Working from home sounds great, right? You get to spend the day in your PJs if you want, watch a soap opera if that’s your thing, and grab a snack—or even a nap—whenever you choose.
But it’s not for everyone. Some people lack the discipline to do it, and some crave the social interaction that comes with working in an office.
For those folks, co-working is a good solution. It gives independent contractors, freelance writers, telecommuters and others a chance to rent a desk or an office for a couple of days a week or a few hours a day, in order to spend time with people like themselves. This trend is only about six years old, and according to one report, only about 8 percent of self-employed freelance professionals co-work.
As you can imagine, there are pros and cons to co-working. Here are a few of each:
Do It Because It Gives You:
Credibility—and an address. Many professionals, including lawyers, financial advisors, and consultants, appear more established if they have a work address and a place (other than their homes) where they can meet with clients. Co-working offices generally have conference rooms that you can use. And having a co-working address allows you to send correspondence from a work address, so your clients won’t know where you live and won’t think less of you for working from your house.
A place to escape family-related distractions. People who don’t work from home can’t know what it’s like. Many think it’s a place where you can get your work done more quickly. But if you work from home, your kids or pets will want your attention, and your spouse might ask you to run errands or check off a few jobs on a honey-do list. Having a co-working space gives you a dedicated work environment that allows you to get away from it all and use your time more wisely.
An opportunity to talk with other like-minded people. Some people find working from home boring, and taking a break to call friends or family members doesn’t meet their need for social interaction. In a co-working office, you can meet people who may have similar interests and can share information to help your business.
The right to dress the way you want. Don’t worry about dress codes. Want to wear T-shirts and sweats? That’s allowed. Some co-working offices have office managers called “mayors,” but they won’t tell you how to dress.
Don’t Do It Because:
There’s a cost. You’re renting a desk, or an office, or sometimes an office suite, and that money could be used for other things, such as supplies, equipment, and advertising. Newbies may want to spend that money on marketing their businesses, and instead work in a nearby library or coffee shop.
You may feel like you’re losing flexibility. Many co-working offices have specific office hours, and if you like to work at odd hours, you’ll have to do that from home. What’s the point, if you can’t access your office when you want to?
Office distractions. With other people working in the office—and coming because of the opportunity to socialize—you might feel like the distractions are wasting too much of your time. Your co-workers may be too loud and needy, and that may hinder your ability to get work done.
If you think you want to co-work, you should first do your homework. Check out co-working spaces in your area, and make sure the one you pick meets your needs. Get to know some of the other people who rent space there, and determine if they’re people who you’d like to spend time with. Like any relationship, take it slow.