What is coworking?

Enabling a variety of businesses and entrepreneurs to work in the same office space, we explore the costs and benefits of coworking…

An alternative to working from home or in your own office, coworking enables a variety of individuals and businesses to share the same workspace, building separate companies and ventures under one roof.

A hugely popular concept, more and more freelancers, sole traders, start-ups and small businesses are joining dedicated shared office spaces. But it’s not just a passing trend. From cost benefits to the community around you, coworking comes with a range of advantages that will likely see it continue to grow.

Whether you’re serious about coworking or still undecided, read on to find out what this form of start-up office space can offer your venture, and what it will cost…

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.

Coworking as a sole trader or early-stage business

Among sole-traders and young businesses, coworking has boomed as a viable, cost-effective and beneficial method of conducting business for a number of reasons.

Firstly, thanks to advancements in technology, it’s now possible to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud-based software means that work files, collaboration tools, emails and calls can be accessed from almost any device in any location.

So, it’s no longer a requirement that sole traders stick to their home computers, or that businesses run offices kitted out with their own equipment. Instead, employees can operate effectively using their own devices or those which belong to a coworking space.

With this as a key driver of its growth, the benefits coworking can offer to individuals and businesses also play a role in its popularity…
Compare coworking spaces with Startups

The benefits of coworking

  • It brings a change of scenery with fewer distractions. From family to the TV to noisy crowds, coworking office spaces house none of the distractions to be found at home or in a public area. Furthermore, by separating your work from your home, you may find it easier to be more productive during the day and switch off when you leave.
  • You’ll have access to amenities that’ll help you run your business. Coworking office spaces tend to include everything you need to run a business smoothly, including speedy wifi, equipment such as printers, and meeting and conference rooms.
  • It’s cheaper than renting or buying your own office. The monthly payments you’ll make to rent a desk or dedicated space at a coworking facility will, more often than not, be a lot lower than what you’d pay for an office of your own.
  • You might also save on daily costs. Some coworking spaces offer amenities such as hot drinks and snacks for free, meaning you can save on the cost of buying them yourself. Many also offer perks such as free breakfasts or lunches on certain days or drinks on certain evenings.
  • There will be opportunities to network and collaborate. In a coworking space, you’ll likely be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs who are starting, growing or running businesses, so opportunities to swap advice or collaborate will be rife. Many coworking spaces even encourage these relationships by putting on free networking events for members.
  • You’ll have a business address. A coworking space will provide a professional setting in which to meet with clients, as well as a place to have your work-related post directed to.
  • You’ll get a sense of community. Working from home can get lonely, as can working in a public space where approaching strangers isn’t generally accepted. A coworking space will be filled with people who are there for the same reason as you, making conversation and bonding more natural.
  • You’re likely to be in a modern and casual working environment. Unlike traditional office blocks, many coworking spaces put design and atmosphere at the forefront. 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 do coworking spaces 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 these aren’t one-size-fits-all figures. Office desk costs can also vary within a city depending on the quality of the space and what you require from it.

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. Most spaces will charge a different rate depending on whether you’d like to be in a private office, have your own assigned desk, or hot desk. Hot desking will invariably be cheaper, but may not be sensible if you’re a business with employees – a private compartment or a close cluster of assigned desks would be more suitable.
  • When you plan to be in the office. Some spaces will offer flexible payment options to individuals who’ll only need to come into the space a few times a month. If this is you, don’t just accept the full-time membership – investigate which spaces can offer the best deals for your specific requirements.
  • How long you’ll need the space for. The longer you commit to staying, the smaller your pro-rata cost will become.
  • The space’s staff and services. Coworking spaces with services such as manned receptions, eateries and on-premises staff like cleaners and IT support will cost more than those without. It’s worth considering how useful such services would be to your business.
  • 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 or store items in a locker while others won’t. Make sure you’re clear on what will and won’t be free.
  • The location of the space. Spaces near transport hubs or in thriving business, shopping or cultural centres are likely to cost more than those in quieter places. Think about the amenities you’ll want nearby – will being near them be worth the cost? You should also consider how much it’ll cost to get there; as a sole trader, there’s no point in setting up in a cheap, far-out space if doing so will push your travel expenses up.