You found our guide to coworking.
Coworking is a practice where professionals rent out space temporarily in an office as an alternative to a long-term lease. Freelancers and remote workers use these spaces most frequently, however coworking appeals to a wide range of professionals. The purpose of these services is to provide a structured office environment to telecommuters, as well as community, professional development, and networking opportunities.
This article covers:
- how coworking space works
- why are coworking spaces important
- what do coworking spaces offer
- why use coworking spaces
- who uses coworking spaces
- types of coworking spaces
- how to choose a coworking space
- how does remote coworking work
- coworking ideas
Here is everything you need to know.
How coworking space works
Coworking services rent out office space for a set period of time, ranging from a few hours to several months. These contracts are typically shorter than standard office leases, and thus ideal for organizations or professionals who do not want to commit to long-term rentals.
The coworking provider offers different plans with varying options. Most standard plans include desk space or communal working space, with upgrades available to gain access to additional amenities. Coworking spaces also frequently rent out meeting rooms and event spaces, and hold conferences, seminars, and networking events for members. Professionals can access office equipment like copiers and fax machines and may even be able to use industry-specific tools like recording equipment or video cameras. There are different types of coworking spaces that cater to different audiences and offer varying amenities.
Essentially, coworking spaces offer the benefits of working in an office, for example a quiet and focused workspace, access to equipment, and a professional community, to workers in need of these services. Coworking requires less commitment and offers more freedom than securing traditional office space.
Why are coworking spaces important?
Thanks to the rise of remote, freelancing, and gig work, coworking spaces are becoming more common. Not every work from home employee has a home conducive to working, and many professionals benefit from the structure that coworking spaces provide. These temporary office spaces are freer from distractions, and provide areas for coworkers to meet and collaborate together. Coworking offices are also much more professional places to meet with clients, as opposed to coffee shops or personal residences. Plus, remote work can often be lonely or isolating, and these spaces foster social interaction and a sense of community.
Coworking spaces serve purposes beyond self-employment or remote work. These spaces also offer a dedicated, dependable working space to professionals who travel often or temporarily relocate for projects. These providers give digital nomads the peace of mind of knowing there will be practical working conditions in an unfamiliar city.
These offices are also useful to companies who want to provide employees with high quality work environments without investing in a company building. Setting up a permanent office in a city might not fit into a corporation’s long-term plans, due to reasons such as budget or plans to build a headquarters elsewhere. However, coworking spaces provide workers with the needed materials and appropriate atmospheres to operate effectively.
Coworking spaces save professionals the time and effort of gathering resources and setting up working spaces, while offering the flexibility to change locations at any time.
What do coworking spaces offer?
Coworking facilities offer working space, ranging from a seat at a table or a communal area, a desk, cubicle, office, or an entire office floor. Meeting rooms and event spaces such as auditoriums are also often available. Plans usually describe which types of accommodations subscribers are able to use.
Most coworking spaces also have break rooms or communal kitchens, similar to regular offices. Many places offer complimentary coffee and snacks, and some have in-house cafes or restaurants where members can purchase refreshments. Lounges are also common.
The spaces also have typical office equipment such as printers, copiers, conference phones, projectors, and fax machines. Members may also be able to borrow or use more sophisticated and industry-specific equipment such as 3-D printers, specialty software, lighting, or recording equipment.
Like corporate headquarters, some coworking spaces offer additional amenities such as daycares, cafes and restaurants, gyms, storage space, post and printing services, and gardens. More unique providers may attract attention with unusual features such as climbing walls, rage rooms, or Instagrammable murals.
Beyond the physical environment, coworking spaces offer opportunities for community and professional development. Many facilities host regular networking events and educational programming like seminars, conferences, lectures, lunch and learns, and workshops.
The coworking experience can be as basic or all-inclusive as the worker needs. Often, spaces offer tiered plans and add-ons that permit professionals to design the ideal workspace to fit their needs.
Why use coworking spaces?
Coworking spaces provide professional office environments without the costs or commitments of an actual office space. These arrangements are more flexible than traditional offices, as guests can usually change workspaces in case of a disruptive neighbor. Coworking spaces also provide remote workers with a professional space to meet with clients, or just a way to escape chaos or distraction at home. Work from home employees often have trouble creating boundaries between work and freetime, and coworking can help to make this distinction. Also, these spaces foster human connection and socialization and can be a valuable networking tool. Many coworking companies also offer professional development and events.
According to The Harvard Business Review, individuals who use coworking spaces tend to be more satisfied than workers in traditional office settings, as coworking arrangements typically eliminate office politics, give professionals more control over their jobs, and create a sense of community.
Who uses coworking spaces?
Freelancers and remote workers are two groups who tend to use coworking spaces most often, These folks may want a quiet, structured space to work, especially if setting up a home office is not a possibility or living conditions are not conducive to working. Such individuals may also need a neutral space to meet and collaborate with teammates and clients.
Other coworking regulars include:
- startup staff and members of smaller companies
- digital nomads
- frequent business travelers
- contractors and gig workers
- short-term project team members
- workers at corporations who otherwise lack a regional homebase
As remote and hybrid work continue to grow, so will coworking’s clientele.
