What Is a Coworking Space? A Guide for Digital Nomads

Coworking spaces for the digital nomad lifestyle – places professionals go to work when they want to be surrounded by other professionals. A shared workspace that hosts large and small companies and freelancers. Coworking spaces typically provide amenities such as Wi-Fi, utilities, and collaborative areas like lounges and conference rooms. These shared office spaces are ideal for freelancers in a position where they need location independence, but not isolation.

A coworking space is simply a shared office or shared working space where remote workers, freelancers, or people from different companies can work. Some students also like to study in coworking spaces, either alone or with fellow students, especially if they’re working on the same project. 

People work independently or in a group, depending on the task at hand. Coworking spaces have increased in popularity during the last decade, but why should you work in a coworking space, anyway? Let’s find out!

What Are the Benefits of Coworking?

There are countless perks of coworking office spaces, including:

Flexibility 

Most coworking spaces don’t require you to sign-up for a long-term commitment to enjoy their facilities. If they do, question their motives. If a shared workspace is good enough, customers will return. If it's not, they will cancel after a month. A shared office space that demands a yearly fee is probably not the kind of place you want to work from. Luckily, the vast majority of coworking spaces are flexible when it comes to pricing plans. You can either pay as you go or subscribe to a weekly, monthly, or annual plan. 

The pay-as-you-go option is probably the most suitable for independent freelancers and digital nomads, while fixed plans are great for businesses and startups as they could help them get a discounted price depending on the size of the company and the plan’s term.

Flexible workspaces are the new normal thanks to the pandemic and the fact that many businesses are changing their policies on remote work.

Motivation 

There’s just something about coworking spaces that makes you feel more motivated to get your tasks done or finish that project that you’ve been slacking on for a while. I always find that the same task I couldn't complete at home gets done when I move to a coworking space (or a cafe, but that comes with its own problems).

Just the fact that I'm surrounded by people working on projects creates a bit of motivational FOMO. Who wants to be left behind when the rest of the world is obviously killing it with their projects and startups? This is one major intangible benefit of the coworking community that established businesses, digital nomads, and freelancers can avail of.

There are so many distractions at home that could make you feel less motivated. Many people just feel like home is meant for just chilling out, and getting that idea out of their heads can be difficult, even if they convince themselves otherwise.

Networking 

Spending time at a coworking facility gives you the opportunity to meet new people and expand your professional network. You could even meet potential clients, employers, or even freelancers that can help you accelerate your project’s progress. 

Drop by a networking event and make friends. Most spaces run these as a way of retaining clients but sometimes remote employees and big companies run networking events to try and develop a sense of community in this relatively new form of working environment.

Meet potential clients by chatting with people at the water cooler, kitchen, cafe, or outside areas. It's like a traditional office, but with more potential.

Once you become a regular at a coworking space, you’ll notice the sense of community in the place.

Breaking the Work-From-Home Routine

Working from home is slowly starting to become the new norm, especially since the start of the pandemic. Working from home has several advantages: saves money on transport, saves time, offers lots of flexibility, offers location independence, and removes a lot of the stress of the traditional office space.

However, over time, working from home for prolonged periods might make you feel disengaged from not only your colleagues but other people. And this can negatively impact your productivity and even your mental health.

Getting outside of your house to get your work done in a virtual office, coffee shop, or coworking environment can definitely help you recharge. Even something as simple as walking your way there in the sun can have a significant effect on your mental health. Not to mention, being around other people can lift up your spirits.

What’s more, working in a coworking space can make it easier for you to solve complex problems because changing the environment around you positively impacts your creativity.

The Cons of Coworking Spaces

For many people, a coworking space is just the right environment for them to thrive. However, there are some downsides to working from a coworking space, including:

Cost

Prices for flexible workspaces and private office spaces vary dramatically depending on your location. And it doesn't always depend on the cost of real estate in the city or town. I've seen high daily and monthly costs in some of the cheapest destinations in the world. And the reverse is true, in some expensive cities, coworking membership is very affordable. However, while many coworking spaces are affordable, it doesn't change the fact that working from home will always be a cheaper alternative in the long run for most people.

