Co-Working Revisited: What are the Drawbacks?

In my last Blog posting I covered the subject of co-working; an office concept which entails using office space on a shared basis. Unlike executive suite operations such as Regus serviced offices; co-working is less formal, collaborative and aimed at the millennial generation. Co-working is growing rapidly in most major urban areas, particularly in central business districts. The outlook for growth is stunning, with nearly 2000 locations anticipated within five years. One of the most successful operators, Wework,  now has a market cap of over $5 billion, with no slowing in growth expected.

But co-working is not without its drawbacks. Here are the major issues I encountered in researching the topic:

·      Interruptions: Perhaps the greatest complaint cited in co-working is the distractions from working in group settings. While private work spaces are available, the incremental cost can be prohibitive for the individual entrepreneur. Also for small work teams, the ability to have private meetings is limited.

·      Security: Co-working facilities have limited security which raises the specter of theft. And many co-working facilities have limited storage capacity for laptops, files, supplies, etc. In addition unless the individual can use private workspace or conference facilities, the issue of private conversations or phone meetings is typically compromised.

·      Legal issues: Co-working arrangements are more like health club memberships rather than traditional lease agreements. On one hand this provides a level of flexibility for the co-working user to cancel on short notice, but it also could result in inconvenient termination by the co-working operator.

·      Inconvenient individual office assignments: In most cases the co-working user does not have an assigned office location. This means that unless the user arrives early to secure the most desired location, they may end up next to the front entrance or some other undesirable location. Assigned locations typically require an incremental cost.

·      Undesirable co-working neighbors. Another complaint that comes up in the dark side of co-working is the problem of working with jerks. These are the users who are loud, profane, and just basically obnoxious.

·      Lack of team culture: Another complaint about co-working is the inability of work teams such as a corporate sales team, or research groups to develop a sense of identity and culture typically characteristic in traditional office environments. Additional cost would be required to secure dedicated space such as a separate team room, but this diminishes the practicality of operating in a co-working space.

There are many advantages to co-working, and for many younger free-lancers the co-working alternative provides the services, infrastructure and collegiality, that is missing in a work-from- home set-up. For corporate users, co-working provides another location alternative for its mobile workforce. But potential users of co-working space should carefully evaluate their circumstances, priorities, and needs before committing to the co-working alternative.