Fun or Function: Does Coworking Need a Reality Check?

Post Author: Michael Gasiorek.

Millennials have begun reimagining the workplace to better fit their needs. One way this generation is bucking tradition is by coworking, a relatively recent phenomenon that allows freelancers and entrepreneurs to enjoy the benefits of working in a fully-stocked group office, without surrendering the benefits of being an independent worker.

It’s a wonderful, mutualistic relationship at first glance: coworking startups are finding success by offering their communities a fun, affordable, and collaborative space to work (and usually, a host of incredible amenities).

But there’s a problem brewing just under the surface of the coworking world, and it has to do with productivity and long-term sustainability.

At their best, these spaces are alive with synergy and the collaboration of strangers who become colleagues.

At their worst, coworking spaces can be well-meaning but distracting productivity killers.Countless perks (hello, bocce ball court), interesting people, and the constant bustle of creative minds at work can make it tough to stay on-task.

The New Workspace or The Latest Hangout?

These are exactly the kinds of problems that are having critics asking if coworking spaces are becoming more of a hangout destination than a space to actually get things done.

First, it’s important to consider that all spaces are not equal. Regus is known for primarily catering to executives, while WeWork focuses on creative individuals offering their services on a freelance basis, or on founders building companies. Jay Suites is an amalgamation of both, preferring to offer coworking spaces and meeting rooms to people across the board.

Differences aside, all coworking spaces are filled with customers who have tasks that need to be completed. So how do these distinctly different spaces ensure their customers a distraction-free, productivity-geared environment?

Many don’t, and if that doesn’t change, the long-term sustainability of the coworking industry could be bleak.

Amenities, Productivity, or Both?

If a freelancer finds a great coworking space with amazing amenities and a great group of people, it’s love at first sight. But look further down the road: if little distractions prevent this person from doing their best work each day, they’ll notice the drop in productivity and could become discouraged.

They might even point the finger at coworking: “You made me do this, with your limitless almond lattes and never-ending parade of interesting entrepreneurs! I knew I should’ve just stayed home!”

One way Michael Rutledge, VP of Business Development at a successful group of coworking spaces across New York City, addresses this problem is by offering private, soundproof suites to those who need to put their nose to the grindstone.

He notes, “a lot of coworking spaces focus on the thrill of amenities. But when it comes down to it, work still needs to be completed. We offer the same amenities as many other places, but we also place focus on productivity and helping make sure our customers succeed in their endeavors.”

It’s true that established companies like WeWork have forecasted growing, continued interest in coworking (and resulting boosts in their own profits), but not everyone is equally optimistic. Without a renewed focus on productivity and the work part of coworking, amenity-centered spaces face an uncertain future.

What are your thoughts on the future of coworking? How do you see the industry adapting to fit shifting consumer needs? Let us know in the discussion.


This piece was originally published on Startup Grind, the global entrepreneurship community, by Debra Carpenter. 

Debra is passionate about being creative. She create smart, compelling content for brands and offers content strategy consultation services. She writes about startups, small business, entrepreneurship, women in business, sales, and even motherhood. She makes her home near Nashville, TN with her husband, daughter, and 2 apathetic cats.

Is it a good idea to have multiple coworking spaces in one city?

Post Author: jeannine.

This blog post first appeared on Jonathan Markwell’s blog and is republished here with permission.  The subject of competing Coworking spaces within one city came up in the Coworking group, and during the discussion this gem came to light.  We are proud to republish it here as part of our effort to revitalize this blog and the Open Coworking community.



I’ve had to ask myself this question many times since starting The Skiff. The growth of coworking is leading to it being asked increasingly by first time coworking space founders and long term owners alike.

My short answer is “yes” but be careful (I’ve included a checklist at the bottom of this post to help with that).

 It’s taken me a few years to get to this answer. While I’m confident that it’s the right one for Brighton today and probably your city too, let me share with you why I felt “no” and “maybe” were better answers a couple of years ago. It will help you understand and work with the people in your city who might resist your efforts.

We didn’t worry about there being multiple coworking spaces in one city when we started The Skiff. Through its accidental beginnings we didn’t realise what we were doing was coworking (but that’s a story for another time). Once we were up and running it became a regular concern.

It takes time to make a coworking space financially sustainable. When you hear about other spaces opening and you’re feeling cash poor it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that competition will make growing your community even harder. There have been plenty of times that I’ve had sleepless nights over this and it might be that your ‘competitors’ feel the same. Being sensitive to that and talking openly with them at the earliest opportunity will help.

