Do co-working spaces benefit telecommuters? It depends. If you’re a work-at-home professional and curious about co-working spaces, consider the pros and cons before committing to renting workspace.
Co-working Cost Analysis: Is Renting Workspace Really Worth It?
The Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) team predicts that there will be 5.1 million co-workers by 2022. Freelancers, startups, and small businesses flock to co-working spaces to save money, collaborate, and cultivate a contemporary work culture.
Co-working spaces range from traditional office buildings with standard tables and desks to converted warehouses with swanky furniture and amenities. Some places include meditation rooms, yoga classes, coffee bars, in-house delis, libraries, beer taps, locker rooms, napping cots, and state-of-the-art technology.
Though co-working is an attractive option, it doesn’t benefit everyone. Here’s an analysis of the some of the major advantages and disadvantages of co-working environments for work-at-home professionals.
People who like collaborating and spending time with creative professionals tend to get the most out of co-working spaces. Here are a few of the benefits that co-working provides:
Having people around while you work can help you stay productive. You’re less likely to slack off when you know someone is watching you. If you’re a regular, others will notice when you’re gone, so you might feel a little bit of pressure to show up consistently.
Certain types of people have contagious energy, which can boost your enthusiasm. Since co-working spaces tend to attract creatives, innovators, and entrepreneurs, it’s possible that some of their inspiration will rub off on you.
Sometimes going to a dedicated work environment makes you feel more professional or official. You’re forced to comb your hair and act more professionally than you would around your family or roommates.
Co-working spaces usually provide printers, copiers, and fax machines, which you may not have at home. You also get to network with techies who may be able to help you troubleshoot software issues or show you how to use an app.
Fewer Home-Based Distractions
In co-working spaces, there are no kids running around, no chocolate cookies or left-over dinners taunting you from the kitchen, and no beds tempting you to take a nap. Since you don’t have the usual distractions from home, you may be more productive.
You may be able to deduct the money you spend on your desk, mileage, and other work-related expenses from your taxes. Since a co-working space is separate from your home, it may be easier to prove that certain expenses are solely for work.
Co-working isn’t ideal for all telecommuters and work styles. Here are some common challenges that telecommuting co-workers face:
The point of working from home is to earn back time spent driving to and from work every day. By joining a co-working community, you reintroduce the daily commute, which may be counterproductive.
You end up spending more money to work than you would by staying home. Desk space, gas, and going to lunch add up and take away from your profits.
More Environmental Distractions
Though you don’t have typical home distractions, people may conference or talk loudly in and around your workspace. You could find yourself networking or chitchatting more than being productive.
You might not get a desk or workspace that fits your body well. Plus, you might not be allowed to modify the space to make it more ergonomic.
Unless you pay for an enclosed office, you won’t get much privacy. Workspaces are usually open concept to encourage collaboration.
You can usually leave computers, notebooks, and other supplies when you pay for a permanent desk. However, you’re responsible for the security of anything you store in the space. Also, co-workers share Wi-Fi connections, so sensitive data may not be private.
Co-working spaces offer options to accommodate travelers, residents, and different work styles. Most companies offer the following co-working plans:
Monthly membership is useful for professionals who truly miss the office or cannot concentrate at home. It’s also good for startups, teams, and projects that require collaboration.
Weekly membership is perfect for telecommuters who travel for work or with family for an extended time. It’s also helpful during busy times, such as tax season or end of the fiscal year.
Daily drop-in rates are for freelancers, travelers, and consultants who need space to meet clients or hold meetings. Professionals who would otherwise work at a coffee shop can hang their hat without putting out other customers. Daily drop-ins are also great for telecommuters who just feel like being around other people.
Plans sometimes include access to or discounts on private meeting rooms usually equipped with a monitor, audio equipment, and audio and video connectors.
Co-working Average Costs
The cost of renting co-working space depends on the company, city, and amenities provided. Deskwanted performed a cost analysis of co-working spaces around the U.S. and reported the following average costs:
- $387 per month for a dedicated desk with 24/7 access
- $308 per month for a dedicated desk during business hours
- $195 per month for a flexible desk during business hours
- $209 per month for a flexible desk with 24/7 access
- $59 per week for drop-ins
- $23 per day for drop-ins
To put costs in perspective, some companies claim co-working costs the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. That comparison applies only to longer-term memberships, not daily drop-in rates.
A 2017 Global Coworking Survey found that about 40% of co-workers use their space or membership every day, while about 30% co-work three or four times per week. Thus, the longer you commit to co-working, the cheaper it is per day, so long as you actually go.
If you’re not sure whether co-working is right for you, here are some alternatives to try:
The library is free, quiet, and has lots of reference materials. However, Wi-Fi is public, the work environment can be uncomfortable or distracting, and the building may not be open during your preferred work hours.
Coffee shops offer drinks and snacks, background noise, and jazzy music, and they can be a fun, energizing work scene. However, Wi-Fi is public, you may not get a table, it might be too loud to concentrate, and you have to spend money to be there.
Public Beach or Park
Working outside at public beaches or parks can be peaceful and give you the space and serenity you need to concentrate. However, these spaces usually no public Wi-Fi or electrical outlets.
You may not find a picnic table or comfortable place to work, and you might end up co-working with the mosquitoes, flies, and ants. Also, laptops shouldn’t bake in the sun too long or be exposed to sand and dirt.
Rent an Office
If you really miss the office, you can always rent your own private space. You can organize it however you wish, wear whatever you want while you’re there, set up a
secure Internet connection, and leave all your equipment and documents there. You can basically treat it as your home office away from home with a separate mailing address and lots of tax advantages. However, you end up spending a good chunk of change on rent, utilities, furniture, supplies, and the daily commute. Plus, you might have to lock yourself into a one-year lease, which may be too long of a commitment, especially if you don’t to work every day.
Share Office Space with Other Telecommuters
If you know other telecommuters in your area, you can split the cost of an office and assign each person work days and hours so that there’s no overlap. However, you may run into conflicts if your fellow officemates want to spend more time in the space while you’re working. You also run the risk of someone backing out and leaving you with all the bills.
Go to a Neighbor’s House
Do you have a friendly neighbor or family member who lives in close proximity? Ask if you can work there on occasion. Offer to get the mail, water the plants, or chip in on utilities.
It may seem strange at first, but this arrangement minimizes the commute and lets you work in a different space. However, make sure you close the door or have a quiet area to work. Otherwise, it’s no different than working in your own home.
Convert a Closet into an Office
If you don’t have room for a full office in your home, consider converting a closet into a functional workspace. You can install a desk with shelving and wheel a chair in and out during work hours. Plus, you can close the closet door when you clock out to better separate work from home. However, you still might not get the privacy you need or be free of distractions.
Is There Really No Place Like Home?
Working from home can be challenging, especially when you have a big family or small space. You may also feel disconnected at times if you do most of your work independently. It’s nice to get out once in a while, but the cost of working from a separate location may be counter to your telecommuting goals.
Think about what’s most important to you and whether having a separate workspace away from home is beneficial. Then, make a list of all the potential places to work in your area.
Consider a hybrid strategy, where you visit a co-working space when you have a complex project that requires intense concentration. On lighter days, when you get cabin fever and just need be around other people, consider a coffee shop or the library. If all you need to do is catch up on emails one afternoon, go to a nearby park and bring a picnic.
Just remember that when the weather is bad, you’re feeling sick, or you need to wait for the plumber to fix your drains, you have the luxury to work from the comfort of your own home.
Photo Credits: 1. iStock.com/izusek; 2. iStock.com/NakoPhotography
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