office. The downside of the hotdesk is that at the end of each day you need to pack up all your belongings and take it with you.
- Fixed desk
A fixed desk means that just like in any other office you have a designated space to work from. It is usually within a shared workspace, but it gives you the possibility to bring in your own equipment, and make the desk your own. Additionally, there are no limits to how much time you can spend at your designated desk.
- Cabin space
The cabin space reflects the most traditional office space. You and your team will have a room of your own, while you are welcome to use any communal facilities in the meantime. It is perfect for those who often have private meetings, or handle highly confidential information which would not be safe in a shared space.
One thing to pay attention to: some coworking spaces offer private offices only separated by a glass wall from the other side of the space. In this case people might still be able to see, or occasionally hear what is going on inside. Other coworking spaces offer fully separated, sound proof private spaces. Before selecting your cabin space, assess your privacy needs and select carefully.
Shared workspaces: plus and minus
Let’s get clear on the benefits and drawbacks of coworking.
A key reason why coworking spaces were created is to provide people with a stronger sense of community. Coworking spaces do not just gather motivated people in a great environment, they also actively organize events and activities to facilitate creativity and collaboration. With so many open-minded and ambitious professionals around you it is easy to connect, learn and build meaningful relationships.
Happy hour at SPECTRUM
Infrastructure and amenities
One of the most convenient parts about working in the coworking space, is that usually in one monthly fee all of the office bibs and bobs are taken care of. From rent payment, utilities, printer cartridges, even snacks – everything is provided to your needs. Coworking spaces also often provide opportunities for fitness, hobbies or happy hour which are great employee benefits.
Scaling on demand
Whether you are a digital nomad working on the road or a fast-scaling startup, a coworking space can provide exactly what you need. Whether you only want to work 2 days from the office space, 1 full month, or you need a place for 5 new employees: coworking spaces are quick to adjust to your requirements.
Lack of privacy
There are two things which are hard to find in a coworking space: privacy and silence. The glass walls often dividing office spaces provide full visibility, and in shared workspaces people can hear each conversation you have. If privacy is a crucial aspect of your work then you need to find a completely private office.
Related to the lack of privacy and silence, you can find yourself often distracted in a coworking space. While many have silent areas, you still hear people moving and chatting in hushed voices around you. Alas, coworking is not for the ones that are easily distracted!
If you would like to avoid distractions you can try one of the cabin spaces.
Taking the convenience of having everything provided in the coworking space often means a sacrifice to personalization. Your brand identity and personal preferences get lost in the predefined structure and image of the coworking space. Coworking might not be your best choice, if you feel it is important for you to adjust your space to your taste and specific needs.
9 Factors to evaluate before choosing a coworking space
With a growing market, there are different coworking spaces popping up pretty much anywhere. To find your perfect spot, it is important to evaluate your requirements. The questions below will help you to do just that:
- Who are you looking for?
Are you looking for yourself as a freelancer or a specific company? It is important to determine exactly who you are looking for, and answer the rest of the questions from that perspective.
- What do you expect from a coworking space?
Set out your goals and expectations from a coworking space.
Do you want to connect better with your colleagues by sharing the same space? Or would you like to connect to a specific community?
Setting out your goals and expectations will make it easier to evaluate opportunities and different coworking spaces.
- What is your preferred location?
As coworking spaces are popping up around us, it is worth considering your location preferences. While centrally located shared workspaces might be on the more expensive side, they can help you get around easier for meetings. You can also choose a coworking space outside of the hip area for better prices and a quieter environment.
The yellow zone at SPECTRUM
- How much time are you planning to spend in the coworking space?
If you are not planning to work from the office 5 days a week it might be worth considering hotdesking options or flexible deals.
- What do you need to do your best work?
Some people do their best when they have some background noise, while others prefer complete silence. Other jobs might require you to have a great meeting space to see clients often, while others mostly work alone. Regardless, you need to determine what environment helps you to be the most productive and find the equivalent in the coworking world.
- What are your meeting needs?
Different coworking spaces have different policies and availability of meeting rooms. If your job requires you to often have meetings with team members or clients, you need to consider the options you have for private spaces.
- What amenities would you need?
Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to work out in the middle of the day, or is very specific about their coffee needs. Assess what kind of amenities you and your team will need in your office and carefully check what coworking spaces offer.
- Would you like to get involved in a specific community?
As the coworking market grows more and more coworking spaces lean towards specific markets. Some cater to artists only, some unite the technology world, while others focus on companies creating a social impact. This gives you the perfect opportunity to find your tribe and get involved in a community you find attractive.
- What is your budget?
Last, but not least, your coworking place of choice will be defined by the amount of money you are willing to spend on it. From budget to luxury there are countless options on the market.
Pro tips for choosing the best shared workspace
As someone who has recently chosen a coworking space, here are my personal pro tips to find your place.
- Free trials
Many coworking spaces offer free trials before diving in. This means that for a couple of days you can join the coworking space for free to see if it suits you. Definitely try a couple of spaces before making your choice!
- Check the contract terms
Coworking spaces have very different conditions in contracting – some prefer to sign you up for a full year ahead, while others offer flexible opt-out options. Check the contract terms carefully and make sure you can make the best out of them.
Finding a coworking space is nothing like looking at office buildings. Most coworking spaces are very fun, are full of amazing people and have a buzzing vibe. So while your discovery lasts, enjoy!
At the end of your coworking day…
Are coworking spaces for you? You don’t know if you’re not going to try!
One thing is for sure: the coworking growth is driven by the increasing demand from people. Which means that many who tried never looked back.
Whether you work on your own, in a growing empire or soldier in an established corporation – a coworking space can give you a perspective beyond the cubicle. So dive in, check out some shared workspaces around you and let us know your thoughts!