It’s critical that you do not consider other coworking communities in your city to be competition. You have a shared ambition to make coworking the future of work and your true competition is traditional ways of working. To a lesser degree serviced offices, cafés, spare desks at agencies, and people’s home offices and kitchen tables are also competition. The more people there are collaborating on the promotion of coworking in your city, the faster people still doing things the old way will switch.

The thing that helped me come around to this way of thinking was seeing what happened as a result of the other spaces being created in Brighton. It helped our members better understand why they chose The Skiff. It was rarely because of the location, the building or some other physical feature. They chose The Skiff because it was the community of people they felt most comfortable working with. This made our community much stronger and when one or two people left for the other communities, others joined to replace them.

Here’s a checklist I recommend you work through when considering adding coworking spaces to cities that already have them:

  1. Experience the existing communities as a member yourself, participate and connect with the members to make sure you know exactly how the community you start will be different. You might even find that you don’t need to create one yourself.
  2. Build the community first, don’t make the often fatal mistake of getting a space first. Alex Hillman says it best here in How to fund your coworking space.
  3. Don’t make price the differentiator between your space and the others. When you start it looks easy to do ‘cheaper’ but you’ll be surprised by how many unexpected expenses pop up. We learned the hard way that we under priced by over 30% for the first few years. The cheapest desks in a city will always be spare places at companies that pay their bills with other products and services.
  4. Talk to the founders of existing coworking spaces and explain how yours will be different. Rather than worrying, they’ll probably be able to help you understand some of the specific economics of operating in the city and recommend people who could be a better fit for your community than their’s.



You can read more on this topic over on the Global Coworking Discussion

If you’d like to learn more from my experience building and growing coworking communities you should join the 500+ workspace leaders who get notified of my future posts.


7 Steps To Selecting a Coworking Space

Post Author: Kat Haselkorn.

When it comes to picking out the perfect coworking space for yourself or your business, there are a number of factors to consider. Here, we outline seven steps to help you find the ideal work environment today and as your business grows.

Image via Uber Offices

How to Attract Women to Coworking

Contributed by Angel Kwiatkowski of the Cohere Coworking Community in Fort Collins, CO.

Ladies of Cohere wear their Bike to Work tees designed by Suzanne (middle).

Since Cohere opened in 2010 we’ve maintained about a 1:1 female/male ratio. We didn’t think this was odd until people started asking us, “how can you possibly attract that many women?!” Our short answer is: women beget women via word of mouth. The long answer is below…

Men might fit into the popular ideal of what a freelance digital professional looks like. But in the coworking world, women are giving this stereotype a run for its money.

The Global Coworking Survey found that “most coworkers are in their mid twenties to late thirties, with an average age of 34. Two-thirds are men, one third are women.”

But some communities exist in complete opposition to these statistics. And those spaces that are predominantly male are very interested in reaching out to connect with what some consider the untapped freelancing audience: women.

Attracting talented, motivated women to coworking must be done delicately, however. Coworking space owners must not perpetuate damaging perceptions by thinking that a few women-only events and some girly decor will do the trick…read the full post on Cohere’s blog.


Coworking as a Business: Which Model Is Best?

Coworking is part of a collaborative reorganization of the global workforce, but does that mean a traditional business model is out of the question?

(The below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for I would encourage you to read the full version and let me know your thoughts! Like so many issues in the coworking community, it has to be decided on a space-by-space basis. I’d love to hear from space owners using these and other models to achieve a cohesive, sustainable community!)

…Most coworking advocates fall into one of two schools of thought on this topic: those that believe coworking is best when it exists as a non-profit, and those who believe coworking can (and should be) a profitable business. The coworking community demonstrates that both (and many hybrids in between) are possible.

