The Way We Work
January 18, 2011 by Tamara Rice

Co-working is an independent contracting work model that, like contract work itself, is growing in popularity. It works something like this: You either rent a cubicle in a larger office setting or you simply share an office space (and the rental costs of that office space) with one or several other independent contractors like yourself. For some contract workers it may provide benefits they wouldn’t otherwise have, but for others it may not be the best work model.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you jump into a co-working situation:

1. Can you simply work from home? Unless your proposed co-working model involves access to expensive work necessities (such as a copy machine) that you need and wouldn’t otherwise have, you might save yourself a whole lot of money by simply creating a proper and defined work environment at home.

2. Can you afford the cost of co-working? Whether you’re renting a cubical or sharing an office suite, there’s cost involved that will directly cut into what you take to the bank. On the other hand, if having an office space away from home improves productivity, then it may very well pay for itself.

3. Can you handle the environment? If you can, spend some time observing or even working in the office space before signing anything. Any shared space can have a huge impact on your work productivity. Are phones ringing constantly? Are conversations loud? Are printers and other machines contributing to the noise and will it affect your work?

coworking two4. Can you handle the “co-workers”? Co-working means, ultimately, cooperating with others — even if it’s limited to remembering to turn the lights off at the end of the day to keep your shared electric bill down. If you’ve been an independent contractor for a long time, cooperating with others and working in the same room as others may take some getting used to. Office politics and gossip may be back in your life and need to be managed accordingly.

Ultimately co-working can be a brilliant solution for a lot of independent contractors who either thrive on the energy of “co-workers” and a more traditional office setting or simply cannot work from home for one reason or another. But never jump into a co-working situation without careful thought to every benefit and risk.

Are you co-working or have you tried co-working in the past? We want to hear from you. Share your insights with our readers in the comments below.

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

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  • Araceli

    Coworking even at is rudimentary position is not just cubicles lined, if that is what you are being sold, then you are not int he right space.

    We consider ourselves a collaborative workspace and we help people generate new business, connect with resources, and drive your idea forward. This means that the space should not only pay for itself, but make a difference to your business.

    Here is an article we wrote on how to find the right space based on your work and neurological needs.

  • Tamara

    Wendy, the secretarial service sounds dreamy! Gianluca, is coworking common in Italy? In the U.S., I think it all depends on where you are living — how rural or urban it is.

  • Gianluca

    In Italy we offer share offices till 2001 with our network.
    This year we start to propose also coworking, is a cheap solution for our new client. With coworking service we don’t include secretarial service.
    Best regards Gianluca Mastroianni

  • Wendy

    There are also other options if you like the ideas of co-working but are concerned about privacy or noise levels. You could consider something like a Shared Office Suites or Executive Suites environment.

    One of our locations has implemented a FlexOption where you get mail service and a set number of hours use of conference or office space for a fixed monthly fee. This can give a smaller IC the access to a professional office or conference space to meet with clients, plus a range of services from fax and mail to secretarial service on a per-hour basis.