Working remotely is the dream for nearly three-fourths of working Americans — until it isn’t.
Wearing what you want. Avoiding office politics. A morning commute consisting of walking from your desk to the fridge to grab a glass of orange juice. Working from a home office often conjures this breezy picture, complete with a distraction-free environment that allows you to get done what you want, how you want it — not waiting in 45 minutes of freeway traffic only to be confined to a cubicle.
Yet working from home is not without its costs.
As the almost four million freelancers, entrepreneurs, part-and-full-time remote workers in the country know, there are some just some things about an office environment you can’t replace. From the conversations and camaraderie that crop up to the sense of purpose that comes with stepping into an office, what remote working holds in flexibility, it often lacks in fellowship.
That’s where coworking steps in.
What Is Coworking?
Coworking, or office sharing, is an emerging workplace trend that aims to bridge the office gap for full- and part-time remote workers.
They are collaborative workspaces where individuals buy memberships to gain access and use a workspace, similar to a gym. Once you’ve joined, you’ll find yourself in the midst of other remote or freelance professionals with an itch for office energy yet each doing their own thing — the best of both work worlds. With membership in-hand, you head to your coworking space when you want, as much as you want, so long as you pay the fees.
Also like a gym, these memberships can be monthly or in some cases even daily. Most coworking spaces will follow one of two models — members can adopt to purchase their own desk, private and reserved exclusively for them, or they can subscribe for a general membership allowing them to work at any desk, table or area for the day that’s open and to their liking.
Collaborative workspaces can also come with a range of amenities to make the environment as close to a standard office as possible, including:
- Printers and scanners, plus other office supplies
- Meeting rooms
- Coffee stations
- Snack bars
- Kitchens or kitchenettes
- Recreation areas or lounges
- Community networking events
More Than a Home Office
Combining the sociability of a traditional workplace with the productivity and versatility those working from home cherish, coworking represents a new frontier in modern office spaces.
By the end of 2018, millions of people will be members of a coworking office space. The most-cited reason for joining? The desire to work independently and maintain a healthier work-life balance yet still interact with others and share a sense of community. Home offices simply can’t curate this.
Trends also forecast that more people than ever will be working remotely in the upcoming decade. Some estimates put remote-working participant numbers to rival those of at full-time, fixed office locations as soon as 2025. Coworking spaces are picking up steam worldwide, too. Currently, there over half of all countries have collaborative workspace options and networks, from monthly, full-access memberships to by-the-hour, as-needed hot desking.
All this points to an exciting time for those who can embrace collaborative office spaces. Coworking versus a home office shares the same principles — to lend workers mobility, productivity and a greater sense of autonomy. The former, however, doesn’t sacrifice that all-important human connection in the process.
Why Are Shared Work Spaces Trending?
There are many factors that, once interwoven, created the right environment for coworking spaces to flourish.
1. Mobile Technology
Technology is the linchpin allowing work beyond the standard office.
At the most basic level, hardware like laptops, tablets and smartphones make remote employees easily plugged-in and accessible, providing the toolkit for outfitting out-of-office productivity. Yet just as important are the advancements in software and apps that turned work borderless. Consider the following:
- The Cloud: The Cloud has revolutionized remote work, making it possible for employees, freelancers and self-starters to connect to specific networks, run programs, access files and create or edit documents regardless of location.
- Communication platforms: Digital communication tools — from instant messaging and email to mobile voice and video-over-Internet conferencing — can all be housed on a single platform. Remote and in-house employees access the same interface for the vast majority of their communication needs, sometimes accessing the information or people they need faster than in the office.
- Document-sharing suites: Centralized, cloud-based document repositories make everyone’s lives easier. Workers can access any document required from organized folders available a few clicks away.
- Project-management software: Decentralized project-management platforms mean managers can assign tasks and employees can log progress in one digital place. Workers can manage status updates, build calendars, follow deadlines and track benchmarks, all without ever having to meet in person.
These are the very tools needed to connect workforces across borders, conduct virtual meetings and complete project and task workflows — the bread and butter of business operations.
