What is coworking?

Enabling different businesses to work in the same start-up office space, we explore the costs and benefits of coworking...

This article will answer the following questions:

An alternative to working from home or in a private office, coworking’s popularity is on the rise, with freelancers, solopreneurs and start-ups consistently choosing dedicated coworking office space over other workspace options.

But what is coworking, how might it benefit you, and how much will it cost?

Whether you’re serious about finding a coworking space or still undecided as to whether it’s right for you, read on to have all your questions answered…

What is coworking?

In a nutshell, coworking happens when a variety of individuals and businesses share the same workspace.

Often, a dedicated coworking space will consist of a large common area, filled with desks and seating, in which different people and businesses will all work on their own projects under the same roof.

Coworking spaces also typically provide shared amenities, such as meeting rooms and kitchen facilities. Some also offer private, enclosed office spaces that businesses can hire out solely for their own use.

Why is coworking so popular?

Among sole traders, entrepreneurs and start-ups, coworking has boomed for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it can be said that coworking is the natural next step after starting your business from home or working in a public space. It can offer benefits you wouldn’t get at home or in your local cafe or library. For example, you might decide you’d like:

  • A business address and a professional setting in which to meet with clients and/or investors
  • A designated place for your employees – whether you’re hiring now or plan to in the future – to work together
  • More distance between your work life and your home life, meaning you can be more productive while at work and switch off when you leave
  • More face-to-face contact with peers, and a sense of community with fellow entrepreneurs

But what makes coworking a better next step than, for example, getting your own office?

Well, coworking is cheaper – and much more flexible – than leasing your own private space, meaning that it provides an excellent alternative while you’re still establishing and growing your business.

As well as monthly payments to a coworking space typically costing less than rental payments for a private office, the terms in a coworking space contract are often much more flexible than those in a commercial lease.

While the latter will tend to lock you into a business premises for a minimum of five years, the former will usually ask for a minimum of just one month, and will only require a month’s notice if you decide to leave.

Not to mention that the advancement of modern technology has made coworking easy. With cloud-based software and portable smart devices, crucial tools such as files, programs, emails and calls can be accessed anywhere.

In practice, this means entrepreneurs no longer need to stay glued to their home computers, and businesses no longer need to run offices kitted out with dedicated equipment. Instead, employees can operate effectively using their own devices in any wifi-connected workspace.

NB: Of course, coworking isn’t just for new entrepreneurs and start-ups. Many businesses enjoy coworking so much that they decide to stay in a coworking space, even when they have the means to move to their own office block. In fact, plenty of global firms can be found with their own dedicated rooms – or even entire floors – in coworking spaces.

As well as all of this, coworking also offers a range of benefits to members, which play a part in how popular it has become…

For help with comparing different coworking spaces and finding the right provider for you, try filling in the form at the top of this page to receive tailored quotes from the coworking providers that best suit your business needs!

What are the benefits of coworking?

We’ve explored the key reasons that you might choose to cowork in the section above. However, alongside these driving factors, coworking spaces also offer a range of other perks and benefits designed to make the day-to-day running of your business easier. These include…

Access to business-crucial amenities

Coworking office spaces tend to provide everything you need to run a business smoothly, including:

  • Speedy wifi
  • Equipment such as printers and scanners
  • Meeting compartments and conference rooms

The potential to save on daily costs

Many coworking spaces also offer amenities – such as kitchen facilities, hot drinks like tea and coffee, and snacks like fruit, bread and biscuits – for free, meaning you can save on the cost of buying them yourself.

Some coworking spaces also offer enticing perks, such as free breakfasts or lunches on certain days or free drinks on certain evenings.

Opportunities to network and collaborate

In a coworking space, you’ll likely be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs who are starting, growing or running their own businesses. This means that opportunities to swap advice, share experiences and collaborate on projects – ultimately making valuable connections with peers – will be rife.

Many coworking spaces even encourage these relationships by putting on free networking events and workshops for members.

Modern and stimulating working environments

Unlike traditional office blocks, lots of coworking spaces put design and atmosphere at the forefront. Many house sleek, modern, colourful and quirky furnishings and decor, making for a more stimulating and enjoyable workspace environment.

Larger facilities also tend to house cafes or lounges in which you can work if sitting at a desk isn’t quite your thing.

Read more on the benefits of getting to grips with coworking here.

How much does coworking cost?

