In the last decade, coworking has exploded. As the rise of certain jobs that lend themselves to working remotely have grown in popularity, so has the popularity of coworking itself. The freelance economy has also grown, which has allowed shared office spaces to flourish. There are many benefits to coworking, especially if you work in a certain type of remote job. Writers, coders, solo entrepreneurs, and even company employees working as part of distributed teams are ideal candidates for a coworking space. Remote workers can avoid the isolation of working at home by joining a shared space to find a community, a built-in set of resources, and a nice office with all the amenities that go with a professional workspace.
First things first: What is coworking?
Coworking is working with others in a shared workspace. You may or may not be doing the same sort of work that the other people in the workspace are doing, but in a way, you’re part of a community. A coworking office is like a regular office, only better. It offers an environment to focus on work, and the amenities of a traditional office, but without the regulation (if you’re flying solo, you don’t have any bosses hovering over you, or strict break rules being enforced). Plus, coworking offices offer an opportunity to network with other remote workers and build a community.
More people are coworking than ever before
While it used to be that most self-employed workers were in the agricultural industry, the number of self-employed agricultural employees has dropped since the 1940s. But as technology has enabled remote work, self-employment in the country has started to grow. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004, 10.3 million workers were self-employed; in 2015, 15 million were self-employed (accounting for about 10% of all workers). Freelancing in America has increased, with approximately 57.3 million freelancers, according to a 2017 independent study by Upwork, and the gig economy continues to grow.
By 2020, it’s expected that more than 20,000 coworking spaces will be open worldwide. The U.S. ranks 8th in the world for coworking growth per capita. Coworkingresources.com notes that “Every five days, a coworking space opens in London and every 7.5 days, one opens in New York City.” Coworking is the new normal, especially for remote workers.
What remote jobs lend themselves to coworking spaces?
Remote coworking isn’t just for freelancers or entrepreneurs. Writers, coders, creatives, and others can take advantage of coworking spaces. Even customer service agents and salespeople can work remotely. In fact, you could be an employee of a major company and still be able to work remotely in a coworking space from time-to-time.
Forbes released a list of Top 100 companies that offer remote positions: Number 1 was Appen, a technology services company. Others included (not surprisingly), Amazon; (surprisingly) UnitedHealth Group; Williams-Sonoma; Xerox; and American Express. According to Forbes, the top career fields for remote work were: “Computer/IT, medical/health, sales, education/training and customer services.” Here are the pros of coworking for these top industries.
Many of these spaces are primed for a certain type of remote worker. According to Deskmag’s analysis of the 2017 Global Coworking Survey, tech workers comprise the largest group at coworking spaces — about 22%. Other groups with a large presence include the PR/ marketing and sales industry (14%) and consultants (6%).
Computer programmers and software developers who work remotely some or part of the time may find coworking to be a beneficial way to work. The shared desk spaces are perfect for a laptop and a cup of coffee. Because so many coworking spaces are startups that are geared to the tech universe, computer programmers and software developers may find themselves surrounded by like-minded workers coding away right beside them. As a result, a coworking space may be beneficial for their remote work simply for the networking opportunities — which may lead to future work (remote or otherwise).
Coworking spaces are great for writers working remotely. Writers often need a quiet, clean place to work with strong Wi-Fi and strong coffee. Writing can be a lonely profession, and coworking spaces offer a respite from the isolation felt by many writers working remotely from home. In a coworking space, there are people all around them, even if they aren’t working with those people, and the ability to have “water cooler talk” with a person IRL helps alleviate that isolation. And a coworking space often has a built-in community that comes with it. If you are looking for other writers, there may be a few sprinkled throughout your coworking space, which can lead to new connections, new story ideas, and new work opportunities.
Artists, creatives, and consultants
Like writers, remote work for visual designers, web designers and illustrators, can become monotonous when working from home. Being in a cheery coworking space with many amenities — access to a wide coffee selection, after-work events, a swanky office, and faster Wi-Fi than most people have at home — can outweigh the benefits of working from home in your pajamas. Though many web designers and illustrators require more than a laptop to work, most coworking spaces offer fixed desk space where you can bring your own monitor or large-screen computer. Some coworking spaces even offer stations with large external monitors you can plug into the shared desk area.
Entrepreneurs and startup founders
Certain remote work lends itself to coworking, especially if you have your own business that you are trying to get off the ground. Maybe you’ve got too many distractions at home, or you don’t have a big enough space to have a home office: A coworking space is great for your needs on the days when you are working remotely or don’t have to be on a job site. A coworking space also gives you amenities your home office doesn’t have, such as a conference room where you can meet with your clients in a quiet and professional setting. If you are working remotely, you can hold video meetings in these rooms with your client.
If you have a startup business, many coworking spaces offer small offices that can be rented through the space, as well as clusters of desks, so that you can have a small team in the same space.
Full-time employees who work remotely part-time
Freelancers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from remote coworking. A certain type of full-time employee may benefit from working remotely in a coworking space. Customer service agents, writers, software engineers, accountants, and others can all work remotely. More and more major companies are becoming increasingly flexible with work-from-home benefits. (Puts on Granny voice: Back in the old days we used to call remote work telecommuting). Because employees can communicate remotely with email, Slack or other messaging apps like Skype, it is sometimes no longer necessary for employees who work in certain types of jobs to drive to the office. But even though you can work from home, some remote workers would rather work a few days a month in a coworking space, especially if they don’t have a dedicated home office already set up.
Things to consider before going remote
- Do you like to work alone or with lots of people? Introverts may love working from home; extroverts would benefit from a coworking space.
- Will you save time on commuting, but spend money on other expenses when working remotely in a coworking space?
- Are you disciplined? It takes a lot of self-control to not shop on Amazon all day, or read Twitter when you should be pitching your next story. (How would I know about that, you might ask?)
- Do you like structure? For remote freelance jobs, every day can be different. If you are the type of person who likes to get up, go to the gym, take a shower and go to work, then remote working may be a struggle, and a coworking space may benefit you.
How do you find the type of remote work that makes coworking possible?
- Search job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn and Monster.com with the tag “remote” plus the type of work for which you are searching. One remote worker, Ryan Robinson didn’t find the big three job search sites that useful for this purpose, especially for tech remote jobs. But he did sing the praises of Flexjobs and AngelList as good sources for freelancers looking for tech work.
- Fivver and Remote.co cater to freelancers — particularly writers and those looking for odd jobs.
- Work your network. LinkedIn might not be the best way to find random remote jobs, but it’s a good place to reach out to people you know to ask them if they know anyone who is looking to hire for a certain type of remote job. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you post to social networks that you are looking for remote work in your industry.
Once you have landed your remote job, it’s time to find a coworking space that works for you.
Writer and editor Tricia Romano is the former editor-in-chief of the Stranger. She has been a staff writer at the Seattle Times and columnist for the Village Voice. She is currently working an oral history about the Village Voice for Public Affairs. You can also find her at Patreon.