Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most people would think of the traditional office space, cubicles and all, when asked to define a “workplace”. In 2016, more than 75% of people preferred working at a dedicated desk in a “relatively traditional way” compared to more relaxed and informal work environments as it gave them a private workspace where they could focus on their tasks.
Now, as so many companies have been forced to implement more flexible work arrangements due to the current environment, giving many people an opportunity to experience working remotely, either at home or in coworking spaces, and redefine what they think about and prefer when it comes to their workplace.
Work from home (WFH) became the most common initial response to the pandemic lockdowns, pushing people to create their own functional workspaces but blurring the lines between their professional and personal lives.
But the WFH setup is also evolving to something even more flexible: Work from anywhere (WFA). As we slowly try to adapt to a COVID world, more people are realising they can be productive in different locations, not just a dedicated desk at an office or a workspace at home.
In fact, for many people WFH just isn’t a viable long-term option due to lack of privacy and space, poor internet connections, feeling isolated, or just not being about to switch off from their personal responsibilities at home. The time to really focus on work gets pushed to early mornings or late nights.
This is where coworking spaces can offer many people a working environment that bridges the gap between the office and working from home. Coworking spaces located close to home are fully equipped with modern facilities that allow you to get into a productive zone, connect with like-minded people, attend or host networking events, and run video meetings.
Unlike a central corporate office, you can often find a coworking space in your local area, so you still get the advantages of minimising commutes and choosing your hours. This has led to a growing interest in hybrid work models which give workers the flexibility to work in the office sometimes and remotely (WFA) at others. For those who find WFH unproductive, then coworking spaces could be the best way forward in a hybrid work situation.
This hybrid work model has boosted the growing movement for inclusive coworking spaces like Waterman where its members consist of micro and small to medium businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs from different industries that create and collaborate together as a tight-knit community.
Because your work environment can significantly impact your productivity, overall performance, and even your wellbeing, it’s important to find the work model that is best suited to your needs.
So, here are the pros and cons of the traditional office environment, working from home, and coworking spaces.
The pros and cons of office work
Working in a traditional office environment ensures that most, if not all, business processes are streamlined and supervised. A business owner or their executive team can easily develop and implement systems on both large and small scales and onboard the rest of the staff in one location.
A traditional office space also usually has the proper infrastructure and equipment for you to perform well, including high-speed internet, IT hardware and software, conference rooms, and even cybersecurity systems to protect sensitive and important data.
Working alongside colleagues also gives you the opportunity to interact with others and develop interpersonal skills in learning how to deal with different kinds of people, leadership and team coordination.
Office locations can also have real drawbacks with many offices located in the CBD, which can mean significant commute times for employees. This is not only time-consuming and expensive, it can also be a stressful and frustrating experience when things go wrong (like roadworks, traffic congestion, or public transport problems).
A big part of these issues comes from so many employees being locked into a 9-5 schedule, implemented in the workplace regardless of what your personal commitments and responsibilities involve (leaving you to adjust your personal life around your professional one).
For small business owners, a traditional office work model can lead to expensive operating costs such as renter’s fees and insurance, fitout and equipment, maintenance, cleaning, security, and more.
Companies with long-established in-office models may have an existing work culture that’s overbearing and toxic, either because there’s an over-enforcement of rules, hierarchies, or policies or because of a lack of company-wide effort in building up the team and developing strong relationships.
The pros and cons of working from home
Working from home gives you flexibility and autonomy over your time and work location. This can improve your overall productivity because you have greater choice for when and where to work, allowing you to enjoy your tasks without being impeded by a rigid schedule.
It also decentralises a small business, attracting new, diverse talent that may otherwise have been out of reach due to distance and location (even enabling interstate staff to join the company without relocating them or their family).
Removing commutes altogether gives staff more downtime to relax outside work to invest in their health, community networks, and family rather than being stuck in traffic. A WFH setup is also more cost-efficient for business owners as it doesn’t have the significant financial commitments that come with leasing a full-time traditional office space. These cost savings can even be used for team building and staff development.
The downside to the work from home structure is that business owners and their teams may be working with incomplete infrastructure. Not every staff member will have the space, equipment, and internet strength ready at their fingertips. And if an employee shares their home workspace with family members or roommates, they might find the lack of privacy unproductive and demotivating.
The WFH setup will certainly come with more distractions you need to dodge including rowdy family members or neighbours, pets, and your daily housework and errands. There’s a higher tendency for your professional and personal life to blur together in this type of environment and it’s important to put boundaries in place or risk becoming fatigued or even burnt out from the lack of breaks, team connection, and rest.
While distractions from family or housemates at home can be difficult to manage, WFH alone can be even worse. CNN Business has highlighted the emerging dark side to working in isolation: loneliness.
The sudden shift to remote work, especially for people who were more used to a traditional office setup with social interactions and connectivity, can increase the risk of feeling lonely and disconnected. As well as a significant blow to mindset and mental health, it’s also a productivity red flag as team members stop collaborating with each other and working together to achieve bigger business goals.
The pros and cons of coworking spaces
A coworking space gives you the same flexibility and autonomy as WFH but without the negative effects of blurred personal boundaries, loneliness, and isolation. Business owners and individuals can establish their own structure and routines without the rigidity of a traditional office work model, yet still operate to high professional standards with meeting rooms and private offices for calls and conferences.
Coworking spaces like Waterman have built-in communities that encourage members to network, collaborate, and feel a sense of belonging, especially with the aid of space-wide events for socialising and team building. Even during public lockdowns, essential workers can continue to operate in a COVID-safe environment, and coworking space members still actively maintain connections within the community.
Utilising coworking spaces is also more cost-efficient for small business owners because it doesn’t cost as much as leasing their own office and managing their own costs and fit-outs as it comes with all the proper infrastructure to perform well.
For entrepreneurs and sole traders, the ability to network and be part of a community in a coworking environment is a great boost for your problem-solving ability, skill growth, and business awareness as you have access to other business owners who have been in your situation and have valuable insights for applying solutions.
A downside to this can be when collaboration digresses to distraction. The public and communal areas of some coworking spaces can be crowded and noisy.
This is avoidable by adopting a hybrid work model, or by taking advantage of Waterman’s private offices or quiet workspaces where members can go to focus on critical and intensive tasks as well as any projects that hold sensitive information in total privacy.
While Waterman certainly has collaborative spaces that encourage people to exchange ideas and work together, they also offer enterprise solutions that give businesses their own exclusive office in the coworking environment, giving them both the community and privacy they need.
Coworking is the perfect blend of traditional office and WFH environments, offering spaces for strong business connections both online and in-person, without locking you into a long commute, toxic workplace or inefficient work schedules. It also means you can step into a space away from the distractions of family and domestic chores so you can work more efficiently and get home sooner.
If you’re ready to explore the world of coworking spaces and everything it has to offer, book a tour of a Waterman Business Centre and see it for yourself.