The Pros and Cons of Co-working Spaces

Co-working spaces have never been hotter — but that doesn't mean they are right for everyone.
Cafe-Northeast
Instead of a small, private office, consider an open and flexible space to boost your creativity. (Photo: Pourt)

The workplace is changing — especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“People are on the move,” said Lisa Arnold, COO of Chicago-based venture studio We Are Mammoth. “A location no longer defines where someone works. Instead, people can bring their work wherever they go.”

Widespread access to the internet has created new opportunities for businesses and employees to experiment and find the working environment that best suits their needs. Co-working spaces, in particular, have grown in popularity and provide many benefits for small business owners. But shared office space may not be a good fit for everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons of a co-working environment so you can decide whether it’s a good fit for your small business.

Pro: Highly flexible

Not everyone is happy working in an office environment, and other people don’t work well from home. For some, co-working spaces provide that comfortable “third place” for working that doesn’t require a long-term lease agreement.

Related: Business Owners: What to Do When the Rent Goes Up

Pourt-Founders

Matt Tervooren (left) and Mike Kruszewski (right) the founders of café and co-working space, Pourt. Pourt is a space for entrepreneurs, freelancers and microbusiness owners that don’t need their own private office space. (Photo: Matt Tervooren and Mike Kruszewski)

Matt Tervooren, co-founder of Pourt, a café and co-working space in New York City, said these facilities provide more flexibility for entrepreneurs than a traditional office. “They permit small businesses to remain agile,” he said. “If your physical and staffing requirements may change substantially over the near term, then co-working spaces provide value in superior flexibility.”

Freelancers and microbusiness owners often do not need a dedicated, private office to operate their business, and cooperative spaces like these can help keep costs down as a business is gearing up.

“Part of the impetus to start Pourt was catering to this growing cadre of folks whose work and project horizons are defined in hours and days, rather than weeks and months,” he said.

Con: Limited control

By definition, co-working spaces are not your own space, said Tervooren. “You share public spaces with dozens of other companies, so you have to leave a light footprint,” which means you can’t do much in the way of branding or customizing the space to fit your needs, he said.

For business owners looking into the co-working format, Arnold recommended considering the needs (and wishes) of your clients. If you work with highly confidential information or have clients that require a non-disclosure agreement, operating out of a co-working space could be an unintentional breach of your contract.

Pro: A creative and collaborative environment

Workspace-Desk-Open

In co-working spaces, creative minds can feed off of one another’s ideas and work together in a collaborative environment. (Photo: Pourt)

Entrepreneurs often draw inspiration by being surrounded by other innovative and creative minds. A co-working space can give you access to a more collaborative work environment — even as a solopreneur.

Related: Microbusiness vs. Small Business: What’s the Difference?

“Human beings are social creatures that will always seek out a way to connect with each other,” said Arnold. “Creative people often feed off of other creatives. When you get several in an area together, the brainstorming sessions and just casual conversations can really take what you produce to the next level.”

In addition to providing inspiration, leveraging a co-working space can be a great way for small business owners to network and build new business relationships in their local community.

Con: More distractions

Lisa DiVirgilio

“Creative people often feed off of other creatives. When you get several in an area together, the brainstorming sessions and just casual conversations can really take what you produce to the next level.” -Lisa Arnold (Photo: Lisa Arnold)

Being constantly surrounded by workers from other companies (and with different business priorities) could also be distracting — or on the flipside, you could be a distraction to others.

“It’s also important to be mindful of the other companies within the space, so you aren’t impeding on other businesses’ abilities to get things done,” Arnold advised. Businesses that produce goods or do work that requires a lot of sounds or movement are usually better suited for a private office space, she said.

Related: Tips for Establishing a Telecommuting Policy for Your Small Business

Other perks

Because you’re essentially sharing the rent with other entrepreneurs, co-working spaces often provide business owners with nicer amenities and a better location than they’d be able to afford on their own.

Tervooren said most co-working facilities have monthly or yearly rental agreements, but others, like Pourt, allow businesses to rent space by the day — or even by the hour — depending on their needs. Some spaces offer fun perks like ping-pong tables or beer taps, and others throw networking events and seminars to bring their members added value.

“Small businesses with a relatively fluid staff size and limited overhead are good fits for co-working spaces,” he said. “But businesses with more substantial physical infrastructure and/or a steady employee base are better off with a dedicated office.”

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