Connect, Collaborate, Cowork: Your Guide to Coworking Spaces and Their Benefits

For some folks, the traditional office environment is conducive to quality work. The structured schedules and no-nonsense facilities make it easy to get into the professional headspace.

Others need more independence to reach their peak productivity. They've chosen contracting, freelancing, entrepreneurship and remote work over typical employment.

But it's tough to stay motivated when working from home, surrounded by your favorite distractions. And you don't realize how valuable workplace socialization is until you don't have it.

That's why more and more independent workers are returning to the office.

It's not the kind of office you're thinking of, though — it's a coworking space.

Coworking spaces combine the best aspects of traditional and self-employment into one versatile environment. They're designed so that anyone, regardless of employment status, can have a productive, flexible and affordable place to work.

We've got everything you need to know to dive into the world of coworking. Let's learn what to expect from a coworking space — and how to find the perfect one.

What Is Coworking?

Picture your best coworkers at a typical office job. They're positive, motivated, cooperative people who share your values and your work ethic.

Now imagine an office filled with those people, each working on their own distinct projects. But their open, collaborative attitude persists, creating an environment that's both diverse and focused.

You've just pictured a coworking space.

Essentially, a coworking space is an office that's shared between many different individuals and businesses. You'll find desks, coffee stations and copy machines, but you'll also find a community of other independent workers like yourself.

If you want to get feedback on new ideas, find collaborators or simply soak in more social energy, coworking has you covered. The freelancers and startups sharing your workspace can provide the support, inspiration and positivity you need to get things done.

Coworking spaces eliminate the need for solo workers or small teams to rent out entire office spaces. Standalone offices can get expensive and are often overkill for freelancers and new startups.

With coworking spaces, you only pay for what you need. From the most affordable hot desk to a dedicated private office, coworking spaces have you covered.

We can sum up coworking with four Cs: convenience, customization, culture and community. They're professional environments that give you the freedom to work as you please and the opportunity to build your network.

Who Uses Coworking Spaces?

Not sure if you're the kind of person that coworking spaces are intended for? Set your fears aside — anyone can make good use of a coworking space, no matter what type of worker you are.

Freelancers and Contractors

Self-employment is liberating, but it has many unique challenges. Chief among them is the loneliness that comes with flying solo — even lone wolves need a pack sometimes.

There's also the matter of finding a workspace that's conducive to, well, working.

It can be tough to maintain a good work ethic when your office is next to your bedroom. Coffee shops get you out of the house, but their unreliable, unsecure internet and distracting clientele present their own problems.

Coworking spaces solve both of these issues, and thus they attract freelancers and contractors like moths to a flame. Rather than burning, though, this flame ignites your inner productivity and fires up your connections to your professional peers.

Writers and Artists

The stereotype of the solitary author, locked away in a room for months while whittling away at a novel, is bunk. More and more writers are making the move to coworking spaces.

The conversations that flow in a coworking space can be great inspiration for new stories. They can also spark creativity for illustrators, graphic designers and other artists.

Startups and Small Teams

Every company starts somewhere. If you don't have a basement or garage to claim as your executive office, a coworking space could be an excellent substitute.

No need to deal with realtors or purchase furniture and supplies. Coworking spaces are ready-to-use offices that provide as much (or as little) space as you need to start up your startup.

Startup founders love coworking spaces because they're ultra-affordable and fully-equipped. And they don't require any long-term commitments that new businesses can't always afford to make.

Plus, what better place to find future employees and collaborators than a space designed for self-driven professionals?

What Can I Expect from a Coworking Space?

Every coworking space is different, but most of them share a few common features. Here's a look at what you'll find in your coworking space.

Office Facilities

Most coworking spaces feature both communal hot desks and private desks. This lets you take advantage of the space regardless of your budget and working style.

Private meeting rooms and conference rooms are often available for additional fees. These provide the privacy you need for your most important business meetings (or your most-needed quiet time).

WiFi is a given. Most coworking spaces have enterprise internet connections that are faster and more reliable than home connections.

Many coworking spaces also provide computers, printers, copiers and other tech for members to use.