Coworking As A Non-Profit

The thing that sets coworking apart from all other styles of working is that it has the welfare, success, and ultimately happiness of the members as its most lofty goal. The community is the most important asset, and everything else–the space, location and amenities–are meaningless if the community is absent. One of the most attractive reasons to choose the non-profit model is the ability to let the community evolve naturally…

Coworking As A For-Profit

What troubles some in the coworking community is that creating a coworking space with the sole purpose of making profit can drive the focus away from the coworking values of collaboration, community, openness, accessibility, and sustainability. “Coworking spaces that fully embrace the value of community are not owned by anyone,” writes the founder of C4 Workspace in San Antonio, Texas. “They may be funded by individuals and other sources but they are “owned” by the community.” One can’t just offer desks and Wifi, call it coworking, and wait for the money to roll in…

Coworking As A Not-Just-For-Profit

While it might be easy to equate “profit” with the cut-throat individualism that typifies the corporate world, space owners shouldn’t be afraid to make money from a business that requires hard work. Instead, many look for ways to provide additional, valuable services to both the freelancers in their coworking community as well as the telecommuters, small business owners, and creatives of the community at large. Workshops, camps, classes, and mixers bring people together and make them better at what they do. Better yet, all of these things can exist within the community without defining it…

Read the full version on…

Is Your Coworking Space Sending Mixed Messages About The Community?

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Just like a laptop or lucky suit, coworking spaces have to be cared for or they won’t perform.

In their attempt to create “friendly atmospheres” and “comfortable workspaces”, some coworking facilities have strayed far from (what I hope was) their original goal of creating a professional space in which the mobile workforce can be at its most productive.

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Here are some unsavory practices that could affect their impression of coworking and cost you a member:

  • The door is locked: There is nothing more confusing and off-putting than not being allowed to enter the facility during hours of operation. I once showed up well past 9 am (on a day that I’d informed the community manager I was coming) only to find the doors securely locked, with no one in sight. The only reason I eventually entered was because a member heard me rattling and opened the door. This member didn’t know me, and it wasn’t his responsibility, so he promptly returned to his office with a door (which he closed) and resumed working. I was left standing in the lobby, wondering whether I had the wrong direction. Which leads us to item 2…
  • No host on duty: I’m tired of arguments that the community can thrive without a manager, curator, or host. I don’t care what you call this person, but they need to exist and be located near the door during business hours. This smiling face should be available to show new people where the coffee pot is located, and where to put their coat. It’s also helpful if this person can get a few of the members to also smile, wave, and say a sentence about what they do. This makes people laugh, feel comfortable, and understand why coworking is so great. So do it.
  • A dirty bathroom: I hear you snickering already…”Thanks ‘Mom’ we’re all aware of how to clean a bathroom.” ARE YOU? In my travels, I’ve encountered coworking spaces with empty toilet paper rolls, hand towels that looked like they’d assisted in the open heart surgery of a car engine, and soap dispensers that made me want to skip the hand-washing all together. Think to yourself: if I were a member bringing my most important client in for a meeting, is this the bathroom I’d want to offer?
  • A cruddy kitchen: If you’re going to entice new members with kitchens or breakrooms in which to enjoy their lunch, for god’s sake, keep it enjoyable. I’ve seen kitchens with signs that say “please be courteous and wash your own dishes” with what looked like a 90 year-old sponge lurking in the sink and nothing but a dingy towel on which to place your “clean” dish. Unacceptable. We’re all adults here, so let’s nix the signs and act like it. Space owners, I’m pretty sure if you provide your members with soap, a touchable cleaning implement, and a rack in which to place them, the clean dishes will follow.
  • Weak power outlets: Freelancers are designed to travel light. Give them an outlet and a Wifi connection, and they’re happy. That’s why it shocks me that I’ve been in spaces where outlets are inconveniently located or missing altogether. If you want people to pay for a membership, they shouldn’t be forced to cross their fingers and plug their beloved computers into a scary tangle of extension cords and power strips.

Let’s face it people, even the most resilient community will falter and die if you can’t master the basics. Let’s not become so concerned with using our 30,000 foot lofts and cool-looking furniture to attract new members that we forget to care for the ones we already have.

Image Credit:

Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Should coworking spaces strive to become the Wal-marts of the mobile workforce, or should they resist growing for the sake of growth? Some surprising results from the Global Coworking Study.

Is a bigger coworking environment always better for members?

Humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Growing Your Business By Keepin’ It Real

Coworking Out of Bounds

The new year is here and that means many freelancers and small business owners are setting challenging goals for themselves, both personally and professionally. When challenging yourself to earn, create, or accomplish more, remember that although you may not answer to anyone else, it doesn’t mean you should take advantage of yourself by creating situations in which your time and talent will be overextended.

We talk a lot about engaging and making ourselves available for the coworking community and community at large, but agreeing to projects beyond your limit is an easy way to breed frustration and apathy–two traits that are deadly for the independent professional.

