Are Coworking Spaces a Good Fit for Tech Teams?

Using coworking spaces can be the perfect set up choice for QA and tech teams, but there are always two sides to the story. Our post discusses them both.

The world of work never stays the same for very long, as our recent history shows with dramatic clarity. Differences between our approach to work and those of our parents’ generation are vast. As digital professionals, we are not required to clock in and out. We are free from the factory line, and (depending on where you work!), we’re not chained to a desk and can enjoy relative autonomy with the freedom to work remotely if we wish.

Are Coworking Spaces a good fit for Tech Teams?

New ways of working

Jobs exist today that would never have been dreamt of even five years ago. In the coming decade, job roles and opportunities will arise that even we could not have imagined, as technology and society evolve to be able to tackle new and unexpected challenges. With more people becoming self-employed, contracting, and working remotely, perhaps in response to redundancy, the demand for flexible working spaces is in vogue now more than ever, with the trend only likely to increase.

The ability to work from anywhere, communicate easily with people across the globe, and to access projects, documents, and repositories through any device, has fundamentally changed how we do business. But one thing remains; we will always need a place to sit down and work.

Why are coworking spaces popular right now?

In these uncertain economic times, we see businesses – particularly those in the technology and digital sector – take advantage of available coworking spaces and short-term rented office space. Shifting from the traditional commercial lease into coworking spaces can be advantageous because they are more flexible and dynamic, especially for startups and scaleups who may need to rapidly expand (or contract) and require the area where they work to adapt with them.

In this article, I discuss the pros and cons of coworking spaces and draw on my own experience of using them. We will look at hot-desking and co-renting shared offices in the coworking space and aim to offer insight into how tech teams might benefit (or not) from these types of arrangements.

Pros of coworking spaces

Consider the main reasons why coworking spaces are so popular.

Great for growing teams

If your business is in a startup or scaleup stage, and you’re uncertain if your team will be expanding over the next few months, working in a flexible coworking space might be ideal for you. A startup team might want to hot-desk for the first few months while they establish their business. When they feel stable enough longer-term to rent an office within the coworking building.

Impressive workspace

One of the more appealing aspects of coworking has to be the fact that the office spaces are usually gorgeous. These spaces know they need to attract interest and loyalty, so are not shy about investing in the furniture, fixtures, and fittings to give their tenants a top-class experience. If your business involves client meetings, it’s always great to invite them over to a swanky-looking workspace and give them a quick tour of the place, because the prestige of the environment can rub off on you too.

Flexible contracts

The days of the 18-24 month office space lease have passed. With hot-desking and contracts for coworking spaces, it’s usual to have a short term or rolling agreement, which allows flexibility, so you are not forced to commit to being in one place for a long time. Again, this is good for small teams and startups who might not have the confidence (or the financial pipeline) to commit to a long term contract.

Low maintenance

Unlike renting your own private office, coworking spaces are generally fully serviced. Because they tend to be kept immaculately clean and tidy, each morning, it can feel like you are walking into a brand new building every day. Typically, utility bills and internet providers are included in the monthly rental agreement, so there is no need to worry about them. And if anything goes wrong, the owner of the workspace will be on the case to fix it, leaving you to focus on your work.

Community and events

Another significant aspect of working in a shared space is the community atmosphere. If you thrive on events and activities, you will undoubtedly get a lot out of coworking spaces. Typically, they encourage gatherings and group activities to ensure all tenants, hot-deskers, and office renters can meet up and get to know each other.

Perks

Coffee, tea, and other refreshments are generally available for all tenants of coworking space as part of their rent, as no extra charge. Occasionally buffets and special catered events can be hosted for the tenants too. Certain workspaces have even organized weekend trips and community activities away from work to help cultivate a positive atmosphere and deepen the sense of community within the workspace, but this is not standard.

Inspiration

With this sense of community often comes the opportunity to meet interesting new people who you might not typically encounter in other work environments. Coworking-space enthusiasts will tell you that new projects, commercial opportunities, and partnerships are often found within the workspace walls. This is because sharing contacts and skills can result in new business that flourishes organically.

Meeting rooms

Modern coworking spaces often have impressive meeting rooms available to book throughout the week. There may be an additional cost to hiring the larger rooms, but workspaces usually have pleasant breakout areas that are perfect for casual meetings or just somewhere to get away from the desk and focus your thoughts.

Cons of coworking spaces

As great as coworking spaces are, they have a few drawbacks.

Limited personalization

If you’re hot-desking, you are likely to be using a different desk or space every day because reserving a particular desk is unlikely to be possible. This means that you won’t be able to personalize your space or leave things on your desk because the cleaners will remove anything that has been left each evening.

If you formally rent a fixed desk space or a shared office, personalizing your area should be possible to an extent, but be aware that you might be sharing the office with relative strangers.

Lack of routine

If you find yourself hot-desking at a coworking space, no doubt, you will soon realize that you need to adapt to uncertainties. The meeting rooms might not always be available, and you might not easily be able to take a call if the call booths are busy. One day, it may be unexpectedly busy and noisy when you want to get your head down and work. And as mentioned before, you might not have a fixed desk, so you need to be ready to adapt and work anywhere within the coworking space.

They can sometimes be more expensive

Generally, the monthly cost per person is higher if you’re hot-desking or are part of a shared office than if you were to get a commercial lease. But having said that, more economical monthly arrangements are usually available rather than just popping in and paying for each day.

Lack of privacy

If you’re working in a shared office, it can be hard to find some private space. It’s usually possible to tuck your laptop under your arm and seek out a more secluded place to work for a little while, but if privacy is important to you for most of your day, then a dedicated office will probably suit you better.

No control

Unlike owning or leasing your own office space, you’ll have little to no control over the area itself or the utilities and suppliers. You typically have no say over the energy or internet providers, are unable to change the layout or move the hot-desking areas around. Unlike owning an office, you will not be allowed to decorate or customize the office’s appearance.

If you wanted to knock through a wall to expand, paint the office in your brand colors, or switch to a sustainable energy provider, you’d probably be unable to do that in a coworking space!

Limited access to office

If your business owns the office or has a commercial lease, you probably have access to the building 24/7. This is not always the case with coworking space, even if you are renting an office. Some coworking spaces have limited hours and do not allow workers into the building on weekends or after certain times; this is especially true for those with the hot-desking contract. If this could impact your work and your projects, this situation is something to consider.

Summary

Having worked in coworking spaces, commercial leases, and everything in between, I can see both arguments. I like coworking spaces and the community feeling that they provide, along with all the other little perks, but I can see the appeal of long-term commercial lease security and the freedom to have total control over the office.

As our ways of working continue to evolve, and as we all adapt to changing social requirements, technologies, and working methods, I see coworking spaces as a vital element in the mix for the foreseeable future.

Will Saunders
Author

Will Saunders

Will Saunders is a graphic designer with over 10 years experience in digital design and working alongside software development teams. His many roles have included creative director, user interface designer, illustrator, and various other positions that have contributed to the wealth of experience he draws upon when writing for SoftwareTester.Careers. He is the founder of Good Will Studios, an ethical design company created to help organisations with a social mission achieve their goals and make a positive impact in the world.

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