Thinking about moving to a co-working space?
04 February 2021
With so many people having flexible working arrangements and especially working from home recently, and have recently gone through the co-working experience myself, I figured it might be helpful to shine some light on the remote working option that I haven’t seen many people talking about.
Before I get into it, let me just say that many of the points I’ll be talking about are subjective preferences, and they may differ from space to space. So with that being said, let’s get into it, shall we? Starting with…
Your social life returns!
This is probably the thing I missed the most while working from home, and I’m very much an introvert! Those little chats over lunch or while getting some water. Being able to just look at the person beside you and have a conversation. All of that is very much alive and well in a co-working space.
Granted you won’t be talking much about your work unless you’re explaining what you do. But hey, ask them about their work! I was surprised by the sheer variance of jobs people at my co-working space have. I’m a web developer, but the person on the desk beside me was a land surveyor for waterways, the person a few desks over was running an entire eCommerce business from their desk, there were real estate agents, radio hosts, and IT security experts all working under the same roof.
It’s a great place to meet new and interesting people, and a fantastic place to expand your network and find new opportunities.
Different jobs make different noises
With so many different kinds of people under one roof, inevitably there will be a lot of different noises and noise levels. Some people need to be on the phone constantly, some need to be typing all day, and others just like to talk to their neighbours.
This is all fine, everyone works differently and has different requirements for their job, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is a noise factor to consider if you’re looking at going to a co-working space.
And, people aside, maybe the building itself has a particularly loud air conditioner, or there’s that one door that always bangs loudly, or maybe someone at the co-working space has rented out a room for an event. These are all possibilities and depend greatly on the individual space.
Be part of a community
Other spaces may differ, but in my experience, the co-working space wants to provide a sense of community and camaraderie to its members.
Things like going out for lunches or breakfasts, offering council positions to members (secretary, treasurer, vice president, etc), workshops and other events all help build a sense of community within the co-working space.
Making it truly yours can be hard
This varies from person to person, but if you’re someone who likes to customise their workspace, that can be difficult to do at a co-working space. Unless you pay extra to get your hands on a private office space, your desk is out in the open, and that’s assuming you even pay enough to secure yourself a permanent desk, nevermind if you’re in a hot desk arrangement.
Adding little touches like your favourite mug, maybe a plant or poster or something is all rather impractical to do at a co-working space. Unless you intend to pack everything up at the end of the day and then set it up again the following morning, you’ll have to make do without them. Which can make it hard to feel completely comfortable at times.
Help maintain a healthy work/life balance
One of the biggest benefits of working in an office environment is being able to just “switch off” your work brain when you leave and go home. That’s considerably harder for a lot of people to do if their workspace is also their living space as is the case when working from home, and over time this can start to have a serious impact on your mental health.
In fact, according to a report that Atlassian released in 2020, of the people who have been working remotely, 44% found it difficult to achieve work-life balance and 54% found it hard to maintain the boundaries between work and their personal lives, which lead to working longer hours and increased stress.
Not so at co-working spaces. You have all the benefits of an external office, and can more easily retain that separation between your work life and your personal life. This helps tremendously with maintaining a healthy work/life balance and can reduce stress, especially if that’s something you’ve found yourself struggling with.
None of this comes for free
You know the old saying: “Nothing is free”... or is it “All the best things in life are free?”... ah whatever, let’s focus on the first one because that supports my argument.
There are a lot of benefits of being part of a co-working space, but none of those benefits come for free. And co-working spaces can get pretty pricey.
Now your boss might be able to pick up the bill on your behalf. Though don’t forget that as long as you’re using the space for work-related activities, then the cost is completely tax-deductible as a work-related expense, but none of that changes the fact that the co-working space is a business itself and needs to cover its costs. And that means handing over money.
Costs vary from space to space; when I was searching for a co-working space, I found some that cost as much as $550 a month for a dedicated desk. And the one I ultimately ended up joining was $300 a month for a dedicated desk.
You don’t have to buy your own stuff
So you’re paying a few hundred dollars a month, but you don’t just get a bit of floor space! You’ll have desk space provided for you, along with a decent chair, and wi-fi is included. You’ll have access to a kitchenette, toilet facilities and meeting rooms.
And, most importantly, I had access to free coffee whenever I wanted! Granted it was just instant coffee, but hey, I’m not one to turn down free coffee.
Also meet Gary, my desk buddy. He looks a bit sad but has been here much longer than I have, and shall remain long after I’m gone.
So really it’s up to personal preference
Co-working spaces can be great - I certainly found it immensely helpful after moving to a new area. I got to have the familiar experience of getting up and going to work each day, seeing familiar faces around the co-working space, and getting to know everyone.
The routine helps me maintain a good balance between my work and everyday life. Even if I move to a home office instead of a co-working space, I expect I’ll still go to the co-working space now and then simply for the social aspect and to get out of the house.
Ultimately though, it’s largely up to personal preference and the individual co-working space.