Typically, coworking spaces will charge a monthly fee. It’ll cost you more than working from home, but will likely cost a lot less than renting your own office (as explored above).

A 2018 study by MoneySupermarket analysed the average cost of coworking in 18 UK cities.

Unsurprisingly, the most expensive for coworking was found to be London, with an average monthly cost of £613 per desk, followed by Brighton and Milton Keynes at £432 each.

The cheapest was Sheffield at an average £199 per desk, followed by Nottingham at £218.

These results are a stark illustration of how prices can vary across the country, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all figures. Office desk costs can also vary within a city depending on the quality of the space and the amenities it offers.

For example, some offer memberships for as little as £50-60 per month for infrequent, irregular users, while those who are looking to rent a private compartment might expect to pay closer to £1,000 or more.

The factors that will impact your office desk cost include:

Your desk requirements

Coworking spaces charge different rates depending on what you need from them. Coworking spaces typically offer the following:

  • Hot desking – This is often the cheapest option. Each day, you’ll come in and set up at any available desk. This could mean working at a different desk every day, but don’t worry about availability; most coworking spaces guarantee that there will always be desks available for their hot desking members.
  • Your own dedicated desk – With this option you’ll be allocated your own desk space and it will be reserved for you to work at every day. This will give you peace of mind and more freedom to leave items at your desk.
  • A private office compartment – This is typically the most expensive option.

Hot desking may suit you well if you’re a sole trader, freelancer or solopreneur, but if you’re a business with employees, a close cluster of assigned desks or even a private compartment would be more suitable.

Remember, not every coworking space offers all three options. For example, some might specialise in hot desking space, while others may only provide dedicated desks.

When you plan to use the space

Of course, if you don’t need to work in a coworking space every day, you might choose to opt for a flexible payment option. This might enable you to pay a reduced cost for reduced access to the space; for example, a few times a month.

Plenty of coworking spaces offer such flexible plans, so if you won’t need to go in every day, don’t just accept a full-time membership. It’s worth investigating which spaces can offer the best deals for your specific requirements.

How long you’ll need the space for

It goes without saying that if you only use the space for a few months, you won’t pay as much overall as someone who coworks for longer. However, it’s worth knowing that in many cases, the longer you can commit to staying, the smaller your pro-rata cost will become.

The space’s staff and services

Coworking spaces that provide specialist services and on-premises staff will cost more than those that don’t. Such services might include:

  • Manned receptions
  • Cafes and/or cafeterias
  • Cleaning staff
  • IT support staff

It’s worth considering how useful such services would be to your business, and whether they’re worth the extra cost to you.

What’s included in your membership and what isn’t

This will vary depending on the workspace provider – for example, some will charge you to use a printer, store items in a locker or use a conference room, while others won’t.

So, before you sign any contracts, make sure you’re clear on what will and won’t be free.

The location of the space

Coworking spaces that are near transport hubs or located in thriving business, shopping or cultural centres are likely to cost more than those in the quieter corners of a town.

Think about the amenities you’d like access to – would you like to be near shops, restaurants or stations? – and whether being near them would be worth an additional cost.

On the flipside, you should also consider how much it’ll cost you to get to the coworking spaces you’re considering. There’s no point in setting up in a cheap space that’s far from the city centre if doing so will push your travel expenses right up.

Check out the UK’s best hubs, clubs and coworking spaces for entrepreneurs here.

The history of coworking: Then and now

It’s widely acknowledged that coworking first came about in 2005, when Brad Neuberg set up the first coworking space in San Francisco.

The idea had struck him as he looked to combine the independence of working for himself with the sense of community and structure of working alongside others.

Since, the concept’s global prevalence has grown, with popularity soaring in recent years.

The 2018 Global Coworking Survey estimated that a huge 1.7 million people worldwide will be coworking by the end of 2018, with a considerable 29% of all coworking spaces having opened in the last year.

The UK in particular has seen a surge of workers and businesses choosing to cowork.

According to a 2018 report from Cushman & Wakefield, London boasts more coworking operations than any other city in the world, while demand for coworking in the country’s regional cities doubled in 2017, as revealed by Savills.

What’s next?

If you’re considering coworking and would like to get an idea of which coworking spaces will best suit your needs – and how much it’ll cost you to work there – try filling in the form at the top of this page.

After you’ve filled in your answers, you’ll receive tailored quotes from the coworking office space providers that best match what you’re looking for.