Coworking is becoming more common every year, with more than 300 such spaces operating in Australia – a more than 500 percent increase over the last five years.
It’s also become clear that these spaces can work for more than just tech start-ups, as a variety of businesses are choosing coworking spaces as their home base.
But is it right for you? Like any business decision, it all comes down to what you value – so read on for some of the biggest benefits and most detrimental drawbacks of coworking spaces.
Pro: Sharing a space likely saves you money
It’s pretty clear why a freelancer or small business would go for a coworking space: It’s cheaper.
Rather than renting out an entire office block, you get just enough space to serve the needs of your business.
What’s more, these memberships are often flexible – rather than outgrowing an office and needing to relocate, you can just upgrade your plan to accommodate your new space needs.
Con: …but it’s not always available when you need it
A shared space means that sometimes you’ll need to make way for other businesses or schedule yourself around them.
And while coworking hosts provide ample opportunities for their clients to get as much time in the space as they need, that’s not easy to manage on short notice.
What if a client changes what they want by a next-day deadline? Will the coworking space be open late at night for you to make necessary changes?
These aren’t questions you need to worry about with your own office, but it can become a problem in a shared space.
Pro: A community of support…
The term “coworking” is apt when it comes to describing these spaces, as you’ll be constantly surrounded by other start-ups and entrepreneurs.
It can be comforting to take time out of work and relate to the others around you – providing a sense of camaraderie all while networking and forming crucial connections that could come in handy down the line.
Furthermore, coworking spaces will often host workshops, social gatherings, and other useful events for their members, increasing your reach as a business and expanding your network further.
Con: …while sacrificing privacy
If you want to stay out of sight of your competitors, that can be much trickier in a coworking space.
Sure, sharing ideas is important and healthy, but that doesn’t change the fact that each competing business wants to get ahead of the other.
What’s more, if your employees – or you yourself – prefer to work in a more secluded environment, that’s not always possible in a coworking space without paying extra to rent out an office or conference room for a day.
Pro: Get started right away
A coworking space is a ready-made place for you to start working, right now.
Amenities you need are already built in, whereas with a new office, you need to find a space, design the layout, and furnish it yourself.
On top of that, you’d still need to take care of administrative expenses and responsibilities such as Wi-Fi, electricity, plumbing, and more – while with a coworking space, it’s all done for you.
Con: …but lose out on customisation
You can use the space, but it’s not truly “yours.”
That is, working in a coworking space doesn’t give you a chance to construct and show off a clear brand identity.
And while you might not have the money to design an office from the ground up right this second, it’s a crucial part of creating a successful business.
The ability to customise and craft an identity will be an important consideration when you think about getting your own office space.
Pro: Attractive design (without the cost)
You might not be able to completely redesign the space, but that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly.
In fact, coworking spaces often feature very modern and aesthetic designs that you generally can’t afford when just starting out as a company.
Much of this comes down to influences from the offices of major tech companies, but while coworking spaces have changed over the years, the attractive design has stuck around.
Con: …but some find shared spaces unprofessional
Despite the attractive design, some clients just won’t like coming into a coworking space to do business with you.
A common workaround is to host business meetings at other venues, or even in casual settings such as coffee shops or over lunch, but even this can put off clients who had a different perception of your business.
While using a coworking space certainly isn’t the right move for all businesses, it makes sense for a lot more people than many realise.
It all comes down to where your business is in its development – but if you’re looking to save money but still have all the trappings of an office, the sacrifices might well be worth it.