Envisioned as both a physical space and a philosophy, coworking spaces were initially embraced by professionals from a variety of industries including freelancers, startups, consultants, business travelers, remote workers, and entrepreneurs.
However, while those groups have traditionally taken advantage of this innovative shared work environment for a number of reasons, the truth is that the concept of coworking is experiencing a renewed growth in popularity, and that popularity is accelerating as a result from the emergence of COVID-19.
Enterprises large and small are beginning to explore other workplace options, and coming to terms with the fact that the days of a dominant nine-to-five traditional office space may be on the way out. So why use a coworking space, and how can it benefit you as an individual or an organization? Read on to find out!
What is Coworking?
Coworking is built on what is referred to as a “space as a service” model.
It is a flexible workplace in which independent professionals work together in a communal setting. Coworking spaces are an alternative to working from home or in a cafe environment, and are now increasingly used by larger institutions as a way of providing their workforce with a greater degree of flexibility and control in their working lives.
That said, office coworking is more than just sharing the space and associated costs of a kitchen, WiFi, and meeting/conference rooms. Coworking can also be just as much about innovation, networking, collaboration, community, and cost reductions.
Who Uses Coworking Spaces?
Coworking is increasingly relevant across a broad number of disciplines and industries. As mentioned above, many of those that initially embraced the concept were independent workers, such as:
Freelancers typically work from home most of the time. While that may seem like an ideal option to those stuck in the office every day, it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. Over time, freelancers have reported certain costs associated with their independence, such as feelings of isolation, higher levels of stress, and in some cases a lack of motivation or productivity brought on by a lack of structure. Coworking spaces can be an antidote to that in many respects.
Entrepreneurs and Startups
As a single entrepreneur, a small team of individuals working on a startup, or a small business already in operation, a coworking space can be an amazing place to grow. Particularly at the early stage of a business’s development, it is usually highly advantageous to focus most of the energy on perfecting products, services, or ideas, and coworking spaces are a great way to share and reduce the costs associated with commercial real estate.
Business Travelers and Remote Workers
Sure, you can use your hotel room as an office when you’re out on the road. But if you’re the type that’s on the road most of the year, having the option to utilize a coworking space can sometimes be a lifesaver. It can be just the right mix of professional and laid-back that is conducive to high productivity and great networking.
Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs)
Although many SMBs have opted for a more traditional culture in the past, the recent pandemic, along with technological advances like cloud computing have made it obvious that there are other options available. SMBs of various sizes are finding that offering their employees the flexibility inherent in coworking spaces can also be a way to recruit and retain top talent
What Are the Benefits of Coworking?
As more companies embrace remote work options, coworking spaces offer both choices and opportunities. Their inherent flexibility allows employees to exert more control over their working lives. And for employers, they help free resources currently spent on space, and instead allow them to invest in their people.
There are a number of other advantages as well, including:
Networking and Community
As an entrepreneur or independent professional, connecting with others is not only good for the soul, it can be profitable too! By spending time around others, users can gain the benefit of daily human interaction while also potentially finding the solution to a problem they face. For example, a tech startup might learn lessons from a more established company using the same space, benefitting from their experience. Alternatively, a small business may find the answer to a legal question by simply striking up a conversation with another member by the coffee machine. Experience and lessons learned from different fields of business, from like minded people, can be shared and business relationships can be developed which may last throughout your career and help launch you and your business into different directions. Opportunities abound from your business network and coworking spaces provide an environment to make and grow connections.
Coworking presents an amazing opportunity for SMBs by turning
the one of the most expensive lines in their monthly operating statement – their rent – and turning it into a service. Instead of locking down a 10-year lease in an office tower in the center of the business district, renting space on a monthly or quarterly basis can pay huge dividends. Also, there is no need for telecom/network setup, maintenance, security, fire insurance, garbage collection, office equipment, etc. Everything is included!
Associated with cost savings is the notion of flexibility – and this works for both employees and employers alike. Not only does a monthly or bi-annual contract provide employers a more nimble footing and more cash with which to operate, it allows employees the freedom that can’t be found in traditional nine-to-five office culture. Why get stuck in rush hour traffic if you don’t have to? Come in early, take breaks midday, work in the evenings… whatever you want!
Working from a home office or a coffee shop can sometimes slow you down, a fact particularly true for entrepreneurs and consultants. Sure, it has a certain appeal, but there are constant distractions in these environments. As well, not everyone can work at a consistent, focused, pace with little or no accountability, schedule, or structure. By having a place you can go to daily, you can gain the benefits of an office-style culture without being married to it forever.
On the philosophical side, some of the values that the coworking movement aspires to include community, sustainability, collaboration, and learning. Coworking spaces are a great place to look for guidance, especially for startups and growing businesses. Coworking spaces regularly offer networking events, training programs, and social events.
What is Usually Included in Coworking Spaces?
Aside from the flexibility, networking opportunities, lower costs, and structure, many coworking spaces also provide a host of amenities, such as:
- Front-desk reception
- 24/7 secure access
- Soft seating and a cafe style atmosphere
- Rentable conference and meeting rooms, completely wired with the latest technology
- Soundproof phone booths, a private office, or comfy nooks to work in
- Kitchens and outdoor spaces
- And more!
Are Coworking Spaces Tax Deductible?
The short answer is that yes, they are in most cases. While the tax deductions you can receive will depend on a number of factors, there is a good chance that both independent contractors and SMBs will be able to deduct some form of those expenses on their yearly tax returns.
Can Coworking Benefit Your Organization?
Coworking spaces are not just popular as an independent concept, they’re also a rapidly-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry, one eager to provide options for companies navigating what is a rapidly changing world of work.
In fact, while coworking spaces are often associated with smaller businesses or entrepreneurs, the market is rapidly expanding to include much larger organizations.
Just recently, in the face of the challenges presented by COVID-19, a number of enterprise companies have joined the fray, offering many work-from-home options now and into the future. These companies include major players such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Uber, Airbnb, Microsoft, and others.
Having those workers make the change to working from home is only one step away from having them join a coworking space, and it is expected that in the coming years we’ll see an even broader range of industries embracing the coworking concept.
If you’re interested in adding the benefits of coworking to your work life, there has never been a better time to explore the options. Providing yourself (or your staff) with more freedom, more comfort, and a greater degree of control over their work could be just the change that your workplace needs to take things to the next level.