co-working sit around table coffeeWatch out, cubicles. With the advent of Wi-Fi and mobile plans, today’s workers can operate from just about anywhere in the world. For freelancers, entrepreneurs and telecommuters, that could mean a great opportunity to work from the couch all day, but working in isolation often means sacrificing productivity.

Enter co-working. By its strictest definition, co-working means simply paying a fee to work in a shared space. You can generally buy daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly passes, with different perks for every level of membership. Throughout the month of November, we’ll be spotlighting all the ins and outs of co-working to help you make the most of this trend. We begin today with a few pros and cons.

Pros

1. Tight Knit Community

Working at home can definitely prove to be a lonely venture. Co-working gives you access to a vibrant community — one strikingly devoid of the potentially competitive atmosphere in typical office spaces, as each worker operates within their own field. Many workers find themselves to be more productive when surrounded by interesting discussions, even just as background noise.

2. Networking

Networking happens every single day when you co-work in the most informal of fashions. Many co-workers operate within complementary industries or job titles, meaning they make great referral sources. Conversely, if you’re looking to build a business, you’ll have ready access to a pool of talent. Most co-working spaces also have broader networking events that invite more professionals from the community, as well as private Facebook pages with job and project postings.

3. Vibrant Exchanges

While of course each specific co-working community has its own feel, many attract very creative and intelligent people who like to connect and exchange ideas. For the freelancer balancing many projects or the entrepreneur looking to brainstorm ideas, a co-working space can be a highly effective brain trust.

4. Convenience

Co-working spaces are often located in cool parts of a city rather than, say, the suburbs, which can make your commute to after work activities a breeze. They also provide resources like internet and coffee, which can bring down costs when compared to buying these things on your own.

5. Affordable

Co-working spaces can range anywhere from $50 to $200 per month. Again, this is less than renting an office, but more than working out of your home or a coffee shop. However, for most co-workers, the advantages outweigh the costs.

illustration of what co-working could look like

Cons

1. Conflicts With Working Style

Whether or not co-working will work for you really depends on your working style and personality. An introvert who works best in quiet spaces may not be productive when too many loud conversations get going, and will struggle in the same way they would in an open office plan. However, a different introvert may enjoy the background noise. In contrast, one extrovert might gain extra motivation from the easy access to stimulating conversation, while another might find themselves too easily tempted into distraction. It’s best to give several different co-working spaces a try to determine whether or not they work for you.

2. Little Privacy

Some co-working spaces make separate meeting rooms or spaces available for private conversations, but they may come at an extra cost and not all spaces even have them. If your role requires that you make many private calls, co-working may not be the best for you.

3. Changing Spaces

If you’re the kind of person who likes hunkering down in one spot and creating a familiar environment, co-working may not work for you. While many people do tend to gravitate towards the same areas, snagging the same spot every day usually isn’t guaranteed unless you rent a desk, which tends to require the highest pricing model. Again, this varies based on co-working space, so if this is important to you, check out the policy of the place you’re considering.

4. Fixed Operating Times

While many co-working spaces do have long hours, they will still close at some point, and if you’re a startup working crazy hours, that may not sync with your schedule. You can generally mitigate the effect of this, however, by buying the most expensive membership for 24-hour access.

5. Comfort Not Guaranteed

Whether or not a co-working space is comfortable really depends on where you go, so you’ll want to check it out thoroughly before signing up. Even the most comfortable spots may not be built for your individual body and working behavior, and since you may be switching workspaces a lot, you can’t customize your ergonomics in quite the same way as you would in a set office space.

However, as we explored extensively in our mobile ergonomics series, you can bring a high degree of your ergonomics with you wherever you go — co-working spaces included.

The Takeaway

So, is co-working the thing for you? It just might be! But even the best pros and cons list (if we do say so ourselves) can’t determine that for you. Hop onto the internet, find the nearest co-working space and give it a try for yourself!

Have you ever given co-working a try? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.