What is so great about coworking?

24th August 2016

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Google Umbono Workspace by Haldane Martin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The rise of coworking has been phenomenal. Over half a million people worldwide have ditched a traditional office for this cheaper, more collaborative, and arguably more productive alternative.

Coworking has become a buzzword for start-ups and entrepreneurs in recent years. High rents in London and a rise in flexible working means that coworking spaces offering temporary desks (or just a seat at long tables) are becoming increasingly attractive to businesses.

If the traditional office and the “coffice” (coffee-shop-office) were placed on a spectrum, coworking spaces would be somewhere in the middle. Coworking allows you to escape the stuffy office without suffering screaming kids in Costa or working in your pyjamas at home.

Though it’s popular with freelance workers, start-ups and entrepreneurs, it is not exclusively for them. Big businesses, including KMPG are also buying into the coworking revolution and introducing  this format to their offices.

There’s usually free coffee

At i2 Office we have recently discussed how remote working makes you happier. Bearing in mind other factors, such as costs and productivity, owning or renting an office long-term seems far less appealing to both employees and employers.

A workspace in a creative hub could be the perfect antidote to corporate mundanity. Sure, coworking spaces provide ample opportunity to network, but more importantly to the clients is that most of them offer free coffee.

Caffeinated beverages, as well as free snacks, games, equipment (and at certain coworking spaces in the US free craft beer) make the idea of sharing your office space far more palatable to young, thirsty entrepreneurs. The social interaction can also mean most of your marketing is covered.

Talking in the Guardian, Manan Vohra, founder of Hadean Labs, credits coworking as being indispensable to the success of his startup: “The best thing about co-working, for us, is that we have zero marketing costs. All our business has come via word-of-mouth. Meeting someone in person is so much more valuable than sending around your CV.”

There were around 7,800 coworking spaces worldwide at the beginning of 2016. That number may seem small, but if you compare it to just 3,400 spaces in 2013, the rise has been significant. The popularity of coworking is showing no sign of slowing anytime soon. According to a forecast by DeskMag, the number of coworking spaces is estimated to top 10,000 by the end of the year.

So if it’s cheaper, and improves both the happiness and productivity of employees, why aren’t we all coworking?

It can be noisy and distracting

DeskMag found that ‘attracting new workers’ ranked highest as the biggest problem facing coworking spaces. Potential workers can be apprehensive of the scheme. But what about those already coworking?

Not all coworking spaces are the workplace utopia you might imagine. DeskMag found that poor internet connection hampers one third of all coworking members. Noisy neighbours bothered 24% of workers, followed by a lack of privacy (15%). These issues may be predictable, but are nonetheless important stumbling blocks to a bright future for coworking.

Despite the flaws, 4 out of 5 coworking members said they were happy with the system and credit coworking as helping their businesses become increasingly profitable.

Finding the right balance

London is now more expensive for businesses than Hong Kong. However, despite the high costs imposed on businesses in the capital, London is still an incredibly attractive city for businesses.

Smaller business and startups are having to get creative to survive. This is one of the reasons why virtual offices have become so popular in recent years.

For others, coworking is the solution. A rented desk is much less of a commitment than a permanent office. The flexible membership offered by coworking spaces is alluring to new, growing businesses that like the idea of paying daily, even hourly for a desk.

The businesses that really take advantage of coworking tend to focus on one main advantage: community. If you’re in a space with similar sized business in similar fields, collaboration is a simple but valuable way to help push your business along.

But if you are concerned about the fine line between a communicative office and a disruptive, talkative one, you may want to look for something in between the traditional office and a coworking space.

Our i2 Office serviced offices offer a desk in a quiet working environment but with plenty of access to breakout spaces, giving you the best of both worlds. For something a bit more informal, for a monthly membership fee to i2 Access, you will be able to use any of our business lounges across the country; comfortably furnished and equipped for casual but focused work in a lounge-style environment.

And did we mention there’s free coffee?