And there's no need to head out for coffee or lunch — many coworking spaces have their own kitchens. Coffee, tea, sodas and snacks are often freely available, along with microwaves, fridges and other cooking appliances.

Access to coworking spaces is often 24/7, letting both early birds and night owls get their work done. Some spaces allow 24/7 access only for private offices, while others provide it only for higher membership tiers.

Recreational Spaces

Google, Facebook and other companies are famous for their in-office perks. Game rooms, lounges and other recreational facilities give workers a place to let loose, relax and socialize with others.

Coworking spaces have taken note of this trend — and the increased productivity that comes with it. Many now provide rec rooms and activities to take advantage of on your break.

Ping-pong, pool, foosball, pinball and arcade games are popular inclusions. Other coworking spaces offer libraries, TV rooms and even napping pods for when you just need a little break.

Specialty Equipment

Coworking spaces may be geared towards certain industries. These spaces will often offer specialty equipment that's otherwise inaccessible due to cost or lack of facilities.

Makerspaces, like the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy, New York, offer equipment like 3D printers, electronics workstations and welding stations. These coworking spaces are perfect for inventors, engineers and others who work with their hands.

Other spaces are designed for architects, interior designers and similar professionals. SpaceLab Detroit in Detroit, Michigan, provides an extensive materials library featuring furniture, flooring, lighting, textiles and more.

And biotech coworking spaces, like nationwide chain BioLabs, provide biohazard removal and full laboratories with freezers, centrifuges, microscopes and other specialty equipment.

How Much Does a Coworking Space Cost?

Coworking spaces may cost more than that spare room that you use as a home office.

But that doesn't mean you'll get sticker shock, especially compared to the cost of renting a traditional office.

For example, renting a hot desk from WeWork, a worldwide coworking chain, in New York City will cost you between $400 and $500 a month. Private WeWork offices in NYC range from $800 to $1,100 a month.

Lease a traditional office in NYC, though, and you're looking at an average cost of $67/square foot per month.

At that rate, even a tiny 50 square foot office (half the minimum recommended office size per person) would cost $3,350 a month. And that's not including utilities, furnishings, WiFi and other expenses.

Coworking spaces, on the other hand, bundle all expenses into one fee.

Depending on your location, you'll be looking at costs of $200 to $500 a month for a hot desk at a coworking space. Dedicated desks are generally $100-200 more than hot desks, and private offices are around double the hot desk price.

Most coworking spaces let you purchase day passes for $20-30. A day pass lets you try out the space for a day to get a feel for it and decide whether you'd like to continue working there.

How Can I Find Coworking Spaces?

Often, coworking spaces are located in business or financial districts — areas with plenty of preexisting offices. They tend to be situated near public transportation and are generally in walkable areas.

Major cities like NYC, Seattle and Los Angeles have the most options, but coworking fever is spreading fast. There are around 20,000 coworking spaces worldwide, many of which are in smaller cities like Columbus, OH; Boulder, CO; and Albany, NY.

Finding a coworking space often starts with networking. If you know any local freelancers or entrepreneurs, ask them where they work — many of the best recommendations come from word of mouth.

Coworking spaces frequently host networking parties, professional workshops and other events. Not only are these events excellent for making new connections, they're great opportunities to check out different coworking spaces.

You can usually find these events on Facebook — just search the Events section for terms like "coworking," "networking," "professional development" or "entrepreneurship."

But if you'd rather just get to work, punch your location into and see what pops up.

This comprehensive database maps out all coworking spaces near you and provides details of the facilities. It's a fast and convenient way to find your perfect coworking space, no matter where you are.

Is Coworking Right for Me?

Does the idea of a dedicated workspace at half (or less) the cost of a traditional office make you jump for joy?

Do you crave a community of like-minded professionals who share your drive, independence and desire for productivity?

Does a positive, cooperative, inspirational work environment motivate you to be the best you can be?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, a coworking space may be just what you need to elevate your work to the next level. Get yourself a day pass and give it a try — your career will never be the same!

Summary: Freelancers, entrepreneurs and other independent workers can boost productivity and make new connections in coworking spaces. These affordable shared workspaces bring workers together for support, collaboration and professional growth.