Freelance writer Kate Sitarz shares the pros and cons of her experience in coworking spaces both near and far.
It felt like the first day of a new job: locating the bathrooms, nodding hello to new “colleagues,” and combating the anxiety of incorrectly operating the kitchen coffee machine. But I wasn’t starting a new job. I was trying out a coworking space.
For the past two years, I have worked remotely as a freelance writer for clients around the U.S. My biggest issue? Work from home jobs make it hard for me to focus.
There’s always something to clean, laundry to wash, food to cook, or a cat to pet. And I miss the interaction that comes from having non-cat colleagues. That’s why I decided to try out coworking spaces.
What is Coworking?
Coworking spaces offer a shared office for employees—often from different companies—to work.
Most have an area for flexible workers (people just visiting an area or popping by occasionally), as well as reserved desks for more permanent workers. Some even allow startups to rent an entire area or floor for their business.
Different coworking spaces have different costs and amenities. Beyond internet access, some memberships include 24/7 access, others allow you to bring your dog, and most include coffee.
For example, Workbar in Arlington, MA costs $30 for one day, $130 for 5 days, or $350 per month. There’s the option to pay more for a dedicated space or even a private office. WeWork has locations across the US—and around the world—with costs varying by location.
On a recent trip to Germany, I worked at heimathafen. Here, visitors to the café get free internet access for two hours—at a reduced speed. For just under €18, the coworking internet rate allows for all-day access, plus the ability to work upstairs in the coworking area and a 10% discount on all café purchases.
For parents with work from home jobs, some coworking spaces like Work and Play in New Jersey are combining office space with childcare services.
Much like paying for a gym membership motivates me to use the gym more often, paying for an office kept me from procrastinating.
It was also nice to have a community manager; it lowered my anxiety about what to do if the internet crashed.
Because the spaces I visited were monitored, I felt like I could leave my computer set up. This was a nice change from working at coffee shops where I have to shut everything down, disconnect from VPN, and lug my workstation to the bathroom—only to set it back up (and hope my place is still reserved) two minutes later.
Most space for flexible workers is open, meaning I was less likely to hop on distracting social media or e-commerce sites.
And despite using some work spaces outside the U.S., I found coworking has a very global aspect to it; many coworkers were conducting business in English.
Whether it was the days I went or the crowd that happened to be there, I found coworking spaces devoid of the energy I’d envisioned. I’d pictured freelancers and entrepreneurs from various industries swapping ideas in the communal kitchen or lounges, while desk mates talked about current projects and pitched ideas for future collaboration.
When I used coworking spaces, no one spoke to me. Everyone was busy working and, with deadlines to hit, I didn’t have time to chat, either.
Perhaps this is something that happens over time. Most spaces offer events like meetups that are more conducive to building community.
Unlike the ambient noise that comes from working at a coffee shop, the coworking spaces were largely quiet. One day, though, there was someone who was pounding away on his keyboard at a distracting volume.
Some people took phone calls in the room, too, which I found distracting and hard to ignore. I found myself hoping a communal conference room was available for my own calls. Some spaces I visited allowed you to reserve a meeting area at an extra cost. For me, it wasn’t worth it since sometimes meetings are canceled last minute, run over the scheduled time, or end up taking no time at all.
Ultimately, despite the presumed benefits of ongoing work at a coworking space, such as access to a community of like-minded people, it still felt like to me I was paying a high per-day rate for internet when I pay about $45 a month for unlimited internet at home.
Working at my house also allows me to save on food costs. Never a fan of cold lunches, I ended up eating out too often. At home, I can cook a fresh lunch that’s cheaper and healthier, too.
Based on the way I work, it makes more sense to spend a couple of hours each morning at my local coffee shop to kick start my focus. At the coffee shop, internet is free and I’ve met a couple of other freelancers who use the space to work, too. Of course, there’s no guarantee a seat will be free, but coworking spaces can fill up, too.
Because I frequently travel, I’d be more apt to join a coworking space if they offered something like a 10-punch pass for access to multiple coworking locations. In the age of the digital nomad, it seems more spaces may catch on to this trend.
Until then, you can find me at the nearest Starbucks.
Kate Sitarz is a freelance writer living in Germany. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Travel!, The Huffington Post, and USAToday, among other outlets.
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.
While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.