2. The Rise of Independent Workers and the Gig Economy
Remote jobs have only solidified their place as a legitimate career path in recent years. Attitudes about them are shifting, both for employees desiring greater work-life balance and companies looking to attract top talent.
The growing amount of remote, home-based or freelance workers has helped, too. What was once a rarity for a handful of niche telemarketing positions now extends across industries:
- Over 70 percent of today’s nearly 3.9 million part and full-time remote workers have gone remote in the last four years
- More than 23 percent of home-based workers work for companies that are also fully remote, without a centralized “home” office
- Remote gig economy and freelancing are also on the rise. Recent surveys show that nearly one-third of Americans, or approximately 57 million people, now monetize their “side hustles,” participating in part-time freelancing gigs to supplement income or help turn their passions into professions.
- Coworking spaces and office sharing businesses have grown nearly 200 percent in the last five years, with over 14,000 available locations worldwide.
3. Business Cost Savings
Freelancers and remote workers aren’t the only ones using coworking spaces. From fresh startups to multi-national corporations like IBM, Uber and Salesforce, more and more established enterprises are jumping on the coworking office bandwagon.
They’re saving serious money by doing so. Commercial real estate prices in many parts of the country sit at record highs, making monthly rent unfeasible for many operations — and down payments an outright fantasy.
Coworking spaces and shared offices offer a cost-effective alternative. Research shows that coworking memberships — both for private offices or for unreserved hot desks — stand to save organizations the following compared to office leasing:
- Startups and small businesses with less than a dozen employees can save up to $2,700 a month through coworking
- Overhead costs are virtually eliminated, including expenses like utilities, maintenance and space purchased for employee parking
- By 2020, 50 percent of large companies will sponsor some form of shared workspaces for their remote workforce
Pros and Cons of Coworking
Those interested in coworking and office sharing have a few key considerations to review. Weighing shared workspace benefits with drawbacks will help individuals and enterprises alike make the right call on this unique kind of environment.
1. Pros of Coworking
Some of the most common benefits of shared office space include the following:
- Flexibility: Go in when you want. Stay home when you want. Shared office spaces give you back control of your work time and spatial preferences, as well as curates a healthier sense of work-life balance.
- Worker happiness: Nearly 90 percent of remote employees with a coworking membership report being happier when at their shared workspaces.
- Employee engagement: Studies also show 84 percent of coworking participants are more motivated and engaged at work, variables that reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
- Diverse networking affordances: The very nature of coworking spaces goes hand-in-hand with professional networking opportunities. They’re literally designed to encourage interactions. What’s more, everyone has indicated their interest in meeting others just by signing up for a membership. This means easier connections in an organic setting, the ideal recipe for authentic networking.
- Knowledge sharing: Collaborative workspaces are filled with freelancers, entrepreneurs, full- and part-time employees across dozens of industries. From creative to technical talent, you’ll benefit from rubbing elbows with people in vastly different roles than you — and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.
- Community: Perhaps most importantly, the benefits of a shared office space lies in its sense of connection. Working from home can be isolating. When you head to a shared space, you’re immersed in a group of like-minded professionals, each working toward individual goals. The communal buzz is palpable.
2. Cons of Coworking
Like any work environment, though, coworking spaces come with their fair share of potential downsides.
- Poor Internet connection: Signal interference is the most common culprit behind slow coworking WiFi. With so many people pulling from the networks, your laptop and smartphone must continually resend input messages to complete a task, leading to frustrating lag times.
- Lack of privacy: Coworking spaces are, by their nature, communal. They aim to pack an eclectic office feel into a hyper-efficient amount of space. Yet some people may find it too uncomfortable to share desks and tables or have their workstation surrounded by ceaseless activity. This is especially true if the shared office is at capacity, making the lack of privacy that much more apparent.
- Noise: Like many of today’s open-concept offices and floor plans, collaborative workspaces can get loud. Without a sound-reducing solution, everything from in-person conversations to phone calls and video conferences can be difficult, if not uncourteous to anyone on the other end of the line. Plus, you still have to work in this environment, a difficult undertaking if noise keeps distracting you.