Noise

Coworking spaces can be noisy, which can be counterproductive. Some places have bad acoustics and others just seem to have a culture of allowing coworking space users to talk at high volumes.

Of course, shared spaces like these aren't libraries; colleagues must communicate with each other and make phone calls. And the whole point is to workcollaboration in a place that fosters collaborations, nettworking and productivity.

One tip is to work during non-peak hours if the business allows 24-hour access or at least early and late opening. Another tip is to use noise-cancelling headphones. These are a godsend for anyone that is easily distracted by other people's conversations or general office noise.

Dressing Up

Unless you're hanging out in more relaxed digital nomad hubs like Bali or Chiang Mai, turning up for work with a pair of boxer briefs and a tank top may be frowned upon, especially in larger cities and in certain cultures. This means that you’ll need to dedicate some time to make yourself presentable before heading out. Okay, it's a small disadvantage but they all add up.

Commuting

Unless you live beside a shared workspace, you'll have to commute to the office. And long commutes are one of the biggest causes of unhappiness for workers around the world. Nobody ever looked forward to a commute so you should factor this into your decision to start renting a desk. Do you have to travel far? Will it be expensive to get there? Can you walk and is there public transport?

On the other hand, you could use a short walk of say 10 to 30 minutes as part of your exercise regime.

Benefits for Digital Nomads

Digital nomads can choose not only choose the city they want to work in, but can niche down to choosing which desk in which coworking office space. They can literally work from anywhere in the world that they can afford and get a visa for. So it makes sense that flexible workspaces are ideal for the flexible lifestyles of nomads. Nomad-specific benefits include:

  • An easy way to get started working in a productive environment anywhere
  • No long-term lease required in most cases
  • Networking and community events that help you connect with local business owners and other nomads
  • A sense of community and motivation for solo nomads – this helps reduce loneliness, anxiety, and improves motivation and productivity
  • Often faster internet speeds than Airbnbs and hotels
  • Helps generate a mindset of professionalism and adds structure to your day
  • Removes the distractions of the home or hotel
  • Access to IT support and secure internet.

Why Have Coworking Spaces Become so Popular?

There are countless reasons why the coworking movement has gained popularity in the past few years. Coworking venues offer more than just a desk and chair setup. You get to enjoy super-fast Wi-Fi speeds and all the tools and stationery equipment you need to be productive.

Additionally, coworking spaces are flexible when it comes to pricing. Not to mention, most of them are pretty affordable, which means that you don't have to pay a premium to enjoy all the good stuff you get when you work from a coworking venue. 

How to Choose a Good Coworking Facility

Here are some of the factors that you need to take into consideration when deciding on a coworking facility:

Location 

The first thing you need to keep in mind when picking a coworking venue is its location. Obviously, you’d want it to be as close to your home, Airbnb, or hotel as possible. 

You don’t want to waste your time and money commuting to a coworking space when you can choose a nearby one, especially if you’re planning on visiting it frequently. Consider the location in terms of nearby cafes, restaurants, gyms, and other amenities. If you like to take breaks and walk in a park at lunchtime, then find a place near an outdoor area.

Price

Prices vary depending on the city, the number of competitors in the coworking scene, and sometimes even the season. Between $100-200 a month seems to be the sweet spot for one person at a hot desk. If you’re running a startup, renting a suite at a coworking venue, conference rooms, and private office space can add up to your monthly expenses.

Internet Speed

Slow internet can significantly impact your productivity. And where it really hurts is during conference calls, calls with clients, or uploading large files such as videos.

So, when deciding on a coworking venue, make sure that they have a fast and stable internet connection. You either ask people who go there regularly or try it for yourself. However, it’d be better to ask the regulars since the internet’s reliability may not be the best during peak hours when the place is crowded.

