What are the disadvantages of coworking spaces?
You’ve probably heard digital nomads rave about coworking spaces. There’s a lot to love about working from a coworking space – meeting new people, social events and a dedicated workspace as you travel.
Coworking sounds pretty perfect, right?
Well, it’s not (like most things).
There are some things we wish could change about coworking spaces. We’ve been digital nomads for the last 4 years, trying out tons of coworking spaces in locations like Bali, Medellin, Chiang Mai, San Cristobal de las Casas, Antigua, Playa del Carmen, Athens and so many more!
The investment to join a coworking space can be pretty high (depending on where you are) and it’s important to know the pros and cons. Before you decide to join one, in this blog post, we’re going to share the disadvantages of coworking spaces.
What Is A Coworking Space?
A coworking space is a shared workspace for digital nomads, remote workers and online entrepreneurs to come together and get work done. The concept of coworking has accelerated in the last decade as more people have become location independent. There are now thousands of coworking spaces available worldwide.
Here’s how it usually works with coworking spaces:
- You sign up for a membership
- You can sit at any desk you like
- You get access to the high-speed internet connection
- You can grab tea, coffee, water and all other amenities
- You can attend the social events the coworking space organizes
That’s usually how it works but you can’t really define coworking and generalize every space. We have not had the same offerings in every single coworking space we’ve tried and it’s all different depending on several factors.
What kind of membership options can you get at a coworking space? It’s very flexible depending on how long you plan on staying in that city. Here are some of the coworking membership options we’ve seen:
- Daily Pass
- Weekly Pass
- Monthly Pass
- 3 Month Pass
- 6 Month Pass
The price for coworking spaces varies based on where they are located. For example, a coworking space in Chiang Mai, will cost around $100 USD per month and a coworking space in Lisbon is more like $250 USD per month.
This allows location independent entrepreneurs to have a dedicated space to focus and concentrate on work. There are a lot of benefits of coworking spaces that give people the freedom to work from anywhere but there are also disadvantages of coworking spaces.
Who’s The Best Fit For Coworking Spaces?
You can probably tell by now who’s the best fit for coworking spaces. There isn’t really a list of people that can or can’t join them. Here are some questions to help you see if you would reap the benefits of coworking spaces:
- Do I work online? If yes, you can join.
- Do I need a dedicated space to be productive? If yes, you can join.
- Do I want a community of like-minded people? If yes, you can join.
- Do I need fast, reliable wifi? If yes, you can join.
If I had to make a list of people that you’d normally find at a coworking space, it would be these:
- digital nomads
- remote workers
- online entrepreneurs
That’s really it! Coworking is for most people that need a space to focus, get work done and maybe meet some new people.
10x Disadvantages of Coworking Spaces You Should Know
Coworking sounds really good, right?
Well, it can be. But that’s not always the case. We’ve tried out dozens of coworking spaces in xyz countries and to be honest, it’s not always a great experience. We have met people that are die-hard coworking fans and we’ve met people that are anti-coworking and pro-working from cafes.
It all depends on your work and travel style. But regardless of whether or not you like coworking…
Here are some of the things that annoy us as digital nomads and the biggest disadvantages of coworking spaces.
#1. Distractions Are Everywhere
People. Noise. Movement.
There’s a surprisingly good number of distractions in a coworking space. You would think as it’s a place for work that it would be a hub for concentration and focus but it’s not.
You might be doing a solid work session and all of a sudden, get a tap on your shoulder from someone wanting to meet you (which can be good/bad btw). You might also be in a productive state and then someone takes a call on speakerphone for the whole coworking space to hear.
We’ve learned to deal with the distractions as they come. For example, we actually want to get to know new people in the coworking space so we don’t mind if we get disrupted. It all depends on what you’re willing to take.
Unfortunately, distractions are one of the biggest disadvantages of coworking spaces.
#2. It Can Get Noisy
This is the biggest pet peeve of any coworker!
You’re working and you get on a good flow. Your digital nomad headphones are in, you are so focused, productive and the work day is going really well. All of a sudden, you hear a noise and take off your headphones. Only to realize that someone in the coworking space is taking a meeting without any headphones on and leaving the meeting on speaker for everyone else to hear the feedback (aka the entire conversation can be heard throughout the space).
