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Today's trends for tomorrow's business
The rise of coworking spaces

The Rise of Coworking Spaces

Whether you’re an occasional mobile worker taking extended business trips or an independent worker with no office to call your own, it can often be difficult to find a workspace that satisfies all of your business needs. Even those who work from their “home office” sometimes find that being home alone all day can begin to have negative impacts on their mood and quality of work. [1]

What are coworking spaces?

Coworking spaces, also known as collaborative or shared workspaces, are short-term office locations aimed at attracting telecommuting or independent workers. These office-sharing locations are typically rented on a monthly basis, either by the worker or by a business. Both individual desks and full office suites are often available for rent. Some coworking spaces offer standard fare options like a desk, phone, and Wi-Fi, while others raise the bar with additional perks such as parking, yoga classes, and espresso bars (usually rolled into the monthly rental fee).
They differ not only in the services they offer, but also in the ways people utilize them, because they’re not just for mobile workers. For example, many coworking spaces provide groups of employees the ability to collaborate in one environment, which can be great for startups that don’t have their own office space. For businesses that only have a few employees, these workspaces can be a great place to stake an office claim until business takes off and they can move into a permanent space.
The basic idea is not new. Building 20 at MIT served as a “magical incubator” after the end of World War II, bringing people from all over—musicians, physicists, engineers—and providing a space to share ideas and make breakthroughs.
The overall modern concept makes sense for a number of reasons, but those reasons differ for businesses and individuals. And in some cases, coworking spaces may not be a good fit for either. Here's how coworking spaces can benefit a variety of industries and disciplines, such as:
  • The independent contractor who needs shared support: Networking at coworking spaces can provide best practices through peer support, people to bounce ideas off of, possible sharing of resources like lawyers, accountants, or IT expertise.
  • The rapidly growing startup: New companies need the flexibility to focus on growth, not real estate. It’s likely that they don’t have the time or money to get a lease or find space, or they’re growing too fast to keep track of employee desks or offices.
  • The home worker who needs community: Coworking spaces provide socialization opportunities (Friday Happy Hour), a personal cheerleading squad, human interaction and fresh ideas, and a great vibe.
  • The small business: With just a few employees, it can be expensive to provide all the basics, like coffee, chairs, and all the needs that make an office physically function. Smaller businesses can benefit from economies of scale at coworking spaces.
  • The new idea: Some coworking spaces act as incubators, with built-in mentors and other support programs in exchange for a small fee or equity in the company, helping you get your great new idea off the ground.
  • The innovator: Employees, even in larger companies, can often get stuck focusing on their own industry or technology, and can lose touch with broader tech trends and innovations from other markets and companies. Allowing some of these employees to work in coworking spaces can help them keep their pulse on the future and bring those ideas back to your company.
  • The unsteady/cyclical market: Some businesses thrive at certain times of the year or market conditions. Instead of expensive digs to accommodate the biggest possible employee counts and workloads, these types of companies may save money by expanding temporarily or cyclically to coworking spaces.
  • The internal coworking space: Medium- and large-size companies can also implement coworking spaces within their own companies. These areas can be a great way to provide staffing flexibility, and cross-pollinate departmental ideas and innovations in an organic, effective way.

Why it may be a good idea for businesses

Coworking spaces can benefit businesses a number of ways. For starters, they serve as a nice “office alternative” for web or creative teams looking to get out of run-of-the-mill office spaces. The concept also works for businesses that are growing and might need temporary space for employees until a larger, permanent office location is secured. Additionally, the spaces can be used for offsite meetings (either internal or with clients), or for sales people who are only in a town for a short period of time but need a dedicated office space to work from.

Why it may not be a good idea for businesses

While comfortable and convenient, coworking spaces aren’t always a 100% substitute for your permanent office environment. This means that your employees may not have the same access to things like a shared server or internal chat systems. Also, if your employees run into tech issues, it can be tricky to resolve those problems since your in-house IT staff won’t be available at the coworking spaces.

Why it may be a good idea for individuals

Coworking can be a positive change for people who work from home full time because it provides them with the opportunity to network with fellow mobile or independent workers—even if they work for different companies. Depending on your habits, it can be difficult to know when to stop working for the day when you’re working from home.
Coworking can force people into a more structured work schedule—one where shutting down at a certain time each night is encouraged. It can also help with time management. When you think about how easy it is to get distracted at home by pets, children, or the television, working in an office space makes it easy to remember that you should maximize your time while you’re there.

Why it may not be a good idea for individuals

Having to set aside money to rent an office space might not always be the best solution if you already have a space at home that could serve you just as well. Speaking of costs, there can be hidden ones with coworking spaces. If you normally work from home, you’re probably seeing a dramatic decrease in the amount of money you spend on gas, potential child and pet care, and even food or drink. Once you decide to leave home for a coworking space, the savings you once saw could quickly disappear.

Fad or future?

By 2020 there are expected to be 65 million freelancers in the workforce. [2] That’s a lot of people who might be looking for an alternative to working from home. In fact, one study claims that there could be more than 1 million coworking members by 2018. [3] And with 2,500 coworking spaces opening up weekly around the world, [4] the signs certainly point to it being part of the future rather than a passing fad.
Still on the fence about whether or not coworking is for you? Many spaces offer one-day trial passes so you can give it a test run before committing long term. And if you’re already onboard with the idea of coworking, just remember—leave your pajamas at home.
[2] Intuit, Intuit 2020 Report

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