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The Pros & Cons of Coworking

by Jenny Du & Brian Cosgrove

When we started our own digital consultancy,BrainDo in 2013, we discovered that a coworking space was perfect for us. We were only two at the time, but we wanted somewhere we could grow at our own pace. The positive energy that surrounds the coworking community was appealing to us and there were a lot of benefits to working among other fledgling businesses. Our shared office space, THRIVE Philly is designed especially for medium to large-sized teams and alleviates some of the common pitfalls of smaller coworking spaces.

But business owners do need to weigh the pros against the cons to determine whether coworking is right for them.

PROS
Coworking offers an affordable option for businesses who are just starting out or who want to be part of a community-driven environment.

• There are a lot of headaches that come with running a physical office, which coworking spaces completely alleviate. No need to deal with landlords, utility bills, furniture and the typical overhead that comes with creating and managing your own space. You’re almost always getting a deal if you’re only paying for a dedicated desk or two, especially when you consider access to a physical location, conference rooms, Ethernet and wireless internet and a dedicated office/community manager.

• There’s collaborative energy in every coworking space that shines against a stuffy, everyday office. With open floor plans and shared community areas you’re much more likely to meet new people, eat lunch with someone outside of your company and feel part of something bigger. There’s a camaraderie between business owners who know what it’s like starting out that can start to feel like a second family.

• There are usually a lot of work perks and amenities coworking spaces use to make their space more attractive for potential customers and to make us all feel like a Silicon Valley startup. You can likely find coworking spaces sporting free beer, coffee, monthly lunches, local vendor discounts, community events, relaxation areas and of course, a ping-pong table.

CONS
Coworking wasn’t designed for everyone and there are natural downsides of a shared workspace.

• One drawback of hosting multiple companies in one space is managing finite resources that may be in short supply. Meeting rooms are a valuable commodity in coworking spaces, depending on how many of them there are, especially if you are a busy consultancy with frequent client calls. Open floor plans, now common in many offices but iconic to coworking spaces, increase the amount of people taking up a whole conference room for private calls.

• Even with community members being respectful, noise pollution can be a factor. Daily business calls, loud conversations, music and community events all compete for attention and add to the coworking office hum. If you or your workers are prone to distractions, it can be tough to find a quiet area that doesn’t involve commandeering a conference room all day.

• It’s harder, though not impossible, to shape your own unique company culture under the umbrella of a coworking space. Often, community managers do a great job of breaking down company walls and hosting events that may have otherwise been company outings. It’s also hard to fully brand your space since it’s shared with so many others and bringing clients in can be confusing when you try to explain that you share your office with many other companies.

Things to consider
If you feel like a shared office space is in your future, here are three key questions to ask yourself:

How’s the location? Not many coworking places offer nearby parking and some are closer to mass transit than others. Spaces in the heart of the city might grant access to great food and atmosphere, but offer expensive parking options if you’re coming from outside the city.

Does your company culture jive with the coworking space? Be sure to take a tour and if feasible, bring all of your team. Consider a pop-in at a random time of day to see a truly candid picture.

Can you grow? This will mean something different to each business, but think about whether the coworking space has room if your team expands. Some spaces, like THRIVE Philly and Industrious are more accommodating to larger teams than others.

We are now a staff of 15 and we think the benefits of coworking still outweigh the potential downsides. And while it may not be for everyone, it is a growing, viable option for many new and established businesses.

Jenny Du & Brian Cosgrove are the founders of THRIVE Philly, an 11,000-square-foot coworking space that includes multiple conference rooms, high-speed internet, private offices, a large café, ergonomic work stations and more.

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 7 (June, 2016).
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