Is Joining a Co-Working Space Worth the Money?

Co-working spaces can be a great option for remote or hybrid employees. But most require a membership fee. Is it worth it? These tips break the costs and benefits down for different types of workers.

Co-working spaces have been popular in big cities for many years, especially for small businesses, freelancers, and other flexible workers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic showed many companies how much productivity and employee satisfaction was possible without a group office setup. And now, the vaccine rollout has prompted wider working options—from perma-remote to hybrid in-office systems to, yes, shared co-working spaces. But most co-working spaces require a membership fee, and if you may be wondering: Is it worth the money just to go to work?

With companies rethinking their real estate choices, co-working spaces are becoming attractive opportunities for meshing the benefits of in-person meeting space with the flexibility to work when and where you want. Many companies may even choose to pay for a co-working membership for their team—but for individual workers who are considering footing the bill themselves, you have to make sure the math works out for you. Let's assess the costs versus the benefits of a co-working space for a few different types of workers.

Potential Cost-Saving Benefits

The first calculation includes any direct alternatives: If you'd spend $4 per workday picking up a latte somewhere and your co-working membership includes a tasty unlimited coffee bar, you can factor in that savings.

Another source of benefits includes anything you don't have in your work-from-home setup currently. Many people find the co-working space worthwhile if the membership includes quiet rooms or meeting room use, especially if their own home doesn't have space for the multiple workers who live there. If you can constantly hear all your spouse's or roommates' Zoom calls, getting out to a co-working space can be very valuable. Other major benefits that many co-working spaces offer include communal printers and office supplies, snacks, dedicated parking spots, and an office address so you can receive mail.

Many co-working proponents see the space as more than the sum of its parts, however. For workers who normally don't see anyone all day if working at home, the community aspect of a co-working space can be the major advantage.

"It's wonderful to be able to walk through the door and find everything you need in one spot," says Cam Doody, co-founder and chairman of Bellhop and co-founder of Brickyard, an early-stage fund and founder club in Chattanooga, Tenn. "One great thing in 2021 is that in the world we're living in, many people are tired of working from their homes, and they want somewhere that you can be around other people. That's the energy I feed off of."

For some co-working members, the community aspect could lead to the growth of their company due to collaboration. In most cases, co-working members cite a general feeling of inspiration and synergy from working near people in other industries, not a connection to direct leads for their businesses, as the common outcome.

Some co-working spaces have also created multiple locations around a city to be able to offer their members location flexibility. If your work requires that you travel around the city and only need a few hours here and there in the "office," having one near wherever you are can be a boon.

Companies such as Upflex have created the opportunity for people to book a desk, a meeting room, or a private office at a given co-working space flexibly online, using a network that covers the whole globe. It's making more small, medium, and even large companies open to co-working.

"We're seeing companies taking the lead in letting their employees reduce their commute, not spending hours on the road, since they can access spaces close to home," explains Ginger Dhaliwal, co-founder and CPO of Upflex. "For small and medium-sized businesses, a lot are using it instead of an HQ, so they can still have a center for their company, creating a culture where people can come and work together."

So, what kinds of workers really benefit the most from these memberships? Those who feed off the creative energy of a community—but who want to be able to either move around the space or around the world, using the office as just one of their home bases.

Practical benefits, from AV room space for video conferencing to on-site gyms, also make the membership more valuable—if they allow you, as a member, to cut an expense somewhere else in your work or personal life.

Costs and Considerations

Many co-working memberships can quickly become more expensive than even a small traditional office space, however.

While part-time membership passes that include only a few days of co-working a month may be as low as $100 a month, many big-city memberships are $300 or more per month, with private desks and private offices ranging from $500 to $1000 a month per member.

The key, it seems, is to evaluate the options available in your area. Workers who have access to a quiet, private office at home will have to find more common co-working benefits useful than someone whose home is small or otherwise a poor fit as a workspace.

Mindy Morgan Avitia, a freelance content strategist, evaluated her own options in Austin, Texas. She wanted to be near her young child, but needed enough separation to be able to get her work done. Her solution, building a private home office in her backyard, was a better fit for her even though she'd worked in co-working spaces before and knew their advantages.

"I'd always found the coffee shop vibe in a co-working space appealing, but I'm a new mom and I didn't find family-friendly options near me, where I could bring my child if my childcare fell through," says Avitia. "We ended up investing in a backyard shed that can be an office and adds value to our home."

While she sees networking as a benefit of co-working, she also sees the potential to find new professional connections through other networking events.

"I realized I could still have a networking community and make time for it when I missed it, since there are lots of events open to the public," says Avitia. "I can surround myself with the people I want to be surrounded by when I do my own research."

Cam Doody is a big fan of the options available at his co-working space in Chattanooga, Common House. He advises that workers who spend time on the phone or video calls should evaluate potential co-working spaces with a discerning eye.

"You've got to make sure the space has plenty of private rooms or call boxes, and that you can get one when you need one, since it's really frustrating not to have that space when you need one," says Doody. "Other than that, it's great to have a place away from home, as long as it's comfortable, accessible, and convenient for you."

In the end, co-working space membership contains a lot of valuable perks, arguably much more than the prices they charge. That being said, you have to figure out which benefits you'll regularly use in order to figure out if you're the right fit for a membership yourself.

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