The world now boasts over 18,000 coworking spaces, with 185 workers renting desks in each one on average. Do the math: That’s more than 3,330,000 people in coworking spaces across the globe.
But are coworking spaces a magic solution to getting more done, making new friends, and drinking countless cups of free cold-brew? Sadly, no. While these spaces offer lots of benefits, you’ll need to weigh those benefits against the drawbacks.
Coworking spaces are a great solution for lots of workers, but they aren’t for everyone. Here are the considerations you should balance before you reserve that desk.
First, let’s start with some of the top reasons coworking spaces work for lots of people. Here’s what you have to look forward to.
Most coworking spaces allow you to rent on a month-to-month basis. Some even let you pay to access the space for only a certain number of days a month, depending on your needs.
This means there’s no big upfront commitment to worry about. Whenever you move, change jobs, or decide coworking just isn’t for you, you can easily end your coworking lease.
When you work at home, you’re responsible for stocking up on everything you need for the average workday. When you run out of coffee, use your last sticky note, or forget to pay the Wi-Fi bill, it’s on you.
In a coworking space, you don’t have to worry about gathering the tools and supplies you need—someone else does it for you. And you also don’t have to worry about cleaning. While it’s common courtesy to clean up after yourself, someone else will take out the trash, vacuum the floor, and keep the fridge spotless. This means you have more time to focus on work.
In a coworking space, you have lots of chances to meet other people and tell them what you do. They might be interested in your start-up, inspired by your passion, or sympathetic to your struggles. Their positive reinforcement can help keep you confident that you’re on the right path.
Meeting a community of workers like you, and hearing their meaningful feedback, can restore your sense of purpose at work. It often becomes easier to tackle a hard workday after getting a dose of that reinforcement.
Convenient Educational Opportunities
You always say you ‘re going to learn more about programming, social media marketing, or another skill that you don’t already have. But starting that online course at home might never happen when fun distractions are calling your name.
However, if you’re already at your coworking space and the opportunity to learn presents itself, you might be more likely to take it. These hands-on classes often promote faster learning than online workshops, since you can practice, ask questions, and get feedback in person. You can gain valuable new skills at your coworking space without spending a single cent more.
While these perks are compelling, the drawbacks of coworking spaces are dealbreakers for some. Here’s what you should be aware of.
If you operate on a tight budget, the cost of a coworking space just might not be realistic.
The costs of coworking spaces vary greatly depending on where you are. The cheaper ones might cost as little as a couple hundred dollars a month, while a fancy space in a high-cost city can run you upwards of a thousand dollars a month. You’ll also pay more for perks like your own desk, versus having to compete for desk space.
For some workers, even a $200 coworking space is outside of their budget. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to afford a coworking space—it’s a large bill to add if you already don’t have much money to spare.
A coworking space might seem like the perfect place to find your focus. After all, you came there to work, and you’re surrounded by other people who did the same thing.
However, coworking spaces almost always use open-office plans, which are notoriously bad for getting work done. The noise of conversations, the comings and goings of other workers, and the lack of privacy can all make it feel impossible to focus. You might find yourself resorting to noise-canceling headphones and other measures to make the space work for you. But is it really worth it to pay for a space that makes it hard to work?
That said, some people do their best work in open-office spaces, and some coworking spaces offer ample private desks. But most of the time, you’ll have to sacrifice privacy and embrace distractions in these spaces.
Most coworking spaces aren’t open 24/7. If you like to work from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., it will be hard (though maybe not impossible) to find a coworking space that works for you.
With a coworking space, there’s pressure to arrive early in the day to get a good desk. And when the space closes down, you’ll have to leave, no matter what you’re in the middle of. These limitations and disruptions can feel like they’re taking away the main perk of working remotely: endless flexibility.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
Many people who’ve had gym memberships have experienced this crisis: As time goes by, you find yourself going to the gym less and less. However, you’re reluctant to cancel your membership because you’ve already sunk so much money into it. You feel pressured to keep the membership until you’re able to get your money’s worth.
This “sunk cost fallacy” keeps us committed to something simply because we’ve already spent money on it, even if staying committed to it harms us in the long run. It feels hard to walk away from something we’ve invested in, even when walking away is the best choice.
That fallacy can also apply to coworking spaces. If you find yourself not using the space as much as you’d hoped, or discover that you truly work better at coffee shops, you might find yourself still clinging to the coworking space because you’ve already spent so much on it. This will keep you spending needless money until you can convince yourself to cancel the membership.
Are Coworking Spaces Right for You?
In the balance of these pros and cons, you’ll probably find the answer to whether or not you should get a coworking space.
Every worker is different, and every coworking space is different, too. If you start the search with a clear idea of your budget, needs, and dealbreakers, you should quickly be able to see if any of the spaces in your area are a good fit. If they are, great. If they aren’t, don’t force it.
Just because coworking spaces are cool and trendy doesn’t mean you have to have one. The main benefit of working remotely is being in charge of when, how, and where you work. Take full advantage of that perk by choosing the space where you can work your best every day—whether or not it’s a coworking space.