The meeting goes on for an hour and you’ve just lost precious productive time. Even some noise-canceling headphones can’t help in these times.
One of the biggest disadvantages of coworking spaces is having all these kinds of noise around you that could distract you from your work. While you might think, just go up to them and tell them to be quiet – it’s not so easy.
In our personal opinion, we think coworking spaces should work to make them a harmonious space for everyone involved. If they find there are a lot of people taking calls on speaker, it’s a worthwhile investment to get some phone/meeting booths in place. More than that, they should protect the quiet and silence needed to work.
We get frustrated by the amount of noise some coworking spaces allow. Most coworking spaces know to respect the quiet and concentration required to work. Other coworking spaces just don’t realize (tbh I don’t know what they think) that the noise is highly disruptive and distracting.
#3. You Have To Commute Again
You’ve become a digital nomad which means you are either:
- working a 9-5 job remotely or
- an entrepreneur/business owner
Both of the above no longer require you to step into an office. You have the freedom to work from anywhere whether that’s from home, from a different country and anywhere you please really.
One of the biggest reasons digital nomads want to escape the ‘corporate rat race is because they hated wasting time driving to the office, often a commute is around 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on traffic). With location independence, you don’t have to commute ever again…
…unless you join a coworking space. We often wonder why we are willing to commute to a coworking space but never an office – it’s weird. Overall, it’s one of the disadvantages of coworking spaces to make a commute you (in a way) escaped from if that makes sense.
#4. High Costs Compared To Working From Cafes
A lot of digital nomads who prefer working from cafes will say that coworking spaces aren’t worth the investment. From our time testing out the ‘work from cafe’ style, we can see how you can get more value for money if you work from cafes instead of coworking spaces.
With a paid membership at a coworking space, you get a hot desk, free (simple) coffee and tea, plus some social events (if the coworking offers it). With a cafe, you don’t need to pay for a spot at the cafe – you get to have a barista-made coffee and food instead.
When you add these up (which we have several times), it turns out to be cheaper to work from a cafe every single day (5x days per week) than to pay for a coworking space. This is one of the disadvantages of coworking spaces which is why a lot of people prefer to work from a cafe and get a little more out of their money. We have done the same while being digital nomads in Europe.
#5. Dressing Up For Work
If you enjoy working from home, one of the reasons could be because you don’t have to get out of your pajamas. That’s not the case for everyone but it’s certainly the case for a lot of people.
Working in your pajamas is easy and comfortable. Although, a lot of people would agree that it doesn’t set you up in the right mindset to be productive. If you’re working from a coworking space, it’s not normal for someone to show up in their pajamas (unless you’re at a Selina).
Quick Story Time: We wanted to test out the Selina coworking space in Antigua, Guatemala and after spending a day there – we were completely put off. We set up our laptops and began work only to be disrupted by a person in a private meeting room (yes it was THAT loud). To make matter worse, someone decided to sit next to me and work (totally normal) until I looked at him and he was barefoot without a t-shirt and only his boxers. Yup. True story.
One of the big disadvantages of coworking spaces is that you will have to be at least a little presentable. I wouldn’t recommend arriving in just your boxers lol. It depends on your preference whether this is good or bad but it’s definitely something you should think about (and if you’re willing to do so).
#6. Not Available Everywhere
You’re excited to be a digital nomad. You’re ready to go and take your laptop everywhere with you. And for some reason, you’ve landed in Kathmandu, Nepal (for example).
You’re settled in your Airbnb and it’s your first day. That means you need to find a place to work and think “there’s usually coworking spaces wherever I go, let’s do that”. Only to find that there are absolutely zero in the area. You’re left with the work from home option (or the cafe options which can also be difficult).
One of the big disadvantages of coworking spaces is that they aren’t available in every city you visit (at least not yet). Imagine if you booked an apartment without a suitable work/kitchen table – your productivity could drop and work could be disrupted.
#7. Disrupted Work Flow
Writing blog posts takes lots of time, effort and concentration. It’s not an easy task that can just be winged or done at a moment’s notice. You need utter focus to write well.
