So, you’re cowork-curious.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Coworking has exploded in recent years, with a 78% growth in active coworkers in 2017. But what is coworking actually? Coworking, according to the Oxford Dictionary, refers to “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.” Simply put, people who aren’t working for the same employer, but share a workspace.

So, like a shared space?

On paper, they’re similar. But coworking spaces, often designed for entrepreneurs and freelancers, tend to be more flexible — offering month-to-month options and accommodate rapid changes in companies’ size and structure. Hiring three people tomorrow, but two of them are only staying for a month? A coworking space might be able to handle that a little bit better than a traditional office.

And because of their different audiences, coworking spaces tend to be a little less formal. The atmosphere focuses more on creativity and community than individual amenities. Chances are, you’ll get to know your neighbors better at a coworking space than in a shared space, as well.

So, if you’re looking for a more flexible option and don’t mind a little extra activity, a coworking space may be a good fit.

But who’s actually coworking?

Many coworking spaces directly target entrepreneurs and startups, offering resources and events intended to attract companies focused on growth, but they’re hardly the only ones taking advantage. Coworking spaces are a popular alternative to coffee shops and bookstores for many freelancers and can be a good replacement for the home office for remote workers.

Why should I cowork?

More than just a workspace, joining a coworking space means joining a community. Coworking spaces are powerful tools to build your network or to gain feedback and insight from people in other industries or with different backgrounds.

For Keith Nugent, a recent entrepreneur, that aspect is especially important. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re kind of on your own. You can consult Google or you can phone a friend, but the coworking experience kind of builds that bridge a little bit.” But in a coworking space, “suddenly you have experts all over the place… you can connect on things you never knew you had in common.”

Coworking spaces are often venues for industry-specific meetups, networking events and informative talks. These events can be a great way to put down roots in the community or just to meet people you might not otherwise have connected with. A lot of entrepreneurs start out “just coworking” until they find inspiration or stumble into a great team.

Especially for freelancers and the self-employed, it can be empowering to give up the coffee shop and work in an office again. Unlike coffee shops or bookstores, coworking spaces are built to accomodate people working. That means you don’t have to hunt down an available outlet or fight for bandwidth on a strained network.

And besides the physical amenities, the atmosphere can be a great bonus to creatives and innovators. Working alongside other people who are focused and getting stuff done can be inspiring and can alleviate some isolating effects that can come with remote working or working on your own. Mike Oliver, founder and principal of Zephyr Studios, said that benefit, in itself, is a big reason he coworks, “with four hours at Groundswell I can do eight hours of work if I was at home. “

Having a space meant for work outside of the home office can even be a great way to foster a better work-life balance. When working outside of the corporate 9–5 grind, it can be difficult to create a clear divide between when you’re working and when you’re not. Going to work in a space outside of the home can help define that separation.

Mike found himself so stressed with trying to comingle his home and work life that he seriously considered going back to the corporate world. “It was almost like I was jealous of the person that had the 9–5. I wanted that luxury of 100% clocking out again.”

Keith found that getting out of the home office gave him the structure he needed. “I’ve been in roles where you work out of your house and, while that can be kind of convenient, there’s actually a real benefit to maintaining a structure and a time where you’re at work and you’re not at work.”

Sure, that’s great — but what’s the catch?

Coworking isn’t a perfect fit for everyone. Besides the everyday distractions of a normal office, a distraction-free environment may not always be available. Coworking spaces come with all of the havok of the sheer number and size of the companies inside — rather than one office putting out a Monday morning fire, you may have three or five.

And while coworking has a lot to offer by way of flexibility, sometimes coworkers have to give some back. Multiple companies sharing the space means that while you may be buckling door for the long haul, another team may be celebrating a win. Coworkers have less control over their common spaces and can result in some additional noise or activity.

And while coworking spaces come in a variety of setups and atmospheres, they’re not free. In a regular office space you’re paying only for the square footage your company will take up, excluding any common areas, but in a coworking space your office may be smaller to account for the massive shared workspaces around you.

At a coffee shop, while the Wifi may be free, you’re still paying your way in coffee. Most coworking memberships, however, are built to be accessible. For example, one all-access membership at Groundswell costs $149/mo, or the equivalent of one $5 Starbucks coffee (plus tip) per workday, but without sharing outlets and slow connection speeds.

If coworking sounds interesting to you or if you’re just looking to get out of the house, now is the perfect time to see what all the hype is about. If you happen to be on the Space Coast, you can find out more about coworking at Groundswell at www.swellstartups.com/coworking or by clicking here to schedule a tour.

Fumiko-staff
ABOUT THE WRITER

Fumiko Shinkawa

Fumiko Shinkawa serves as the Director of Operations at Groundswell Startups. As a Melbourne-grown local and Florida Tech graduate, Fumiko is deeply passionate about growing a vibrant community celebrating tech and startup milestones in her own hometown and beyond. 

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