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How to Choose Between Coworking and Renting Office Space

April 6, 2020 | by Melissa Landon
Reviewed by real estate expert Michael Colacino

“Working in an office” isn’t a simple, overarching concept anymore. You can work in an executive suite, negotiate a sublease, rent space in a business center downtown, or rent part of a coworking space in your neighborhood, and that’s not even a full list of the many options for workspaces.

Those at this early stage of business development are often searching for something smaller, cheaper, in a particular location, and more flexible than the types of offices their more established counterparts want. Usually, that means a choice between coworking or finding an inexpensive renting situation like subleasing. Let’s look at each of the options in detail to help determine what’s best for your business.

The Advantages of Coworking

Coworking spaces, which may be found in the city or the suburbs, offer freelancers, entrepreneurs, creative types, and sometimes small businesses the chance to escape the isolation and monotony of working at home or in a coffee shop. A coworking space is any location where multiple people come together to work on different projects for different companies, and they can offer a beautiful sense of community. The space could look like an office, a lounge, a network of connected rooms, or just one giant room. Amenities include access to WiFi, kitchen areas, unlimited coffee and tea, conference rooms, private offices that can be reserved for a period of time, and furniture such as desks (floating or dedicated), tables, and couches. Often, these workspaces also provide seminars with guest speakers, Happy Hour events, a shared office management and reception team, a professional voice to answer your company phone, and standard office equipment like printers.

Flexibility

We are far from the era when businesses – whether a large corporation with multiple city offices, or a small family-owned outfit with its own floor in a local suburban office park – seemed to stay static for decades. Remember when people literally spent their entire careers working for one company? Nowadays businesses often grow rapidly, sometimes slowly, and sadly they may downsize as well (but there is always hope for growth!). They also frequently re-locate or shift employees around to different locations based on company reorganization. With so much uncertainty (and possibly a limited amount of capital)especially for newer companies and startups, a coworking office space is a very enticing option. It offers the flexibility to scale staff up or down as needed without worrying about having the appropriate-sized office. It also makes it possible to have employees move to different locations if needed, and to even allow employees to have a workspace closer to their own homes.

Networking Opportunities

Possibly the most valuable perk of coworking is the sense of camaraderie among the coworking community members and the opportunity to network. Many coworking stations are symbiotic ecosystems, where businesses can connect with freelancers, lawyers, clients, potential partners, and more. On a personal level, coworking offices allow small companies to have a day-to-day social outlet beyond their team, and to see other businesses experience similar growth and operational challenges. Whether they’re chatting about their respective companies over coffee in the shared kitchen space, or mixing it up at after-work networking events hosted at the space, coworking office members enjoy numerous opportunities to network in their location.

Reduced Cost through Shared Amenities

Renting an office can be very pricey. Renters have to furnish the rooms, purchase office equipment, pay for utilities, and potentially cover renovation and fit-out costs. Coworking spaces like those offered by WeWork are turnkey ready, with access to shared community amenities ranging from office equipment to large reservable spaces for events, so you can focus on your business. Additionally, most landlords want tenants to sign a lease for at least three years, which can be too risky for some companies, especially startups — and extremely costly if the need to break the lease arises.

Tenants who travel and don’t always need the space may prefer the daily, weekly, or monthly payment options most coworking offices offer for their workspaces. Costs for coworking spaces vary greatly based on factors such as length of contract and type of space. For example, a freelancer could rent a flexible desk (available 24/7), a dedicated desk (available during business hours), or a shared desk (a desk shared with one or more other coworkers).

Fun Environment

Coworking spaces are specifically designed to spark creativity and foster a sense of community amongst members. Some coworking spaces have perks and amenities like adjoined gyms, reading rooms, pet-friendly policies, abundant snacks and coffee, colorful furniture, and interesting, beautiful decorations. Want to play ping pong during your breaks? You can probably find a coworking space that offers this. Want to have easy access to cool downtown lunch spots and art galleries? There is probably a convenient coworking space in the area. Want to take a moment to center yourself when the day gets stressful? You may be able to find a coworking space with a meditation room. As New Worker Mag writer Diana McLaren explained coworking: “I work from a place that has Friday drinks and a naptime space. How’s that cubicle looking?”

coworking space

The Advantages of Renting Office Space

Renting private office space offers businesses the opportunity to tailor the space to suit their specific needs. This could mean purchasing and arranging the ideal furniture, doing construction, playing music, or putting up banners and logos. And in most cases, renting a traditional office means having the space all to themselves. In some subleasing situations, businesses will still work alongside other businesses, but subleasing still usually means having full access to several office rooms and private offices instead of just a couple of desks.