But what happens when you’re in a coworking space? Well…you could be disrupted not once, but multiple times throughout your work day. While coworking spaces are meant to be places where you can be productive – sometimes they do the opposite!
We get it – you meet cool people and become really great friends. We love that coworking spaces make this possible but how ever do you get work done?!
If you have a remote job or business that requires you to have steady workflows (for hours at a time), one of the disadvantages of coworking spaces is that your flow might be disrupted. And we all know how hard it can be to get back into a flow!
#8. Constant Change – Try One Then Try Another
There isn’t a one size fits all design, aesthetic, desk/chairs, community and space. It’s honestly a mixed bag of what you’ll get at a coworking space based on the owners, the city it’s in, the staff and so much more factors.
Don’t get stuck into the trap of thinking that the one coworking space you really loved will be the same in another city. It won’t!
This is one of the most annoying and biggest disadvantages of coworking spaces we’ve experienced. When we found one we loved and moved countries, the new coworking space may not have the same vibe, the same active community and the nice ergonomic chairs. For example, having a sense of community is a big factor for us joining a coworking space and when there are zero to few activities going on – it makes you sad that you’re paying just as much as a better coworking space and not getting all that was included there.
At times, you’ll just have to deal with what’s in the area. You just have to keep trying and testing out coworking spaces as you travel. This actually brings me to my next point…
#9. What You Get Is Inconsistent
…Not all coworking spaces are created equal.
You might get a really good, active community of like-minded people in one space and a completely dead or inactive community that aren’t really ‘digital nomads’ in another coworking space.
You might get really nice, ergonomic chairs and desks in one space and wooden, uncomfortable chairs and desks in another coworking space.
You might get really social, activity-focused owners that set up events in one space and you might never even meet the owners, let alone have events organized for you.
One of the biggest disadvantages of coworking spaces is that it’s really inconsistent and you never know what you get until you’re there. While you could read reviews or stalk their Instagram pages, it’s hard to tell what the coworking space offers without visiting it yourself.
We’ve gotten better at identifying spaces that will work for us and quickly avoiding spaces that just wouldn’t suit our values and work styles. At times, you just have to be okay with the cards you’re dealt because it’s not always going to be amazing!
#10. Network Privacy/Security
Work on sensitive user data? Cybersecurity, perhaps? Or something a little more complicated and confidential?
That might be a problem if you want to work from coworking spaces. It all depends on the level of confidentiality that you need. In coworking spaces, you might have people behind trying to peak at your screen or you might have some people trying to hack the network.
In other words: it’s not always the safest and most confidential space to work from. And that’s a pretty big disadvantage of coworking spaces.
Again, it all depends on the nature of your job/business. You might not need such a high level of security and/or confidentiality – a solid VPN usually does the trip for most digital nomads.
What are the best VPNs? Check out the review we wrote of the best VPNs for digital nomads here.
Are There Any Benefits Of Coworking Spaces?
The coworking environment is nowhere near your idea of a traditional office space.
And we like it that way.
That’s why we became digital nomads right, to escape the cubicles, the sterile lights and the office politics. Here are some benefits of coworking spaces we’ve experienced:
- Meet New People And Make Friends
- A Zone For Focus & Concentration
- Coworking Spaces Host Educational Workshops & Masterclasses
- Guaranteed To Have Fast And Reliable Wifi
- Coworking Spaces Host Social Events – Activities, Networking, Etc
- Available In Most Major Cities (And Lesser-Known Cities Too)
Curious about the other 10x benefits? Check out our blog post on the 15x benefits of coworking spaces.
Does The Disadvantage Of Coworking Spaces Outweigh the Benefits?
Personally, no. The disadvantages of coworking spaces don’t outweigh the benefits.
Matthew and I love coworking because of one thing…
…We are more productive when we work in a coworking space.
A lot of people love them and a lot of people hate them! There are some strong disadvantages to coworking that have put people off completely, leading them to resort to working from home/cafes. We personally enjoy coworking especially if we’re new in town and have no other way to meet like-minded people.
It can be a hit or miss whether you get a good space but we think it’s worth a try (at least a day pass). You never know how it’ll turn out, who you’ll meet or how productive you can be.
What are some disadvantages of coworking spaces that you’ve encountered? Comment below as we know everyone has a different experience!