There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to working. Certain environments will always suit some industries or personality types more than others.
The temptation when starting out is always to work from home, due to the low cost and flexibility. However, for a number of freelancers and small businesses, coworking is an increasingly attractive concept.
Coworking refers to shared workspace, where small businesses and individuals can rent affordably within a like-minded community of professionals.
Typically, this fosters a productive, collaborative atmosphere. Businesses can also accommodate a growing workforce without having to commit to a long-term fixed lease.
In recent years, coworking has grown from niche to viable mainstream option – especially in cities with eye-watering property prices, like Sydney. It’s forecast that there will be over 10,000 coworking spaces across the globe by the end of 2016. Examples of sprawling Australian coworking networks include Hub, Fishburners and WeWork.
That said, it’s worth trialling different options to see what works best for you. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons.
The obvious place to start is that it’s basically free. You might run up a slightly higher electricity bill, but you’re already paying for the privilege of living there, so why not get the most out of it? The early days of freelancing, part-timing, or setting up a business are all about keeping costs lean.
That morning commute doesn’t agree with everyone. Crammed onto public transport, trying to blink yourself awake. Who wouldn’t trade that time for extra sleep, personal space and a hearty breakfast? Working from home gives you a much smoother welcome each day.
If you have young children or pets that require constant attention, working from home is ultra convenient. You can come and go as you please – attend appointments, walk the dog, or be home during the ludicrously vague arrival window of a repairman.
Hanging with your pets is a mixed blessing.
From both a client and employee perspective. As your business grows, you’re likely to be setting up meetings and trying to attract the best talent. Inviting people to a residential address – even if your setup is relatively professional – is hardly going to inspire confidence in the long term.
There’s always a risk that you’ll become too comfortable in your surroundings. The novelty of working in trackies on the couch is great at first. Before long, you’re napping a little too often and productivity is plummeting.
It takes vigilance to stay on task without the panoptic threat of a full office. If working from home is going to work for you, be sure you have the requisite discipline.
Again, the impact might take a while to become apparent, but cabin fever is a real risk. Even if day-to-day office life doesn’t agree with you, it gets you out of the house and interacting with people.
Living and working in the same space definitely shrinks your world. At the same time, lines that used to separate the stressful and relaxing elements of your life can easily blur.
When you’re surrounded by people working towards common (or at least similar) goals, you’re spurred on to do the same. It’s like having a spotter at the gym. We’re all terrible self-motivators, but collectively it’s easier to knuckle down.
That community element of coworking is a key selling point. A happy workplace is proven to be more productive. Many coworking sites host regular social and learning events with this in mind.
The term ‘networking’ may have a bad rep in some circles, but it’s a crucial part of growing your business. Building strong contacts is infinitely easier when you’re surrounded by other businesses, some of which might dovetail well with your services.
Coworking hosts will often facilitate introductions, but relationships also form organically, without the need for cold calling.
While anything is more expensive than working from home, coworking aims to find a happy middle ground between the home and traditional office. Rather than committing to a fixed space, unsure how much your workforce will grow, coworking offers flexible memberships per person.
That means you can start small, with low overheads, and expand at a rate that suits you.
You can choose your friends, but you can’t always choose your coworking neighbours. A community vibe is great, but as anyone with an eclectic office playlist knows, workplaces are a melting pot of different tastes, sensibilities and volume levels.
People with laser focus may not be put off by background noise, while others find a mild throat clearing on par with nails on a blackboard. This much is true: in communal areas, noise cancelling headphones are your friend.
Some people will see this as a positive. Not having to mediate your own conflicts could be a blessing, but there are times when you’ll probably want to pull rank.
For a coworking community to run smoothly, it takes the collective respect and diligence of the group. This includes people who don’t work for you. Your jurisdiction only extends so far. Cue the passive aggressive post-it notes.
These cons are all variations on a theme, aren’t they? It’s likely that meeting rooms will be limited. The fuller the office becomes, the tougher it’s going to be to book space when you want it. A bit of forward planning will come in handy. For anyone hotdesking, a strong labelling game is also a must.