The pros and cons of working in a co-working space
December 14, 2018 / Networking / Greg Atkinson
The modern workspace takes many different forms. There’s the traditional corporate cubicles. There’s the working-from-home kitchen counter. There’s the anywhere-there’s-a-laptop-and-a-lap option. One of the most interesting additions is the private office in a co-working space. This aims to provide all the convenience of a shared office, with some of the exclusivity of a private office. If you’re tossing this idea around, here are some thoughts to consider.
CONVENIENCE v. CONTROL
Pro: It’s ready to go
When you rent an office in a co-working space, you don’t have to worry about the furniture arriving on time (or if it all matches). You also don’t have to worry about whether the electricity and water are connected, whether the internet is up, whether you’ve stocked enough ink cartridges etc. etc. You’ll move into a fully functional office (often complete with free coffee) and be all set up within the hour. Once you’re in, you also don’t have to worry about any of the maintenance. Housekeeping will magically take care of itself, as will replacing those ink cartridges or blown out light bulbs. Even running out of coffee won’t be a problem.
As a new business, or a business with an urgent project to get cracking on, the convenience of all of that is hugely attractive. Instead of worrying about the logistics of the workplace, you can move your team in and get started immediately.
Con: You don’t have much say about anything
An office is often seen as an extension of your brand. That’s why many businesses spend considerable time, attention, and money decking out their HQ. As a tenant, you won’t be able to do much branding apart from some temporary picture frames or table talkers. If you’ve signed a longer lease, your landlord may allow you to personalise your office more, including painting the walls. However, you’ll still have limited say over the furnishing, and you won’t be able to make structural changes.
You also won’t get much say in the running of the office. All the convenience of having housekeeping and catering and IT already set up may be an inconvenience if you’re unhappy with something and can’t change it. For example, if the Wi-Fi just isn’t satisfactory, you might not be able to install fibre because your landlord doesn’t want a service provider digging up the driveway. In short, you’ll be enjoying convenience at the cost of control.
COSTS UPFRONT v. LATER
Pro: It’s much cheaper initially
Because you won’t be sourcing furniture or getting service providers in to connect all your amenities, your upfront costs are low. For a deposit and a monthly fee, you’re fully set up.
Con: It might be costly later
As your team grows, you’ll have to hire more and more space. At some point, the cost of renting might start to outweigh the cost of setting up your own office. In addition to permanent workspace, you might also be forking out extra for more time in the conference rooms. All this adds up.
On the other hand, unless you’re insisting on top of the range everything, you could set up an office with good quality furnishings of your own. Suppliers will give bulk discounts, and you’ll own the stuff at the end of the day. You’ll have to decide whether you want to keep costs low now, but potentially fork out more later.
SOCIAL v. SECURITY
Pro: You’ll be close to other professionals
One of the primary benefits of being in a shared workspace is your proximity to other professionals. You won’t have to seek out specific events to attend in order to boost your networking. Casual conversations around the water cooler may be all the networking you need. Co-working spaces that help their members network (such as spaces with Kalido) make it easy to find new clients or collaborators. You’ll meet people from different industries and backgrounds, and you’ll often have the benefit of repeat interactions to really get to know someone. Both you and your staff can make new professional and social contacts on a daily basis.
Con: Increased risk of security lapses
In your own office, you can strictly control who or what comes and goes. In a shared office, it’s much more difficult to do so. While your private office is by nature private, you might have another member of the co-working space poke their head in for a quick word. Although unintentional, they might overhear or see something confidential. When your clients and other collaborators come for meetings with you, they’ll also be fully visible walking into your office. If you’re in the middle of sensitive negotiations, you might not want your stakeholders to be public knowledge.
The cosy atmosphere of co-working spaces could also make you let your guard down. While sharing a cinnamon bun downstairs, you may say more than you intended to a friend from outside your organisation. Because you have less control over who’s in your space, there’s more scope for unintentional lapses of security.
PROFESSIONALISM v. IMPRESSION
Pro: You look bigger than you are
If you’re a small team, having a dedicated workspace lends you an air of credibility and professionalism that working from someone’s home or a coffee shop doesn’t. You may encourage casual dress and remote working, but having a visible base you call HQ reassures clients that you’re not some fly-by-night, and that they can find you if something goes wrong. Co-working spaces also have good audio visual setups in their conference rooms, which adds gravitas to your presentations and pitches.
Con: You may look smaller than you are
On the flip side, being in a shared workspace may give the impression that you’re smaller or newer than you really are. If you’re a huge organisation with teams spread out across the world, you may be hiring the office for a small task force which in no way reflects your actual payroll. You may also be hiring an office while you renovate your own, but others may not know that. Once you’re settled into the co-working office, that becomes the image associated with your business, regardless of how (in)accurate that representation may be. If the look of the thing is very important to you, you might need to stay in your own exclusive office, despite whatever inconveniences you have to put up with.
When deciding between an office in a shared workspace, a private office, or no office at all, you’ll need to balance a variety of considerations. The most important decision you must make is how much you want your space to reflect your business, and how much you want your work to do the talking. You may be in a more traditional field that expects a stricter setup. Or you may be in a newer industry that embraces the way the world of work is changing. There is no right answer. There is only the solution that’s right for you.