Types of coworking spaces
Here are different types of coworking spaces you may encounter when looking for a desk to rent.
1. Standard community coworking
The average coworking space is an office with renatable desks and meeting rooms. While some spaces take up entire skyscrapers, smaller and independent spaces take up a single office or suite. Many coworking locations are in business parks, office buildings, or shopping centers.
These environments are like any other office space, except that workers are from different companies. As the concept of coworking gains traction, more spaces appear in areas across the country.
At minimum, most spaces have desks, communal tables, or a mix of both, along with meeting rooms, and kitchenettes or break rooms. Some spaces also have event spaces and host programs for members and the surrounding community. Plans may dictate what resources are available to members at certain times.
Luxury coworking spaces pander to high-earners and professionals with top taste.
These buildings use artful architecture and high-end interior design, and many feature chandeliers, murals, and leather furniture. The offices use the latest technology, such as virtual reality and smart devices. Luxury coworking spaces often offer amenities such as gourmet foods and personal chefs, masseuses, and upscale fitness centers. In many ways, these spaces are more like resorts than offices.
To keep an air of exclusivity, providers often curate the member list so that only professionals who fit certain specifications can join. The fees run steeper than traditional coworking spaces. These services take aim at clientele willing to splurge on extraordinary experiences and to spare no expense to work in the office equivalent of first class.
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Corporations are some of coworking’s biggest clients. Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Bank of America contract to rent out office space short term. Some coworking companies cater exclusively to enterprise businesses, while others offer corporate packages that emphasize features like the use of event space and conference rooms.
There are many reasons a corporation may choose to partner with a coworking firm. For example, perhaps the organization has a short term project in the area and needs a temporary home base. Or, the market may not be ideal for buying real estate, so the company decides to rent before setting down roots. Perhaps executives are not sure where to build the next permanent headquarters, and want to buy more time for the decision or test out certain markets. Or, maybe the organization wants to cut down on overhead and have the flexibility to decrease geographic footprints at will instead of being locked into a long-term lease.
Coworking providers often rent out floors to corporations, and offer rooms and spaces where teammates can work together. Spaces may separate corporate clients from the general population to provide more privacy.
4. Digital Nomad
As telecommuting becomes more common, a growing number of professionals embrace the digital nomad lifestyle and travel while working remotely. There are coworking spaces that cater to this crowd and design spaces to appeal to this community.
These coworking spaces aim to be destinations, and often use the locations as a major selling point. Some spaces are beachfront or in trendy city neighborhoods, and many offer views of the landscape or city skyline. Perhaps the building has a unique history as a former factory or church, much like a hotel or B&B. Gyms, laundrettes, gardens, and cafes are common features. Some providers offer experiences like surfing lessons and scooter rentals. These environments tend to resemble hostels with a more professional vibe.
On a more practical level, these coworking spaces often have generators and high speed internet and offer the promise of uninterrupted work in locales with unreliable utilities.
Coworking spaces aimed at digital nomads tend to have more flexible plan options that allow wanderers to book short or extended stays.
Here are examples of remote work locations.
5. Remote Only
While rentable office space is one of the main draws of coworking, these businesses provide other benefits like a sense of community, networking opportunities, and learning experiences. Professionals may be too far to regularly use the facilities, yet still want access to these other options.
Some spaces offer digital plans with features like virtual mixers, webinars, member directories, secure virtual meetings, and day passes so that members can benefit from the professional community without being physically present. You can also participate in quick virtual team building activities for remote employees.
Some coworking spaces cater to specific industries or niches, such as graphic designers, finance, programming, or engineering. These centers often exist in cities where industry hubs are located, for example, tech near Silicon Valley or publishing in New York City.
These specialized spaces offer industry-specific tools and resources, for example recording studios, photoshoot stages, or sewing machines. Niche coworking spaces also tend to provide more effective networking opportunities, since all members belong to the same or similar fields.
7. Identity based
Coworking is about community, and there are spaces that help unique groups have support, for example women, the Black creator community, and LGBTQ+ professionals. While these spaces might welcome folks who are outside of the core identity, many of the members fall into the group, and most of the programming revolves around this member base. The spaces often operate in manners similar to employee resource groups.
8. All inclusive
Some coworking providers offer expansive headquarters that include amenities like daycares, fitness centers, restaurants, stores, and perhaps even petsitters, doctors, dormitories, schools, and spas. These spaces resemble corporate campuses, and aim to bring every possible convenience to working professionals to save time and energy. Corporate and chain coworking companies are often the purveyors of these kinds of facilities.
Distributed coworking spaces transform unused real estate into office space. For example, a coworking company may turn a restaurant that is closed during the day into a temporary workspace. These arrangements tend to be more cost-effective for the company and consumer alike. Often, these plans are a-la-carte and give individuals the option to pay per day instead of committing to a monthly subscription. Often these spaces are more intimate than large office buildings, which can help visitors who are wary of crowds or distractions. These solutions also appeal to folks who prefer unconventional workspaces.
