What is Coworking?

The rise of the gig economy has created the need for a new kind of work space. That need has been answered through the creation of coworking spaces leased to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startup owners. These innovative and collaborative spaces are not only changing the way people work, they are changing the way young business leaders view the whole concept of work.


What is coworking? The actual definition of coworking varies depending on who you ask. For general purposes, coworking can be defined as:

“Coworking is the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.”

It used to be that coworking was defined as a group of freelancers all sitting at desks in open space that, by default, forced them to communicate and collaborate. That definition is no longer valid in light of the many coworking options now available. A more modern definition suggests that coworking is multiple people working in shared space for separate employers, be they self-employed or working for another company.

What Does Coworking Include?

Coworking space can be set up in any number of configurations ranging from wide-open lofts to several floors of space that include public areas, conference rooms, and individual offices. The services and amenities a coworking office provides clients are what really make the difference.

A typical coworking space provides:

  • Work Space – Providers offer workspace options that include private office space, open collaboration space, conference rooms, and even cubicles.
  • Office Equipment – Offices offer the use of shared equipment including printers and fax machines.
  • Utilities – Coworking spaces generally include heat, water, electricity, and internet access.
  • Mail and Fax Handling – Some coworking spaces include mail and fax handling free of charge.
  • Support Staff – Coworking spaces may offer support staff, including receptionists. A coworking space focused on a particular industry, say legal for example, may also employ aides or interns to help out.
  • Other Amenities – Lastly, coworking spaces tend to offer amenities, such as free coffee and tea.

Who Benefits From Coworking Spaces?

The biggest users of coworking space are, by far, freelancers. They can be consultants, writers, IT techs, graphic designers, software developers, or just about anything else. Freelancers are joined in coworking spaces by:

  • Start-up teams
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Contractors
  • Employees working remotely

There really are no limits on who can use coworking space. In fact, there are entire companies with hundreds of employees worldwide with no physical headquarters. Each employee works remotely at a local coworking office.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Coworking?

Coworking does have both pros and cons when it comes to renting office space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses. Fortunately, the advantages of coworking heavily outweigh the disadvantages.

Advantages of Coworking

The biggest advantages of coworking are as follows:

  • More meaningful work. People who work in coworking spaces say they find their work more meaningful because they are among like-minded people who are there to accomplish, not engage in office politics
  • More control. Because coworking spaces are accessible around-the-clock, clients have more freedom to control their own schedules.
  • Collaborative opportunities. Coworking emphasizes both community and collaboration. People involved in coworking spaces tend to feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves, encouraging them to openly collaborate for the benefit of all.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of coworking is financial. Coworking space is a lot less costly – especially in an expensive city like New York. Coworking gives freelancers and entrepreneurs access to the workspace and office equipment they need for far less than they would pay for their own private office space.

Disadvantages of Coworking

Coworking is not without its downsides, though. Among these cons is the potential for distractions. Depending on the coworking space a person is involved with, productivity may require a very disciplined approach that mitigates the risk of interoffice distractions. The biggest disadvantages to coworking are as follows:

  • Noise. Without your own private office space, you won’t be able to control the noise volume. Most coworking spaces you’ll find completely respectable in regards to noise and personal space. However, it’s important to take a tour of the space before making a payment to ensure it’s the right coworking space for you and your workspace needs.
  • Constant change. Coworking environments can sometimes change rapidly. You will see different people and employees utilizing the space on different occasions. Some will only need the workspace for a day, and others will take advantage of the space until it’s time for their own private office space.
  • Being presentable. Many people who prefer to work from home state one of their favorite advantages of working remotely is not having to look the part to do the actual work. While most coworking spaces don’t require you to wear business attire, they at least require you to wear shirts and shoes.

How Much Does Coworking Space Cost?

The actual cost of coworking space is determined by a long list of factors including location, amenities, and demand. According to a 2015 analysis by Quartz, the average coworking costs in some of the most popular coworking cities in the world are as follows:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand – $106/month
  • Bangalore, India – $104/month
  • Singapore – $218/month
  • Berlin – $175/month
  • London – $297/month
  • Amsterdam – $262/month
  • Barcelona – $218/month
  • Santiago, Chile – $196/month
  • Medellin, Colombia – $150/month
  • New York and San Francisco – $570/month
  • Boulder, CO – $350/month
  • Austin, TX – $200/month

Although there are significant variations between some locales, monthly rates for coworking space are a fraction of the cost of maintaining private, exclusive space. Coworking definitely saves money for workers who need professional space.

Source: Oxford Living Dictionaries