What Are the Costs of Shared Office Spaces?
Coworking membership prices will vary. They’ll be influenced by the very same things that set commercial and residential rental listings:
- Location, location, location: You’ve heard the mantra before for a reason. The most critical variable in property values will be its location. A desk at the coworking loft in the heart of downtown’s trendiest neighborhood will cost more than the one five miles away, tucked into a quieter suburban corner.
- Area real estate market: The supply and demand of the local property market will also affect coworking space membership costs. If real estate is hot, so, too, are the prices to occupy it. That will likely be reflected in your membership fee.
- Workspace type: Hot desking will be the most cost-effective choice for freelancers and remote workers interested in collaborative workspaces, followed by a single, reserved desk. For those interested in further privacy, some coworking spaces offer cubicles or even offices you buy exclusive rights to use.
- Amenities: Some shared offices will include coffee, snacks and maybe even a Friday beer keg as part of your membership. Others will charge for these amenities a-la-carte style, which you’ll need to calculate.
On average, a coworking monthly membership cost for an unreserved hot desk in the U.S. is $200 to $450. A reserved desk at a shared office space will cost $400 to $575, while a single private office runs between $500 and $1,100 a month.
To truly assess if a coworking space is worth it, try one out. It’s not uncommon for companies or landlords who own collaborative office spaces to give prospective customers a free trial, usually in the form of a day or week pass.
Ideal Set-Up for a Coworking Environment
The ideal setup for a coworking office space is one that balances productivity with privacy, flexibility with feasibility. But most of all, it prioritizes the individual’s choice.
This choice-first office design comes down to a mix of furniture and fixtures, configured to produce a work environment where the space doesn’t feel overcrowded or overstimulating, and individuals can achieve tasks without feeling shut away or isolated. Coworking spaces can set this up through the following:
1. Mix of Workstations
A mix of workstations is the first way to set up the ideal coworking office. From individual desks to tables, benches, bar seating and even couches, a little diversity in workstations goes a long way.
Not only does it align with the different membership models, but it lets members select the seating and surface types most comfortable for the day’s priorities. They aren’t confined to a static desk or hidden away in a huge, immobile cubicle.
2. Break-Out Areas
Similar to a range of workstations, the best coworking spaces are those with a range of environments themselves. Think designated places for group work, dedicated places for individual productivity and dedicated places for rest, where members can hit the pause button and let their brains momentarily unwind.
SnapCab’s® line of Pods offers a unique workspace solution in this regard. With three different sizes, they’re designed to deliver the exact kind of spatial differentiation a desirable coworking office needs.
- Pod S is perfect for standalone workstations or sound-absorbing, individual work booths
- Pod M fits two to four people comfortably, great for small meetings, calls and consultations
- Pod L has room for up to six individuals, an optimal choice for meeting rooms or even as a private member office
3. Mobile Furniture
Mobile furniture maintains the flexibility and adaptability so at the heart of the modern coworking office. Each of our Pods is portable and reconfigurable, with easy assembly that’s meant to be moved around as needed. You design them as you like then wheel them into place — literally.
4. Outfitted Technology
Last but not least, shared workspaces today must come outfitted with contemporary technology. Otherwise, they’re short-selling their members, making even the most routine office operations like a video conference call impossible.
SnapCab Portals are an innovative office-tech solution that integrates multi-media walls with whiteboards. They come with a customizable technology panel as well, meaning other digital and electronic tools can be installed and synced with the Portal wall. For coworking office spaces where collaboration is a premium and technology connecting remote workers pivotal, few solutions are more prime.
Contact SnapCab to Get Started on the Perfect Collaborative Coworking Office Space
At SnapCab, we produce modern office spatial products that align with the spirit and innovation of coworking spaces.
Like shared offices, we saw a growing need for workplaces to meet the functional and aesthetic demands of today’s workforce. Through our Pods and Portals, we’re reimagining what tomorrow’s office can be — and what its employees can accomplish.