Co-Working vs Traditional Office Spaces
It’s not surprising that co-working spaces are popping up in every major city, given the advantages they offer over traditional office spaces.
The word “revolutionary” gets overused these days, but it’s truly the best way to describe co-working spaces—which have changed the way millions of people around the world go about their work. WeWork, the largest operator of co-working spaces, started out in Manhattan 8 years ago and has since opened more than 170 locations across 10 million square feet of office space in 18 countries. Rivals to WeWork have been popping up everywhere too, meaning that co-working spaces can now be found in most major cities around the world.
How do Co-Working Spaces Differ from Traditional Working Spaces?
Traditional working spaces should be familiar to anyone who has worked in an office job. With a traditional working space, the company or individual entrepreneur rents out office space by the square foot or square meter and is responsible for fitting it with furniture and amenities. A large company might rent out an entire floor or even several floors of an office building. An individual might rent out one room or, if they work with an assistant or a small team of employees, two or more adjoining rooms. Traditional working spaces occasionally offer shared amenities to occupants, such as gyms or swimming pools, but they don’t formally offer chances for people to collaborate or network.
On the other hand, co-working spaces are designed to foster collaboration and networking between people who don’t necessarily work in the same company or on the same team. In a co-working space, a company, team, or individual entrepreneur rents out a desk (or desks) or a private office. The rented space is all inclusive: it comes with furniture, WiFi and other necessities. Everything outside of the rented spaces is common space: most co-working locations design the common spaces and organize social events in a way that encourages people to meet each other—putting the “co” in “co-working.”
What are the advantages of using a co-working space?
It costs less overall
At a co-working space, you pay only for your level of membership: the cheapest is usually a hot or private desk; the most expensive option is usually a private office, which is billed per person. All other amenities and services are included in the price; all co-working spaces offer basics such as WiFi, coffee, maintenance, and cleaning; the best co-working spaces offer additional amenities such as the ones listed in the section below.
With a traditional office space, you pay rent and all overhead or operating costs for your section of office space. Whether you’re renting out an entire floor or a couple of rooms, you can expect to have to organize and pay for all add-ons, including desks, chairs, cables, internet, electricity, and cleaning… oh, and coffee.
It includes amenities
A good co-working space offers plenty of amenities at no extra charge. As an example, here’s what a typical WeWork offers:
- Cleaning services around the clock, ensuring common rooms, meeting rooms, and private offices are kept clean at all times.
- High-speed internet, including IT support and guest log-in function.
- Onsite staff, offering front-desk service and personalized support.
- Indoor and outdoor common areas, fitted out for relaxing or meeting other workers who use the same space.
- Sound-proof phone booths for making private calls or video chats.
- Dedicated conference rooms, fitted out with audio-visual equipment, themed wallpaper, and marble tables.
- Dedicated space with business-class printer, office supplies, and a paper shredder.
- Unlimited supplies of micro-roasted coffee and fruit water.
Traditional office spaces don’t offer any of the above amenities. An entire floor of office space might include conference rooms or phone booths, but these would be factored into the cost of the monthly rent. Printers, coffee, high-speed internet, and other basics will always come at an additional cost. For a small company or a private entrepreneur, having to take on all these extra costs can have a big impact on the bottom line.
It provides unlimited networking opportunities
Innovation happens when people are given a chance to build relationships and collaborate, which is exactly what co-working spaces are designed to facilitate. Facebook, Pixar, and Bell Labs—the New Jersey scientific research company credited with inventing the transistor, the laser, the Unix operating system, and several programming languages—all built their headquarters to encourage serendipitous encounters between employees from different divisions. Co-working spaces act similarly, building in plenty of shared working and relaxation spaces to give people the opportunity to meet their co-occupants and find ways to collaborate.
Co-working spaces also encourage formal networking, through a variety of professional and social events such as workshops, group discussions, wine and cheese tastings, and sports activities.
Traditional office spaces don’t offer any special ways of networking and collaborating with other people. If you’re an entrepreneur or a small team office space on one floor of an office building, it’s entirely possible that you could go through an entire year barely exchanging more than a couple of words with the other inhabitants of your floor.
It encourages effective working habits
An underrated benefit of co-working spaces is that they encourage productivity. Even the most productive workers find themselves distracted occasionally, but there’s no doubt that it’s easier to avoid distractions in a co-working space where all the people around you are working effectively.
Co-working spaces give workers a sense of accountability that can’t be found at home or in a traditional office space: you’re less likely to waste time watching funny cat videos on YouTube if the people around you are deep in concentration. And co-working spaces create an energy that is similar to organized races: you’re more likely to run a marathon if you’re surrounded by thousands of other runners, and you’re more likely to find passion for your work project if you’re surrounded by other creative and passionate people.
It’s suitable for individuals and teams
Whereas traditional office spaces are best suited to large companies, co-working spaces offer individual entrepreneurs and small businesses of up to a few-dozen employees an affordable way of working in an environment that encourages creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
If you’re an individual, a hot desk can be rented in some locations for as low as $300 per month. A desk in a co-working space offers an opportunity to work around like-minded people and enjoy quantities of coffee and networking engagements that would break the budget if you were paying for it all out of your own pocket.
If you run a small business, a private office can be rented within a co-working space in most major cities for as little as $600 to $800 per person. An office in a co-working space is all-inclusive, meaning you don’t need to worry about breaking your limited budget on extra coffee or amenities, and you don’t need to spend time stressing about things like internet and lighting.
Ready to book your new office space? Check out our full list of co-working spaces here.