10 Good and Bad Things About Co-WorkingBy Sarah Miller April 20th, 2016
There are some hellaciously boring articles about co-working. They use words like “meaningful” and “community” and “interact.” What professional steward of the English language uses the word interact?
Here’s a good quote: “[Co-workers] report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale, one full point more than people who work in offices.” I have no idea how much one “thrive point” is, but I know this: Only an idiot wouldn’t trade it for employer-subsidized health insurance.
Forget all those articles. Just read this one. If you’re considering joining a co-working space, this all you need to know: Co-working has bad points, and co-working has good points. These are 10 of the most important.
Sometimes you have a week where there’s nothing pressing. And perhaps a fellow co-co-worker has a week with nothing pressing. Add a third to this and the next thing you know it’s Friday morning and you’re like, “I have nine things due next Wednesday and spent an entire week talking about—uhhh…”
There are no bosses here! So if blowing things off is not merely an interest of yours but an addiction, don’t tempt yourself.
At 10 a. m. and 3 p.m. every day, my co-co-workers and I have a 1.1-mile communal walk. Dogs come. Politics are discussed, recipes are exchanged, absent people are mocked. It is often the best part of my day.
I take similar, shorter recharging breaks throughout the day which give me energy, focus, and, most importantly, the strength to carry on in an often cold and uncaring world.
Co-working can cost a lot of money. If I’m having a good month, that’s no big deal—it’s maybe 3 or 4 percent of my gross salary. But if I’m having a bad month and my co-working rent is 10 percent of my gross salary, well, that kind of hurts.
It especially kind of hurts when you’re like, “I don’t need this place, these people are annoying!” (See below.) Also: Don’t let anyone tell you, “Well, you can write it off at the end of the year on your taxes.” You can, but you have to actually pay for it first.
Separating work and home
Every single object related to my business is at my co-working space. This means my home is 100 percent sanctuary.
Also, co-working provides structure. I have to shower and dress, which encourages Positive Adult Behaviors, like the making of deadlines, the paying of quarterly taxes, and the wearing of bras.
There is a guy in our office who shouts into the phone. He’s like a carnival barker. I wish this story had a happy ending, but unfortunately, we’re now in Act 2, in which another, equally loud person has joined our co-working space. Why don’t we kick them out? We need their rent money. And they’re also our friends. Our loud friends who are ruining our lives whose rent money we need.
It could be worse. I heard about a co-working space in Sacramento that plays music all day. Hey, guys, it’s co-working—not Zara!
Sometimes working at home is just a little dull. A little background static can be helpful. Sure, sometimes you want to punch people, but are they really worse than the abyss of your own mind?
If your business is not doing well it can be sheer torture to be surrounded by people whose careers seem to be overflowing with good luck, whose colleagues are constantly praising them, and who are constantly ripping open checks and clicking accept on their Venmo accounts. Meanwhile you, once again, are checking your bank balance to see how many more cans of refried beans, tortillas, and jars of Pace Salsa you can afford.
Sharing in other people’s successes, and sharing your own
“Wow, he finally got a new job, after super hating on his previous one for a whole year!” … “Wow, she just found out she’s going to spend four days in a castle in Andorra with a bunch of hot geniuses!”
Whether you’re a freelancer or remotely working for a company, it can feel very you-against-the-world. I love it when someone at my co-working space has something great come their way. Especially if they spring for drinks as a result.
Guaranteed: If you decide to co-work, there will be a guy who is in the kitchen every single time you go in there, and no matter how many times you say, “I’m listening to a podcast,” he will talk to you anyway. There will be a hippie who tells you 9/11 was an inside job and calls you “close-minded” for not agreeing. There will be someone who smells like the inside of a can.
Co-working is not a controlled environment. If you don’t in some perverse way enjoy hating people or have opportunities to increase your social capital with a stream of good stories about them, co-working is not for you.
Deep and lasting friendships
People who co-work tend to range from the at least slightly non-traditional to the downright weird. Your co-working space should be chock-full of kindred spirits. I have been so moved by how much I love people at my co-working space that I have burst into tears in the middle of a supermarket aisle out of sheer joy and gratitude.
When you spend this much time with people—and there is no one around to tell you to get back to work—you share a lot of hopes, dreams, and fears. These are people who will cry at my funeral, and I will cry at theirs. But in the meantime, we have to do a lot of crap to make money, and I am happy, mostly, to do so in their company.Image by Getty Images