Coworking or Home Office - Which Remote Work Option is Best?
Back in March, millions of employees began working from home for the first time ever. It was weird, exciting, and novel all at once.
For those with little experience working remotely, the extra time with family and no commute was amazing. Working from the couch in PJs, catching up on Netflix during lunch, and doing personal chores? No problem. It almost felt like a staycation.
Not so fast.
Yes, remote work can be a fantastic perk. Cutting out your commute time can free up space in your schedule, allowing for better productivity in your work and personal life.
But many first-time remote workers were surprised to find how lonely and isolating it can be to step away from the traditional office environment. After the cabin fever started to set in, and we all realized we were in this "new normal" for the long haul, plenty of first-time remote workers found themselves wanting to head to their local coffee shop just for a little human interaction.
But with COVID restrictions in place, things aren't that simple. Which begs the question, what will become of coworking?
Coworking spaces allow employees from many different companies to work together in a shared office space with access to amenities like printers, conference rooms, free WiFi, coffee, and more. While pricing can vary from location to location, these spaces have become particularly popular with entrepreneurs and small businesses, but also appeal to remote workers.
Wondering which remote work setup is best for you? If you're trying to decide whether you should set up shop in a home office, spring for a membership at your local coworking space, or plan to do both, keep reading. This post will explore the pros and cons of coworking and working from home. It will also share tips and tricks for staying connected with your peers no matter where you choose to spend your workday.
Coworking: Current Trends, Pros, and Cons
As of 2019, there were more than 19,000 coworking spaces available worldwide. The U.S. alone is home to more than 80,000 square feet of flexible working space. Within the last decade, the trend has taken hold and there's now no shortage of coworking availability. With shared workspaces in cities of all sizes across the country, opting to join a coworking community is a viable option for most remote employees.
What are some of the major pros of working from a coworking facility? I asked members of the "Remote Workers on LI" LinkedIn Group to share their opinions. One common theme on the plus side? The camaraderie and social interaction. Proponents also say working around others can help ramp up their productivity.
"One of my clients gives me access to the coworking space that they operate out of, so I work from there at least one day each week," says Julia McCotter, Writer and Marketing Consultant. "I find working from my home office is better for a long, normal workday, but if I need to really push something out, I tend to go work somewhere that other people are working, like a coworking space or coffee shop. Something about the social pressure of being around other-focused people helps me get through a sprint."
Even the most introverted employees need an element of human interaction to combat the loneliness of remote work. And Kyle Ladewig, remote work expert and founder of Out of Office, has found that working in shared spaces can be just the ticket. But, he also points out that utilizing traditional coworking space can be costly.
"Working from home is convenient but not sustainable - after hundreds of user interviews, I've only met one person who was able to work from home every day without going crazy," he says. "It's just too lonely & isolating. Coworking spaces can be awesome, but they're too expensive for most people (and most companies are slow to provide subsidies)."
Ladewig's company, Out of Office, helps remote workers experience the best of both worlds without the high membership fees. They're working to build the world's biggest off-screen community of remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and side hustlers. By joining one of their "work clubs," you can get matched up with other remote workers in your area. Out of Office finds local cafes, coffee shops, and other flexible spaces that are remote work-friendly and invites everyone to meet up and work together for a few hours. It's an excellent opportunity to network, find accountability partners, and get out of the house without the hassle of doing any research yourself or making any longterm commitments to a more formal community.
To sum it all up, what are the major pros and cons of coworking?
- Access to peer-to-peer networking opportunities
- Great for combating social isolation
- A fantastic option for those who are easily distracted at home, or may have children, roommates, or partners who are in and out of the house during the day
- Can allow for a more professional background for formal video meetings or presentations
- Widely accessible in most metro areas
- Memberships can be costly--ranging from as low as $25 each day to upwards of $1,000 each month, depending on space needs and location. Most companies don't subsidize the costs
- For those who live in more remote areas, coworking may not be an option
- Working out of a coworking space still requires a commute, which isn't ideal in high-traffic areas, or during certain seasons in snow-prone regions.
Working from home: pros, cons, and tips for success
For many remote workers, setting up a home office is the dream. Walking from the kitchen to a desk upstairs is the ultimate in commute time convenience. The convenience can be good for productivity, too. Suzanne Reilley, a Senior Digital Marketing Manager, says she's found her home office fuels her best work.
"I prefer my home office because I can focus better in a quiet space, plus I have my big monitor, separate keyboard and mouse, etc." she says.
Plenty of other members of the "Remote Workers on LI" LinkedIn Group seem to agree. Kimberly Buddington, Marketing Manager at Wavecrest Computing, says she can't picture herself going back to a traditional office setting.
"I have been working remotely for about five years now. I love the flexibility and benefits it offers me. I usually go into the office at least once a week for meetings and always have full availability of everyone through our communication apps," she says. "I do try to get out of the house most days-- even just for errands. But honestly, I don't think I could ever go back to nine-to-five office work! I have my moments of getting stuck or feeling unproductive, but I walk away and get back to it after. Alarm clocks, sick days, and traffic don't exist for me anymore. Having the option to go into the office if I choose is nice, but I find other ways to beat the loneliness if it creeps in. I get more done offsite."
For Melissa Mangum, a full-time remote employee in the medical device industry, the loneliness that came in the early days of remote work is long gone. After spending a decade working out of her home office, she's found the routines that work best for her. And she wouldn't trade the flexibility.
"I am in the office maybe four times a year. I manage a team of five from two time zones away," she says. "I would like to see them more often, but my family situation does not make that possible. I have been doing this so long; the isolation does not impact me anymore."
Summing things up, what are some of the biggest pros and cons of working out of a home office?
- No commute time
- No commute-related costs (or stress)
- You get to design your workspace in a way that's most productive and inspiring for you
- Unified communication apps and video conferencing make it easier than ever to feel connected to your peers
- Potential to save money on coffee and meals
- Tax deductions for having a home office
- Possible feelings of loneliness or isolation, particularly for those new to remote work
- Connectivity issues, depending upon location
- Requires self-discipline and the ability to separate work from home
- Initial setup costs associated with creating a home office, many of which aren't reimbursed by the company
If you've decided that working out of a home office is the best option for you, download a free copy of this eBook, which includes dozens of tips for setting up a productive workspace.
You decide: coworking, home office, or both?
If you're still on the fence about whether a shared workspace or private home office is the best fit for your work style, that's okay. The good news is that you don't always have to choose. Many remote workers find a blended approach is most effective.
Recruiter Karissa Stephens prefers a combination.
"I am more focused at home, but a coworking space gives me creativity and inspiration," she says.
Jennifer Lynn-Cogdell feels the same way.
"When taking calls or needing to hustle and focus, I work from home. But this can become isolating, and so I sometimes like to mix it up and go to a workspace," she says. "Coffee shops are hit or miss and can be loud and too informal to get any work done. Answering a call with the coffee grinder going or loud music is bad."
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer, and 8x8 Video Meetings is here to help keep you connected to your colleagues and customers--no matter where you choose to work. Plus, it's free, without limits. Try it now: https://8x8.vc/
Let's keep the conversation going! Do you prefer to work from home, a coworking space, headquarters, or some combination of all of the above? Connect with us on Twitter or LinkedIn, and let us know what you think.