Coworking as a work concept has been gaining much appreciation from many. From freelancers to startup entrepreneurs and even large enterprises (Microsoft), many are increasingly convinced that coworking has become the more viable work model when compared to traditional offices. The latter has been the go-to model for decades and understandably so, as branded offices can give employees a sense of identity and belonging to the organisation. Being around colleagues from different departments also means that internal collaboration is highly possible and convenient, getting internal tasks done efficiently.
Over the years, the limitations of this model have become more apparent - and increasingly so in light of the workplace restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like you and I, modern workers are looking for something more than the monotony of traditional offices and environments. While work from home (WFH) has become the default, many have begun exploring alternatives such as coworking as the measures ease.
So what really is coworking and is it here to stay?
What is coworking?
Imagine this: people with different expertise from various industries coming together in one location to work - the coworking office. Architects, marketers, videographers, makers, and more come together in one space to work on their craft. That is coworking - working alongside solopreneurs or teams of employees and experts from various fields in a shared office space. Imagine the vibrancy of such a platform, being surrounded with many others, and the opportunities for collaboration to occur. The environment is anything but dull.
What are the benefits of coworking?
The fact that many are populating coworking spaces point to its ability to stand as a viable alternative working environment for employees and freelancers to do productive work. Here are some of its benefits:
Get more flexibility
Coworking space providers typically offer short-term contracts instead of long-term and inflexible ones. These short-term contracts allow startups and freelancers who are constantly on the go to benefit as they can plan ahead their schedule and yet stay fixed at a given location for a period of time. With the flexibility, they are allowed to be cost-efficient and choose to work in a shared workspace only when they can afford it without having to commit indefinitely to it.
Deal away with the isolation
Coworking spaces provide a sense of community for those who typically work solo, such as freelancers, solopreneurs and makers, allowing them to escape the isolation that their nature of work ties them with. This is great news for them as they now get to work on their craft together with other like-minded creatives and professionals in a common space. With isolation being dealt away comes better mental wellbeing and users being more motivated to work, boosting productivity.
Opportunities to collaborate like never before
Working in a communal space allows professionals from different fields to network organically, build friendships, and beyond that, partnerships. Sharing a space with others provides many opportunities for such conversations to occur and the prospect of doing something together to inject life into each other's business. Meaningful and profiteering partnerships can be forged for a boost in each other's bottom line.
Save on cost
Compared to traditional office spaces, coworking offices help businesses and freelancers save on cost. This is made possible as common facilities are being shared such as Wifi, photocopying and printing, pantries, washrooms, cleaning and more. Besides, a huge cost on renovating and personalising an entire office space can be saved as coworking spaces and private offices are already furnished by the space provider, allowing a smooth transition for them to enter the space and start work immediately.
What makes a coworking space?
These furnished communal spaces are typically being put up for rent by coworking space providers and they come equipped with the essential office amenities. These amenities include:
- Comfortable work desks and seats
- Chillout areas
- Stable WiFi
- Washroom with showering capabilities
- Pantry access (with oven, toaster, coffee, tea, snacks, refrigerator, water dispenser)
- Printing and photocopying
- Storage cabinets and drawers
- Private meeting rooms
A key ingredient of what makes a coworking space is also the people or in another sense, the community. After all, this is the whole point of coworking, working alongside others. Every coworking space has a community that is uniquely and naturally formed by its tenants. They are the ones who play a role in defining the culture that its members work and interact in, whether a warm, hospitable, or focused culture or a cold and impersonal one. Beyond their personalities are their individual vocations which influence the nature of conversations that take place in these spaces. This provides the context for fellow coworkers to live, work and occasionally play.
Another key ingredient of what makes a coworking space is also the very environment that it intends to give to the coworkers. Every coworking space has a certain furnishing that is uniquely different from another. Spaces can be known and appreciated for their rustic and cafe-like vibe or their cool and luxurious feel or even for being bright, creative, and inspirational. This very vibe of the space gives workers the environment they so desire to do their work.
While every coworking space is uniquely different from each other, these spaces usually have this in common: options for private and more open coworking offices. Tenants may choose from the different options according to their needs and select either a more private space or an open one. These private spaces, while already furnished, are slightly more customizable to give the office space a more branded look. Open coworking spaces are however pre-furnished and are usually non-customizable.
Who uses coworking spaces?
1. Freelancers or remote workers or solopreneurs
This is the most common demographic you'll find in these spaces. Freelancers find themselves gravitating toward such spaces as their nature of work usually requires much flexibility. A pay-as-you-go structure would be something they appreciate as this helps them save a lot on office/space rental expenses, making this the cheaper option as compared to a long-term and inflexible private office plan.
Freelancers also like to use the space as they are able to network with others in the space and tap into the partnership opportunities that are readily available. These are some reasons why freelancers are usually the default persona you'll find in these spaces.
2. Small businesses and startups
Starting a business can be stressful as there are many considerations to think about. From employee job scopes to accounting, salaries, and even the office space and environment, small business owners may find themselves to be overwhelmed with not knowing how to make these decisions.
In choosing an ideal office space then, small businesses find coworking spaces to be a go-to solution as they save on the hassle of looking for an empty office space and getting to furnish it and all the necessary work essentials such as installing wifi, photocopying services, and procuring cleaning services. Sourcing for all these amenities has been done by coworking space providers and would have already been settled for them to smoothly transition in, start work and focus on their craft.
In selecting a specific space in the entire coworking area then, private offices are usually where businesses nest their teams as compared to hotdesks and other co-shared tables. This flexibility to rent out a private office space on a few-months basis as compared to a few-years basis gives these businesses the peace of mind to rent a coworking space as compared to a traditional office space.
3. Teams of enterprise employees
While not the most common persona found in coworking spaces, enterprise employees seem to be populating these spaces increasingly. Large corporations such as Facebook and Microsoft have partnered with coworking spaces for their employees to work in these areas for short-term projects. Such corporations may choose not to buy a typical office real estate and give more time before deciding to do so - preferring to use a temporary office such as a coworking space to build their roots.
Who are coworking spaces NOT for?
While coworking spaces may seem like a great alternative to traditional office spaces for many, it may not work well for all - especially these two groups of teams or individual users.
1. For businesses who want incredible customizations to the space
As coworking spaces come pre-furnished with a given interior, businesses who want to do a complete overhaul and revamp the entire space may not be allowed to. This is so as the property primarily belongs to the coworking space provider. They have the right to decide how they want the spaces to look like without compromising on the given coworking brand image.
2. For people who value a high level of privacy
Coworking spaces are typically bustling with conversations and events, making it energetic and sometimes loud. This makes it less conducive for people who value high levels of privacy and prefer to work in extremely quiet environments. People who have to work in a very private environment due to their personality or line of work may not enjoy working in a coworking space. However, with that said, many coworking locations, like Open Fields, offer private office options. These are dedicated rooms that are kept separate from coworking areas and give organisations the flexibility to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Is coworking for you?
Are you looking for a change in environment from the traditional office working desk or WFH? Coworking might be the refreshing change you're looking for to get productive work done.
Coworking or day passes or free trials are typically offered by space providers and you might want to take them up before making a decision.
Interested in trying it out? Give Open Fields’ coworking a shot and book your free trial today by clicking 'plan a visit' on the menu above.