You can find coworking spaces in almost every big city today. As an (aspiring) digital nomad there seems to be no way around them. Indeed, there are a lot of advantages. But are they really the ultimate way of working for everyone? Before you sign up for a membership, there are some points you should take into consideration. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of coworking spaces and see what potential alternatives could be.
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Before we jump right into it, we should have a look at some facts to get an idea of the importance of shared offices.
According to the 2017 Global Coworking Survey there are now about 13,800 coworking spaces worldwide. That is a very impressive number. Especially, when you look at the fact that 5 years ago, there were only 940 around.
However, it’s not only digital nomads using them. In fact, only 14% of coworking space members are digital nomads. The rest are people like expats, remote workers, entrepreneurs, or work-from-home professionals.
Advantages of Coworking Spaces
Since there are so many shared working spaces around and they are constantly growing and expanding, there must be some great benefits, right? Right! There are indeed quite a few important advantages:
Obviously, you need to have a well-functioning internet connection as a digital nomad. In some regions, it’s a massive pain to get that. Coworking spaces usually have the best high-speed internet quality in town, which makes your daily work life so much easier.
Learn tricks and hacks how to improve your internet connection when traveling.
You get a proper desk, often ergonomically designed chairs (prevent back pain!), power sockets, and a printer and scanner. Many shared offices also offer their members equipment for rent, such as additional screens, microphones, or keyboards.
Often coworking spaces have a few meeting rooms you can use in case your team members work in the same place. Sometimes they even have soundproof phone booths, if you need a quiet space for an important call or want to yell at someone on the phone.
For your convenience, some shared offices offer things like a kitchen, air-condition, lockers, a common chill-out area, or a gym. WeWork in Berlin offers their members free beer all day (Germans…).
Typically, a coworking space doesn’t have the sterile and uninspiring atmosphere a normal office has. The spaces may have a loft character, are full of artwork, plants or relaxing couches, to make you feel comfortable and enhance your creativity.
If you just want to hang out for a day or two, you usually don’t require a membership in a coworking space. However, it gets cheaper when you sign up. The good thing is that these memberships are usually very flexible in terms of the period of cancellation and things like that.
But it’s not only a great working environment. Shared offices are also a great place to enlarge your social circle:
Many coworking spaces offer regular events, such as free breakfasts, barbeques or evening get-togethers. These events can also be of professional nature, like workshops or presentations.
Shared offices are a great place to meet many like-minded people. You might share the same experiences or struggles and thus, can exchange and help each other.
Plus, you never know what happens. Maybe you find a future client in that office or a new team member for your business.
If you are a digital nomad, remote worker, work-from-home professional or anything like that and you spend all day in front of your laptop alone, it can get boring and you might feel lonely from time to time.
Although you are not exactly working with the people in a shared office, you can at least socialize a little bit and be part of a community.
Disadvantages of Coworking Spaces
All of that sounds great so far, doesn’t it? But, as with everything, there are downsides to shared offices, too. They are so meaningful, that some digital nomads avoid them completely.
Unless you are in the very lucky position to live right next to your coworking space, you will have to get there somehow. That usually means public transport, traffic jam, or walking in the rain or heat.
Of course, this takes precious time and, depending on the city you are in right now, quite a bit of money.
You will have to get ready in the morning just like you would if you went to a normal office job. That means, for example, put on proper clothes (coworking spaces are usually very relaxed, but coming there in your pajamas might be a bit too casual).
You also have to pack all the things you need during the day. It is super annoying if you forget to bring your headphones but have an important meeting scheduled. So you have to go back home and get them (= time & money).
You have started the digital nomad life because you wanted to escape your daily routines. And suddenly you find yourself doing exactly what you did before, just on the other side of the globe:
Set an alarm early in the morning, get dressed, pack your stuff, commute to the office, put on a smile and greet everyone nicely, start to work, a bit of small talk here and there, lunch break with your coworkers, more work, shut down your laptop, leave the office, closing time.
Don’t get me wrong, routines are nothing bad per se. Some are great and can improve your daily productivity. But it’s easy to get sucked up and be at the same point where you were before.
Ok, let’s face it. Most of us are probably sick of working in an office or even cubicle. A closed room, neo light, sitting at a desk all day, other people… There’s got to be more than that. That’s why we went for an unconventional life. And now we should return to an office?
Maybe it’s in another country and it looks all funky and creative and you don’t have your boss sitting in the room next to you. But it’s still an office. Shared space or not.
Yes, meeting new people is great and networking is important to your business. But often you find yourself chatting with other digital nomads in your shared office about non-business-related stuff.
Socializing is awesome, I’m totally with you. But if you spend hours and hours every day with it, you won’t get much work done.
Maybe you manage not to talk to other coworkers all day. But how about them chatting right next to you? How about the guy on the phone behind you? Or the people walking up and down the noisy hallway?
Being in a shared office also means that there are distractions everywhere and you might find it hard to focus on your work.
Many coworking spaces are fairly cheap. But it is still money. Especially, when you are at the beginning of our location-independent lifestyle you might be on a tight budget. You probably have free wifi the place you are staying anyway or you can simply go to a nice café. Paying for an office space is money you could technically save.
Alternatives to Coworking Spaces
Now you’re confused and wonder what to do and where you should work from. Luckily, coworking spaces are not mandatory. If you have a good internet connection, you can easily work from your hotel, AirBnB or wherever you are staying.
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Alternatively, you can also go to bars or cafés. They often have a great wifi connection for free, food and drinks available all day and you get to meet many different people, other digital nomads or locals alike.
If you like the concept of coworking, you might enjoy special programs for remote workers and digital nomads, too. You usually travel in groups around the world, experience the country and culture and work at the same time.
My Personal Experience
I’m convinced that coworking spaces are a great way of working for many digital nomads and some of them need this type of environment to be productive and happy.
However, I’m not one of them. I’ve tried it a couple of times but mostly failed. That doesn’t surprise me too much, since I left my old 9-5 job mainly because I hated being locked away in an office all day, commuting there, and having too much of my day packed in routines.
I realized that I’m most productive when I’m alone and I can focus on my work entirely. I get easily distracted, that’s why I rarely work from cafés either. If I have to I usually use certain apps for digital nomads that help me to stay focused.
Nevertheless, I still go to coworking spaces every once in a while, but mainly to socialize. Most of them offer great events, which are free to non-members or visitors, too. Especially, when you are new to a place it’s a perfect way of meeting people and making friends.
Are Shared Offices The Right Thing For You?
Well, there is only one way to find out for sure: You’ve got to give it a try! Make sure you go and have a look at different places because they vary much in the atmosphere, members, vibe, etc. Great places to find office spaces are, for example, Coworker or Sharedesk.
In case you find out, that you are not feeling entirely comfortable working in a shared environment, don’t feel obliged to use them only because you want to be a digital nomad and that’s what digital nomads do according to the hype. Everyone is different and you need to find out and go for whatever works best for you and your career.
Everyone is different and you need to find out and go for whatever works best for you and your career.
What’s your personal experience with coworking spaces? Do you like them or rather work from home?