In a coworking situation, you might just have one desk to yourself and have to share conference rooms, tables, printers and kitchens with others. When you rent office space, the whole space belongs to your company. That means you don’t have to reserve the conference room, worry about someone moving your furniture when you wanted it left a certain way, or put up with another company leaving dirty coffee mugs in the sink constantly. If you want to throw an impromptu office party, play music, host an event, or have visitors, you can do that, and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Let’s look at some more of the pros to renting office space.

Privacy

Renting your own office space means that everyone within the space works for the same company. Coworking presents potential struggles with physical privacy, sound privacy, and information privacy, making the idea of having a dedicated office for your business all the more attractive.

Physical

In a coworking space, you don’t ever really know exactly who else is present. Strangers might look into your offices, be within earshot while you’re on the phone with a client, or walk by your conference rooms just often enough to be disruptive. The property managers might also give tours to potential tenants, causing noise and activity in the halls. When your company has its own office, you don’t have to worry about these annoyances.

Sound

You can control the noise level within your own company to a reasonable degree, but if you have noisy neighbors, you can’t do much about it. Or, maybe your direct reports tend to have a lot of spirited discussions that might earn you complaints from the neighbors.

Information

Especially if you’re dealing with sensitive information—like people’s finances, social security numbers, government documents, personal backgrounds, criminal records, etc.—you may enjoy the freedom to speak in the privacy of your office instead of trying to find a quiet corner in a coworking space and pausing every time someone walks by. Want to interview someone for a new position within your company? No problem! Just invite them to your private office without worrying about fielding questions from other businesses about the newcomer. Sharing a WiFi network could also present security issues.

Stability

Couch-surfing can be fun when you’re starting out in life, but as you mature and accumulate stuff, you usually want a stable, private home to live in. It’s pretty much the same for a business. When startups are growing and finding their identities, the flexibility of coworking can be a big advantage. But as your business becomes more established, the prospect of a stable office space to call your company’s home for the next three, five, or maybe even 10 years (and possibly longer if all goes well) becomes far more desirable. As you settle into your office home, you no longer need to stress about moving costs and arrangements and scouting new locations. What a relief!

Reduced Cost

Wait a minute, you say. I thought renting traditional space costs more than coworking! Well, in most cases that’s true. However, as your company grows to more than a half dozen employees, you may find that it makes more sense financially to rent your own space. Here’s why: If a private office in a New York coworking space costs around $800 per month and you need 15 desks, you’re now paying $12,000 per month. You could just get a 2,000+ square foot traditional office for a similar amount!

Branding

When you rent your own space, you can put your company logo on the sign above the door, on the window, and in the street outside. When you interview a potential employee or invite a business partner to visit, he or she will enter a space that reflects your company values, culture, and community. The environment won’t be injected with the values and cultures of the coworking company and the other tenants. Do you want customers entering your office to feel secure and comfortable? You can control the thermostat, noise level, creative decorations, the types of events held there, and music choices — the sky’s the limit. Also, renting your own space means your business can be listed on Google Maps, making it easier for customers to find out where you’re located.

Still not sure? Ask a broker.

Hopefully after reading this article, you have some idea of what coworking spaces and rented spaces have to offer. Remember each has pros and cons, and every space is different. You should tour a few different options before making up your mind. Even more importantly, you should talk to a professional broker.

Our SquareFoot brokers can help you assess your situation, identify various renting and coworking options (e.g. WeWork, Your Alley), consider all the advantages and amenities, and act on a decision that is best for you. Our brokers are commercial real estate experts, and their guidance comes completely free to tenants. They’re here to help you sign for a space that’s perfect for your business, today and as you grow.

You can start by taking our Coworking vs Private Office Space Quiz to see what is right for your business.

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