After working from home for a couple of years, no one wants to go back to commuting. But home offices come with unique distractions: Irritating roommates, attention-seeking children, less than ergonomic equipment, and household to-do lists can all interfere with workers’ ability to focus.
According to a recent Pew Research study, 44% of people say working from home has made it easier to get work done, but 60% say they feel less connected to co-workers, and some crave the office because their home doesn’t have resources they need. This is where a co-working space can save the day.
As the world starts to head back to the office, many tech employers are looking at co-working spaces as an alternative to both home and in-office work.
“We don’t have permanent offices anymore,” says Andi Mann, CTO at Qumu, an enterprise video technology provider. He says that the company has closed down or is in the process of closing down all of its offices outside of the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis. As a replacement for those offices, the company picks up the bill for workers to get office space outside the home to work.
“We support them going — with or without colleagues — to a place like WeWork or other shared workspaces,” he says. “I do this myself, in fact. I recently rented a hotel conference room to get my leaders into the same room for a few days.”
Beyond just getting out of the house, individual workers can reap a number of benefits from going to a local co-working space — as can employers when they give teams the green light to go there.
1. Get a creativity boost
“A change of environment can be just what you need for an extra boost of creativity and inspiration,” says Ray Blakney, CEO and co-founder of the Live Lingua online language school. When you spend most of your work week in a home office, stepping out of those too-familiar surroundings into somewhere new can help you get a different perspective.
It can also boost your focus to be surrounded by other people who are also working. A 2014 Harvard study found that “creating collisions” where workers interact with each other either inside or outside the organization led to increased performance.
While working from home away from others might seem like it’s great for productivity, in some cases the opposite might be true. “Retreating into the confines of your home office for days on end can feel productive, but it carries a great risk of also making you feel alienated,” says Brian David Crane, founder of the digital marketing fund Spread Great Ideas. And, of course, without human interaction it’s easy to slip into becoming a non-showering, pantsless hermit.
“Even if you don’t share the same goals as the people sharing your workspace, just seeing other intent faces will help you become more focused on work,” Crane says. “Working around other people reminds you that you are part of a greater effort to get things done — not just a fleshy component of your computer.”
2. Have meetings
While a home office cuts down on commute time, it’s not a great place to have meetings — either with colleagues or customers. But going into the corporate office just to sit down with people who are also commuting there for the same reason can be a huge waste of everyone’s time. For example, if you live in New Jersey and want to meet with colleagues who also live in New Jersey — but your office is in Manhattan — finding a local co-working space can save everyone a lot of time and hassle, especially if it’s a weekly or monthly meeting.
“For people who like to keep their schedule flexible, day passes can give you an opportunity to squeeze work in even on days when you need to be somewhere else, meet people, or run errands,” says Ruth Shin, founder and CEO of real estate startup PropertyNest.
A co-working space can also come in handy when you need to have in-person meetings with people outside the company. “‘Come meet me at the co-working space downtown’ sounds a lot better than ‘Let’s meet at Starbucks,’” says Shawn Plummer, CEO of the online insurance company The Annuity Expert.
This is especially true if you are discussing something sensitive or complex and don’t want to be interrupted by wait staff or other patrons — or if you are meeting with several people and can’t be sure there will be an accommodating space at your local café.
“Co-working spaces are placed in the heart of a city, close to public transportation and restaurants, and are also convenient for members to work from,” says Tim Parker, director of marketing at Syntax Integration, an IT services provider. “Working from home or a café may not send the appropriate message to prospective clients, but co-working spaces include not only a professional area but also dedicated meeting rooms, cafeterias, and coffee zones to help you network better.”
3. Get a remote team together
A co-working space can also offer an all-remote team the opportunity and place to get together on occasion, either for monthly all-hands meetings or for a few “in office” days a week.
“Renting a co-working space can be beneficial for your team, because it gives them an excuse to meet up and collaborate despite the remote nature of the job,” says Roy Morejon, president and co-founder of Enventys Partners, a hybrid remote and in-person marketing firm.
“Without a co-working space, employees don’t have a professional location to meet, which discourages real-life interaction and communication,” he says. “Investing in a meeting room for a couple of hours a week can bring your team together occasionally while still giving everyone the freedom and flexibility of at-home work.”
Nick Chernets, CEO of SEO data provider DataForSEO, agrees. “It’s easier to collaborate with people and discuss pressing matters in person,” he says. “If you want to test your work, get direct feedback from colleagues, try out different options, or discuss your choices in real time, it is much easier to do this when you are physically in the same room as people you are working with.”
4. Do some networking
The networking opportunities in your home office or couch are fairly limited unless your cat is helping you with R&D. Working from a co-working space, even just a few days a month, can open the door to opportunities to meet other people, do a little networking, enjoy the social interaction of an office environment, and even help you find your next hire.
“You can see great results by recruiting from a co-working space,” says Yang Zhang, CEO and co-founder of Plasmic, a visual builder for the web. “Post on the bulletin board, talk to the staff, or just make contact with other people who are using the space to work. Impromptu interviews on-site can even mean you can have a new worker as soon as that day. Alternatively, you may find people you can pitch your wares to and gin up new work for yourself.”
5. Avoid personal distractions
When working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by everything from kids, spouses, and family pets to laundry and dishes that need to get done. All these things can interrupt your focus or give you an easy way to procrastinate a challenging work task.
When you are losing focus or need to hunker down and get some work done, going to a co-working space can help you temporarily escape all the distractions that plague you at home so you can focus better on the task at hand. “This can be an effective way to finish a big project that requires more of your dedicated concentration to accomplish,” says Scott Lieberman, owner and founder of the financial advice site Touchdown Money.
6. Get a physical address
If you’re running your own business or receive shipments as a part of your job, you might not want to pass out your home address to customers, even if home is where you conduct most of your work. A co-working space provides you with an address where you can get mail, and it gives an extra layer of legitimacy to your business. “It shows that you’re dedicated to your work enough to have joined somewhere so you can do just that,” says Plummer.
If you’re receiving shipments, a mail person at a co-working space can sign for those deliveries. This is great if you want to go out to lunch or to the gym, or just to avoid interruptions. And it can save you a lot of trouble if you don’t have a safe place to receive shipments at home. A co-working space is safe, staffed, and usually has a mail room.
7. Save some cash
When people think about co-working spaces, they might assume that it’s an expense, even if it’s a necessary one. But you might be surprised at the ways it can save you money.
Most co-working spaces offer expensive office essentials like printers, whiteboards, and even beer and coffee that you can access for free if you are a member. While buying a day pass might not be worth it just for the printer, having a membership can allow you to access office equipment — like that fancy ergonomic chair —without having to purchase it or find room for it in your home.