Starting a Business

Is a co-working space right for your startup?

Learn the pros and cons of shared work environments.

Published: October 09, 2015
Updated: May 14, 2019

Startups can keep overhead low by operating in co-working centers that provide access to office space and business tools at a reduced cost. Rooted in tech startups, co-working spaces are also used by freelancers and telecommuters.

Is a co-working center right for your business? Consider the pros and cons of these non-traditional workplaces.

Pro: Cost benefits

Co-working allows you to rent desks and meeting rooms for a set period. Membership varies from monthly setups to daily drop-in availability. The average entry price of U.S. co-working spaces is $200 a month for a shared desk and $350 a month for a dedicated desk, while the cost of renting a traditional office space can range from the upper hundreds to thousands of dollars per month.

"If you don't know how big you are going to be in a month, how could you possibly sign a seven-year lease on an office space?" says Eryc Branham, former general manager and chief revenue officer at co-working campus RocketSpace. "So startups are either overbuying commercial real estate or under-buying and having to spend lots of money that should be spent on product or going to market."

Pro: Amenities

In co-working centers, seating is often clustered into zones to separate individual tasks from group activities. Additionally, some offer phone booths for private calls, educational classrooms, and event space. Other amenities might include:

  • Computers

  • High-speed internet access

  • Lounge areas

  • Kitchen space

Pro: Collaboration

Many co-working centers go above and beyond to foster creativity and collaboration. RocketSpace, for example, turned 70,000 square feet of downtown San Francisco real estate into a hub for tech businesses. It offers membership plans for individuals and team settings. The RocketSpace Labs program allows tech startups to coalesce in one area while working on projects, sharing ideas, and networking.1

"Surrounding yourself with resources that help your staff members grow in their own jobs becomes a recruiting and a retention strategy for a company as much as real estate strategy," Branham says. "Our tech campus is both a place to work [and] a community of people who are supportive and are on the same journey from a business perspective."

Con: Distractions

Co-working isn’t for every entrepreneur. The constant buzz of networking and social interactions may be distracting for some, especially those who tend to be more productive in a quiet environment. Everything is shared in co-working centers, including bathrooms and kitchen spaces, which can sometimes lead to overcrowding and unclean areas.

Con: Lack of privacy and access

Sitting alongside professionals in the same industry might be too unsettling for entrepreneurs with competitive and privacy concerns. Some co-working spaces have fixed operation times, so you may not be able to access your workspace whenever you want if your company keeps untraditional hours.

Con: Overhead

Although it's usually more cost-effective than leasing a commercial space, the monthly rent for a co-working space and any commuting expenses to the location may still be too costly for small business owners who can easily work from home instead.

Your co-working decision

A variety of web-based platforms can help you find a co-working space. 42Floors lists centers in major metropolitan areas, including photos and membership rates. Alternative platforms for finding co-working space for rent include ShareDesk, Desktime, and Desk Surfing.

Whether a co-working center could work for your business depends on any number of very personal factors. But entrepreneurs looking for flexibility, a sense of community, and economical space might be a great fit.

1 "The Perfect Ecosystem For Tech Startups."