I wrote this article in 2014 with my friend, Rares Crisan. It blows my mind how true these insights still are, 7 years later. So, since its original place of publication (Huffington Post Canada) is now just an archive, I thought I'd share it here so it has a permanent place to live. Without further ado...
Whether it's founding a new company or venturing out as a freelancer, these days it seems like more and more people are taking the leap. A 2012 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that freelancers could account for as much as 40 per cent of the U.S. workforce by 2020. Combine that with the rise of the global entrepreneurial class, and you have a massive shift in the way many people live and work.
Coworking spaces are emerging as the new work environment of choice, with the industry growing a total of 88 per cent from 2011-2012. This represents a shift away from the private office, which had traditionally been an alluring representation of success for young companies. Today, shared spaces around the world are bringing increased levels of happiness, productivity and collaboration to their members, and at a price far more affordable than the alternative.
So here they are, five reasons to close the door on private offices.
1. You'll be a happier human
It can certainly be said that technology, with all its power to connect us, can also make us feel more isolated and alone. But humans are social creatures. Our inspiration is driven largely by human interaction and the open exchange of ideas, especially for entrepreneurs. And when it comes to investing in your long-term happiness, a 2014 study by Deskmag.com suggests that joining a coworking space might be a good bet.
A huge majority of those polled (85 per cent) reported feeling more motivated, with 88 per cent experiencing better interaction with their peers. Some 42 per cent even reported earning a higher income since joining a coworking space, with 60 per cent of respondents having more time to relax at home.
2. The price is right
You know what they say -- cash is king. No matter what type of venture you're pursuing, it's important to keep your runway (the amount of time before cash runs out) as long as possible. Private offices put a strain on your finances for two reasons.
First, that closed door comes with a hefty price tag. For example, a 600-1,200 square foot private office in downtown Toronto or New York can list for upwards of $2,000-$5,000 or more per month, and that's just the rent. You also have to factor Internet, security, insurance, furniture and other expenses -- not to mention the time spent dealing with maintenance and landlord issues.
The second reason is commitment. Commercial leases typically require a minimum of a one-year commitment to secure a space. But as any entrepreneur will tell you, the future is always uncertain. Anything could happen, and you need the flexibility to walk away if necessary. Coworking spaces can offer you that peace of mind.
3. Collaboration is at your fingertips
Nobody is an expert on everything. Along your entrepreneurial path, you will no doubt encounter challenges that are outside the skill set of your team. Maybe you need a website, logo, press release or promotional video. Maybe you have questions about sales, book keeping or human resources. Whatever it might be, you always want to make sure you can find what you need quickly.
Being part of a coworking space gives you access to a community of talented people from a wide variety of fields. Collaboration is everywhere, with members often trading skills to get projects done. It's not uncommon to see brand new companies formed by members who had never met before. This is a level of collaboration that is extremely difficult to replicate outside of a shared workspace.
4. You'll be more productive
Everyone has days when it's a struggle to get anything done, and working from home or coffee shops only makes this worse. From kids and pets to TV and gaming, your home is full of distraction. The coffee shop is a step up, but slow Wi-Fi connections and a chaotic environment tend to fuel procrastination.
Coworking spaces provide the perfect haven. Nothing is more motivating than sitting in a room full of like-minded people, all working hard to achieve their goals. Entrepreneurship can be a stressful undertaking, and sometimes it's tough for friends and family to relate. Having a supportive community to hold you accountable is a powerful driver of productivity.
5. The networking comes to you
Whether it's meeting potential cofounders, investors or strategic partners, making new connections is an important activity for entrepreneurs. You have to get out there and talk to people -- it's unavoidable. Networking events can be a great way to accomplish this, but sometimes it can be difficult to work them into your already hectic schedule.
Coworking spaces are perfect venues for events. During the day you have an office space but, at night, push back the desks and you have a classroom, auditorium or programming workshop. Our coworking spaces in Toronto (Project: RHINO and Project: OWL) have played host to everything from tech meet-ups and hack-a-thons to design workshops and art installations, and you have immediate access to these events simply by virtue of being a member.
So whether you're starting a new company or venturing out as a freelancer, before you set up that home office or (even worse) sign a lease on a private office, consider taking a tour of your local coworking space.
You'll be happier, more productive and your bank account will thank you.
Founder-friendly coworking in downtown Toronto for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. EST 2011. We create original workspaces, fill them with relentless entrepreneurs, and watch the magic happen. Learn more