The debate of which working environment is better between traditional in-person offices and remote working has been raging on for a long time. Remote work seems to win, mainly because many younger workers love the flexibility that comes with it. However, the detractors of remote working say that it gives employees too much freedom, sometimes to the extent of jeopardizing their productivity.
The emergence and continued growth of coworking spaces have in many ways put this debate to rest. These spaces combine the best attributes of in-person and remote working and create a hybrid-like work environment. Professionals who can’t access their offices (for whichever reason) but don’t like working from home can work remotely and still get optimal office experience in a coworking space.
Traditional offices and coworking can coexist with one another. The two aren’t in direct competition. However, as a worker, it is healthy to wonder which of the two work environments you would thrive most in, and we are here to help you with that.
What is the key difference between a traditional office and coworking space?
From a worker’s perspective, the key difference between these two office models is in their definitions.
A traditional office is an office that hosts workers of one and only one employer. When working in such an office, the similarities between you and the people around you are endless. If you are in IT, for example, one specializing in Artificial Intelligence, your office mates will have some background in IT, and their career ambitions won’t be too different from yours. They probably come from neighborhoods similar to yours. Their social class is the same as yours or close to yours. You also probably share the same social and professional networks.
Coworking spaces are offices that host workers from different employers and industries. When working in a coworking space, for example, the people you interact with are not necessarily from your city or country. Their professional backgrounds are diverse. You could be in IT but end up interacting with doctors, designers, lawyers, etc., all within a single workday. You all have very little in common.
Traditional offices vs. coworking: which is better?
Business owners and managers gauge the favorability of either office model based on convenience and cost, and coworking spaces get the upper hand for many reasons. For starters, coworking spaces are more affordable because tenants only pay for the space they need when they need it. That’s unlike traditional offices that require fixed rent every month regardless of whether you use the entire room/building or not. Coworking spaces are also favorable for small businesses because, unlike traditional offices, there are no additional bills (water, energy, cleaning services, inspection fees, and other bills) to worry about. You don’t even have to worry about office repairs or furniture. You can focus exclusively on the business model that will bring you success.
However, from a worker’s perspective, both coworking and traditional offices have their pros and cons.
Traditional office pros and cons:
- Your chances of grabbing the attention of your bosses (and your bosses’ bosses) are higher because you all work in the same office building.
- Being around peers who understand your struggles, mentors who were once in your position, and interacting with people with career ambitions similar to yours is exactly the platform you need to launch your career growth.
- There is some level of comfort that comes from a routine. Knowing that you have a permanent desk or a cubicle in a traditional office is fulfilling in many ways.
- Traditional offices create a strong sense of community. You engage in team-building activities, take part in office politics, decide together about defining your marketing goals, and generally get a sense of inclusion. There is a sense of security that comes with that.
- With your bosses’ permission, you can customize your workstation with family photos, personal accolades, houseplants, and anything that’d make space feel like home.
- Routine can be monotonous. Sitting in the same cubicle, at the same desk, for years can cause “brain drain”.
- Being around people who are in many ways similar to you can isolate you from the rest of the world. That makes it hard for you to adapt to life changes in real-time.
- Being around your bosses doesn’t give you as much freedom as you’d have worked remotely.
- You have to live within a reasonable radius of your office. Life can be boring when your life is restricted to a short radius.
Coworking pros and cons
- The people you interact with within a coworking space could be more connected, traveled, educated, or wealthier than you. Being around more successful people gives you better networking opportunities.
- There are coworking spaces in every city you can think of. You can move and work from anywhere in the world.
- These spaces often have better technology than traditional offices.
- The services and amenities at your disposal here are out of this world. Most coworking spaces have not only the essentials such as HVAC equipment but also gyms, yoga studios, conference rooms, and amenities that traditional offices cannot afford to offer.
- Even when you bump into people in your profession or industry, they are people who don’t work for the same employer as you. They could even be foreigners visiting your city. Such people can give you invaluable industry insights that can expedite your career growth. This is especially useful for people who work in more unusual industries, such as the cannabis industry, and who are willing to inform you about opportunities in this new market.
- Working around people from different career backgrounds can be distracting. If you are a lawyer, for example, you want to work in a quiet and tranquil space. Working next to a virtual secretary who keeps making and receiving calls would be not only distracting but also irritating.
- Information security isn’t guaranteed here. Someone could be eavesdropping on your conversations, and there isn’t much you can do to stop them.
- Your customization options are very limited. The owners decide how to decorate and arrange the space.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Being away from your bosses could be the reason you’ll miss many promotion opportunities.
Verdict: where would you thrive most?
You would thrive in a coworking space if:
- You are a freelancer. Writers, web designers, content creators, photographers, etc., can benefit from the high-tech that coworking spaces offer.
- You are a startup entrepreneur who cannot afford to rent office space for your few employees.
- The nature of your job allows you to move around.
- You enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
You would be better off working in a traditional office if:
- You get anxious around new people.
- Distractions from other people derail your mental progress.
- Your job requires regular Skype or Zoom meetings. You don’t want other tenants in a coworking space videobombing your meeting.
- The confidentiality of your job can’t allow you to work in an open workspace.