Is the traditional office on the way out? For entrepreneurs on the West Coast, it just might be. Over the past few years, co-working spaces have risen to prominence as trendy alternatives to the conventional office space. Now, small businesses and individual-run ventures don’t need to pour the lion’s share of their profits into maintaining a single brick-and-mortar location. By opting for co-working arrangements, entrepreneurs and independent employees can simulate the productive environment of an office without the expense and logistical bother purchasing a dedicated office space entails. These co-working arrangements function in a number of ways; in some smaller communities, large businesses might lease out their excess office space to one or more smaller enterprise. In larger cities, dedicated co-working spaces are common and readily accessible. These trendy “offices” are typically run by a dedicated company and operate like a club: by paying their dues, members earn access not only to the space, but also to costly office resources (i.e., printers, copiers, and conference rooms) and entry to networking events hosted by the site.
But as trendy and useful as a co-working arrangement might sound, the model does have some serious pitfalls. Ultimately, businesses will need to assess their needs and resources to determine whether a membership, sublet, or traditional office space best fits their needs. Here, I outline a few of the pros and cons to consider before buying into the co-working trend.
Tech giants have sparked unprecedented economic growth across the West Coast. Jobs are many and readily available in cities such as San Francisco and Seattle as software-based startups open their doors. But this growth has come with one significant flaw: Real estate prices. The sheer expense of dedicated office space in a tech hub city is enough to make a small business reconsider setting down roots. The monthly fee co-working arrangements ask are cheap by comparison, and stand as a feasible alternative for businesses that lack the resources to buy into a traditional space.
Professionalism and Flexibility
The last place an entrepreneur wants to discuss business is over their mother’s kitchen table. While many startups begin in an entrepreneur’s apartment or a local coffee shop, they shouldn’t grow there. At some point, every promising business needs to migrate to an office space to thrive, especially when founders begin to meet with investors and consult with clients. Co-working spaces offer the staples of a traditional office within a flexible framework: printers, copiers, cubicles, conference rooms, and – depending on the space – access to mailing services are all available to coworking members.
Anyone who has worked from home knows that most of the time, you just don’t get as much done from your couch as you would in a cubicle. Co-working spaces are inherently social; they encourage peer productivity and offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to network and socialize with like-minded professionals.
Co-working spaces are less expensive than traditional office space – but that doesn’t make them affordable. Memberships can cost anywhere from $300 to well over $500 every month, and pose a significant financial barrier to entrepreneurs who lack the profits to afford the expense.
Many collaborative spaces are laid-back and social. Professionals bring their dogs, members chat across desks, and the coffee station bustles. Ultimately, the beautifully-decorated and casually social environment that drew you might just be chock-full of distractions that utterly prevent you from getting work done.
Have a conference room nearby is wonderfully convenient – unless it’s been booked up for a week. Unfortunately, those who use co-working spaces as their primary offices need to deal with logistical challenges that those in traditional spaces don’t. Members are constantly vying for access to needed resources such as copiers, conference spaces, and printers. This might be find for some, but for others, the situation might turn embarrassing – especially if they find themselves needing to conduct an important conversation with a potential investor in a public cubicle.