Comfort

People usually spend an average of 4-5 hours in coworking spaces. That’s why the seats need to be as comfortable as possible, or else you’ll end up suffering from the classic back pain that results from sitting on chairs that aren’t ergonomically designed for prolonged periods. 

The seats should have a curved back, a headrest, adjustable arms, and leather or foam padding. 

Do they have ergonomic desks? Are there standing desks? What about external monitors so you donb't have to look down all day and ruin your neck, back, and shoulders? Do you have space for your external keyboard, mouse, and ergonomic laptop stand?

Use Coworker.com to check if standing desks are offered.

Gadgets

Ideally, a coworking space should have enough projectors, printers, and copying machines to serve everyone in the place without creating long queues. Coworker.com gives details on each venues facilities and amenities.

Drinks

Many people just can’t get their job done without having that sip of coffee or tea. If you’re a fan of caffeine, make sure the coworking venue offers coffee at reasonable prices or there's a decent cafe nearby.

Essential Items

One of the great things about coworking spaces is that they offer all the essential items you need to be productive and stay focused. 

To make sure you haven’t missed anything, these are the most important items that every coworking space should have: 

  • Comfy desks and chairs
  • Printers
  • Copy machines
  • Pens, staples, and other stationery items 
  • Power outlets (many of them)
  • Reliable Wi-Fi connectivity 
  • Standing desks
  • Air conditioning that doesn't kill you with cold, heat, or dryness.

Some coworking spaces go above and beyond by providing a full gym right inside the venue. This can be super beneficial for those who like to take exercise breaks from work to stay in shape and refresh their minds. 

How Do Coworking Venues Make Money?

Coworking venues make money through membership plans, event rentals, conference room rentals, and extra services offered to members, like parking, snacks, and drinks. Also, some coworking spaces may charge you extra for Wi-Fi services.

Some bigger coworking venues offer dedicated suites that small businesses can use for prolonged periods on a membership-based plan. 

The typical payment plans optioms are pay-as-you-go, weekly, monthly, and annual plans for members. Additionally, you can reserve a conference room for a pre-specified period if you have a meeting with your team. 

Who Are the Big Players in the Coworking Industry?

Here’s a quick look at some of the biggest names in the coworking industry:

Impact Hub

Impact Hub is a community-focused international network of coworking spaces with 100+ locations in over 50 countries.

WeWork

WeWork is one of the largest coworking companies in the world, with 800+ locations in over 100 cities. About 50 of these locations are concentrated in New York, making it the most established coworking company in the city. 

WeWork is known for its wide variety of desk and office choices, as well as its membership plan. 

Your Alley

Despite being relatively small compared to other coworking companies on the list, Your Alley is gaining popularity at a fast pace. It has locations in Cambridge, New York, and Washington D.C, with plans to expand the business to more locations in the United States and overseas. 

The coworking space offers dedicated and shared desks, as well as private offices. Day memberships are available, too!

Newmark

Newmark (ex. Knotel) has more than 200 branches in several cities across the Americas and Europe, including Paris, Rio De Janeiro, New York, San Francisco, London, and Toronto. 

Industrious

Industrious has 100+ locations in over 50 cities in the United States, making it one of the biggest names in the country. It also offers flexible monthly membership plans, in addition to several office types. 

Venture X

What makes Venture X stand out from the crowd is that they prioritize their customer’s needs over anything else and are always listening to their problems. The company has 45+ locations in 5 countries, with more branches expected to open their doors in the next few years. 

Are Coworking Spaces Worth It? The Final Say

To recap, coworking spaces are definitely worth giving a shot. Whether you’re a freelancer, a business owner, or a remote worker, a coworking space can help you increase your productivity and meet new people who have similar interests.

It’s also a good opportunity for you to work on the same projects with your colleagues in a fully-equipped office environment in case your actual office isn’t suitable for meetings, or if you don’t even have a physical office at all!