Coworking is a burgeoning trend among entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers who can’t commute to a corporate office on a regular basis. Today, we’re seeing more and more spaces being created to meet the demands for flexible, occasional office space. Facilities that offer coworking space do have a number of benefits:
- Helping people be more productive by offering a work-like atmosphere
- Facilitating networking and creative brainstorming across industries
- Granting access to infrastructure and technology that would be cost-prohibitive for small business owners or startups
- Keeping costs low with flexibility in short term or pay-as-you-go pricing
But not everyone is sold on the benefits of surrounding oneself with other people in a setting that’s meant to mimic a regular office. In fact, the best work often gets done in a solitary setting–without interruptions from office mates.
Noise Levels Range from Busy to Bothersome
Eli at Become Nomad bills himself as a fan of coworking (since he never stays in one place long). But even he takes issue with some of the less pleasant aspects of the faux office. “Coworking places can be noisy, and this is hard if you’re easily distracted. Noise is part and parcel of coworking places. People will make calls, talk to each other, move around and sometimes distract you, although most coworkers are quite aware and respectful in the working environment.”
Rebekah Campbell at “You’re the Boss” was less tolerant of the buzz during her startup’s experiment with coworking environments. She bemoaned lost productivity from poor focus. Even though there were designated quiet areas, most coworkers ignored the rules. There was certainly no safe haven from obnoxious behavior. “Some people appeared to show off their important phone conversations by speaking as loudly as possible. Even those who thought they were sharing an idea with their small teams managed to broadcast across the whole room.”
Some Coworking Spaces Seek to Provide More Privacy
As the problems that can arise with shared workspaces become more evident, some purveyors of coworking space are finding new ways to cope. For example, the Regus chain of business centers has installed “Thinkpods” that are like tiny round cubicles with space for a chair and a worksurface to hold a laptop. Kimberly Lilley, General Manager at a DFW area Regus, says people can choose to pop into a pod to focus on preparing a presentation. Others might choose to spend most of a workday in these cocoons of quiet.
In contrast, the formal coworking spaces at a Regus feature little privacy, with desks positioned in an open layout with no desktop divider screens. However, in this instance shared space doesn’t mean shared schedules. According to Kimberly, the sales people who lease her site’s coworking offices don’t rub elbows that often. “It’s not really an issue. They aren’t all in the office at the same time.” Sometimes, the answer to the noise question really is about timing. The flexibility of the coworking culture allows workers to come and go as their need for privacy changes.