This year, pledge to remember that you’re only human. Stop saying yes when in your head you’re scrambling to think of a way that you’ll get it done in time. Refrain from agreeing to that aggressive deadline or early morning meeting when you know that your other work will suffer because of it. Be honest with clients and coworkers about how much you can handle, and know that the most beneficial growth, both as a person and a business owner, is that which occurs at a sustainable pace.

You’ll feel more pride about the high quality work accomplished when you operate within your limits, and the anxiety about income goals and number of clients fades naturally as people are attracted to the calm, organized, professional manner in which you do business.

Have you ever said yes to a project or deadline when you should have said no? Share your experience in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Phillip

Can Coworking Help Build A Healthy Business Ecosystem?

Being different from the common vision of an “office” or a “job” doesn’t mean that coworkers should abandon the 9 – 5ers all together. Sometimes the bridges built between coworking spaces and the larger community are the most important for a healthy business ecosystem, and coworkers should be willing to put the first stepping stones in place.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

coworking builds a healthy business ecosystem

Coworking spaces (and their members) often spend time building connections with other coworking spaces or groups of technically creative people, but it’s important to remember that a coworking facility is still part of the larger, conventional business community (which happens to be struggling right now).

Being different from the common vision of an “office” or a “job” doesn’t mean that coworkers should abandon the 9 – 5ers all together. Sometimes the bridges built between coworking spaces and the larger community are the most important for a healthy business ecosystem, and coworkers should be willing to put the first stepping stones in place.

Host Classes/Workshops/Seminars That Are Open To Non-Members

Whether it’s tips from an outside tax expert or a workshop about how to network effectively, chances are that small business owners or even cubicle-dwellers could benefit from the knowledge as well. Opening up some of your functions to outside individuals is also a great way to give people a peek into everything they’re missing, and an easy way to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue.

Support Other Local Businesses

A group of dedicated, well-connected coworkers is a powerful market segment for any new business. Take the time to introduce yourself to the owners and managers of storefronts that you frequent, and be sure to mention that you’re there because you cowork nearby and you like to support local business. Not only will they become aware about a new way of working, it might even spark a discount for coworkers or create an opportunity for collaboration.

Develop A Resource Reputation

A room full of healthy, motivated, independent professionals is a dream come true for a future business owner. Instead of thumbing through a Chamber of Commerce directory or (gasp!) venturing into the wilds of Elance or, a coworking space provides the business ecosystem with a rich pool of pre-approved talent. All you have to do is find a way to let your community know that this talent exists and is ready to help.

What other ways does your coworking space contribute to the health of the larger business ecosystem?

Image Credit: Flickr – Intersection Consulting

3 Ways To Cultivate A More Vibrant Coworking Community

Just like you can’t just toss a sack of seeds into the dirt and expect to get a garden, you can’t sit in your seat with your headphones on, waiting for the community to nurture you.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

People talk a lot about all the ways that coworking can energize your small business or keep you from looking like a hack. Coworking communities are unique collections of people that can provide just enough sun, rain, and fertilizer for your ideas to grow and bloom.

However, just like you can’t just toss a sack of seeds into the dirt and expect to get a garden, you can’t  sit silently in your seat waiting for the community to nurture you.

1. Admit You Need Help

Most coworking communities are collections of pretty talented, organized, and all around amazing people. If you’re new to the group, you might be intimidated by all this excellence, and feel that you have to put on a capable face when inside you’re really losing it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The wealth of knowledge your community contains is there for you to take advantage of. Be honest about your weaknesses, and make them available when other people are in need.

2. Ask What People Are Working On

When Monday morning dawns, all fresh and full of emails, it can be tempting to get plugged in and working as fast as possible. But there’s nothing nurturing or vibrant about a community where people don’t make eye-contact. Take just a minute or two to say good-morning to the room, ask what your neighbor’s working on, or share the challenges you’re trying to tackle that work week. Not only will this set a positive tone for the rest of your day, you might just uncover a partnership possibility or a new contact that will prove indispensable in the future.

3. Commence Goofing Off

You can’t spell coworking without work, and it’s true, the most important reason that people are attracted to coworking communities is because they can be more productive there. But you don’t always have to be hunched over with your headphones, oblivious to the rest of the room. The next time someone’s piping up about a problem in their business, or a funny YouTube video that’s burning a hole in their inbox, take a second to crack a smile and indulge in some human-to-human conversation. You need a break from that screen anyway 🙂

What are other ways that you can help improve your community and create an environment that encourages success?

Image Credit: Flickr – OakleyOriginals