How to choose a coworking space
Location is one of the key components of choosing a coworking space. Many areas have numerous coworking options, and sometimes chain companies have multiple locations within the same city. Wanting to minimize commute time, many professionals gravitate towards spaces close to home. However, it may make more sense to work closer to clients or to a child’s school. Members may also want to consider traffic and parking when making the choice.
Offerings are also important. While every coworking space guarantees a place to work, setup varies. Some providers only offer a space at the table for basic plans, with options to upgrade to private desks or offices. There may be an extra fee for meeting space, or there may be limits on the hours members can use these rooms. Some spaces may offer special services or equipment. Quality or frequency of events is another persuasive factor.
Coworking spaces with similar services can also vary in terms of atmosphere. Some places are more communal and energetic while others are quieter and more private. Certain spaces are geared more towards collaboration, and others, independent work.
When choosing a coworking space, consider which characteristics are most important to an ideal working environment, and do research on different providers. Be sure to read reviews and check out the business’s social media, and feel free to reach out to your professional network for recommendations. Definitely schedule a tour or purchase a trial pass to confirm the space is a good fit before committing to a contract. If possible, try to speak to members while visiting to get a feel for your potential new neighbors and the experience of the space.
For more tips, check out this Washington Post guide to choosing coworking spaces.
How does remote coworking work?
Remote coworking is a term that encompasses a few approaches. To some folks, remote coworking means visiting a coworking space, either alone or with colleagues, while working outside of the office.
Other professionals cowork virtually by scheduling focused work sessions with colleagues. These meetings may consist of working silently together with webcams during a Zoom call, or meeting via video to brainstorm ideas or chat about work topics. Or, remote teammates may commit to working steadily without interruption for an hour, clocking in and out via time tracking software or Slack thread. These gatherings tend to have a study hall vibe.
Remote coworking can foster camaraderie, spark creativity, boost energy, and provide structure to folks who work better under observation.
Some remote workers use a Pomodoro app the manage their workdays and do project sprints with colleagues.
List of coworking ideas
Here is a list of fun activities to do in coworking spaces.
1. Offer coworking as a perk to remote workers
Coworking memberships can be a tempting employee benefit, especially if your company is fully remote and unable to offer perks like company gyms or catered lunches. You can either cover memberships in full, or reimburse a portion of member fees. Or, you can offer to cover up to a certain number of days per year as necessary. You may even be able to negotiate a corporate rate or score some trial passes for employees who might be interested.
Check out more employee perks and benefits.
2. Hold a team outing at a coworking space
One of the downsides to running a 100% remote company is without a central headquarters, team building events must take place in public spaces, which can be loud or crowded. Coworking spaces often rent out event rooms you can use for outings and team building games like happy hours, office Olympics, professional development course, or even a daylong retreat.
Check out a guide to team building games.
3. Host a coworking crawl
Perhaps a change of scenery sparks your creativity and helps you focus, or maybe you want to pay visits to teammates in other towns. Instead of choosing only one coworking space, host a crawl and visit several facilities.
First, find a few different coworking spaces that offer day passes or trials, or a chain that lets you work from any of its locations. Then, plan a week, month, or quarter to visit the different spots.
You can use this approach to rotate in-person meetups for remote teams to vary the commute time for your coworkers. Or, if you are a leader or a professional that travels frequently, you can plan to meet and collaborate with different teammates at these locations.
4. Launch a coworking scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are games that encourage teamwork and exploration. These challenges can help remote teammates get more comfortable with coworking spaces. Since some clues involve connecting with other members, the games can serve as helpful networking tools.
To host a coworking scavenger hunt, send your employees a list of prompts and give a timeframe for the game, such as a workweek or one month. You can encourage participants to take pictures of each completed clue. However, emphasize that players should get permission before snapping a photo of a fellow professional!
Here is a starter template we made for your game:
Check out more scavenger hunt tips.
5. Play coworking Bingo
Coworking Bingo is a game that challenges workers to observe their surroundings. To play, send each teammate a card. Then, ask the players to look out for neighbors in the coworking spaces who fit the descriptions in the blocks. You can set a time limit for each game such as a day or a week, or can start a new round after each player gets Bingo.
Since teammates will be playing in different buildings, there is no need to randomize the squares. However, you can make different versions of the card in Canva.
The first player to mark five boxes in a row, column, or diagonal wins. You could also challenge players to blackout an X or the entire board.
Here is a template we made for your game:
Pro tip: Offer to cover per-day coworking costs for the winner as a prize.
For more games, check out remote team Bingo.
Coworking is a practical solution to a modern work climate where remote work, hybrid work, globalization, and travel are rapidly increasing. The business world changes at breakneck speed, and modern offices must be agile and adjustable to ever-changing conditions. Coworking spaces offer individuals and companies the structure and amenities of traditional offices without the cost or commitment. These offices are flexible and offer professionals the option of paying for the space on an as-needed basis.
For folks who thrive on community and collaboration, coworking spaces recreate the energy of in-person office environments. Plus, these companies offer valuable networking opportunities and professional development opportunities. Coworking is an answer to present workplace needs, and will likely continue to shape the workplaces of the future.