by Ivy Rutledge
Are you one of the over 13 million Americans working remotely?
According to the United States Census Bureau, this number is steadily rising among workers in all industry and occupation classifications. Half of all mobile workers are self-employed — either running their own small businesses or working as independent contractors.
What has traditionally been known as “working at home” is now a significant portion of our country’s workforce, and with good reason. For employed workers, it offers more options for workers who need the flexibility to manage their scheduling or desire the convenience of a home office. For entrepreneurs, maintaining a home office offers significant savings over the cost of renting or buying office space.
Working at home is not for everybody.
Sometimes the space simply isn’t available, or the boundaries between work life and home
life become blurred. Simply having the flexibility to work at home and juggle both personal and work tasks can result in work tasks encroaching into our personal time, causing increased stress.
Spending days alone in a home office can take an emotional toll as well. Without the daily connection with coworkers, we lose a crucial piece of our mental energy. It is a well-established fact that we not only need human contact to stay emotionally healthy, but that we enjoy a higher level of creative thinking when we regularly interact with other professionals.
So how do you find a functional working environment?
Getting out of the house from time to time is important, but coffee shops and libraries aren’t ideal workspaces, either. Coffee shops can be noisy and distracting, and coffee shop owners are becoming increasingly impatient with the number of “squatters” who take advantage of the free wifi and table space without buying food and beverages. Libraries can be a good option, too, especially if they are equipped with workspaces, like these libraries in Washington, D.C., and in Scottsdale, Arizona. However, most cities and small towns in America have not caught up with the trend of a mobile workforce.
Coworking Spaces Offer an Excellent Alternative
According to Fast Company, the number of coworking spaces has doubled each year since 2005, and there are currently more than 1,800 of these spaces operating in the United States today. By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 40% of our workforce will be freelancers. And savvy entrepreneurs are busy building facilities to meet their needs. Coworking spaces offer all of the benefits of a company workspace without the strings attached.
In addition to a workspace, most coworking spaces offer a variety of services:
- Copiers, scanners, and wifi
- Basic office supplies, such as pencils and sticky notes
- Networking opportunities and professional development events
- Coffee and water coolers
- Lockers, meeting space, and mailboxes, usually for an additional fee
The intangible benefits of coworking spaces are huge!
By far, though, the most valuable benefit to a coworking space is the hive mind. When professionals from multiple fields gather, even in the most informal socializing, the resulting cross-pollination impacts everyone. Most projects benefit from creative collaboration, and having access to a community of professionals is a must-have for creatives.
Depending on where you live, you will pay anywhere between $50 and $400 for a monthly
membership. Membership usually includes complete, unlimited access to the shared space and basic services. In most coworking spaces, the desks and tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis, although for an additional $200 to $500 you can reserve a desk for your own personal use.
While that price tag may seem high, for many mobile workers, the membership fee streamlines the paperwork when tax season rolls around in April. By lumping together your office expenses into one monthly fee, you are saving yourself from hours of accounting as you no longer need to tally up your home office expenses. An added bonus is the ability to access up-to-date office equipment, free of the responsibilities that come along with maintenance and supply replenishment. Also, the available meeting spaces contribute to projecting a professional image, which is critical. For most small business owners, these perks are well worth the membership fees. Members get all of the benefits of an office environment while retaining their ability to work on their own terms.
As more coworking spaces pop up, we’re seeing variations on the basic business model. For example, Hera Hub, a coworking space with locations in Washington, D.C., and San Diego, CA, offers a female-only work environment they describe as “spa-like.” In Richmond, VA, Gangplank RVA charges no membership fees; instead it is organized as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and relies on members to volunteer their time and talents. Other spaces offer outdoor green space and covered courtyards, social spaces with couches and coffee tables, and convenient urban locations with nearby restaurants and retail shops.
Consider the needs of your specific work situation.
Most coworking spaces are available for tours, so take advantage of the opportunity to look around. Note how many people are working and ask questions about the occupations represented in their membership. Also pay attention to the noise levels and social atmosphere. Is this a place you’ll feel comfortable working all day? Test drive the space with a drop-in day, if that is offered. Once you’ve found a place that feels like a good fit, crunch the numbers and see what services you need–and can afford–beyond the basic membership, if any. Then it’s time to move in and get to work.
Originally from Rhode Island, Ivy Rutledge lives and writes
in the Piedmont of North Carolina. She has an MA in English and a special interest in environmental issues. Her work has appeared in print in The Sun and Home Education,and online in the Mom Egg Review, Tilt-a-Whirl, The Copperfield Review, and Ruminate.