Advantages and disadvantages of not having an office.

The number of freelancers in Europe has increased by 45% between 2004 to 2013 (freelancerworlwide.com). Entrepreneurship and remote work have grown at a similar pace. Propelled by (or propelling!) that growth has been a dramatic increase in the number and variety of places from which a freelancer can work, from coworking spaces to laptop-friendly cafés, to serviced private offices, even to hotel lobbies and shopping malls.

But more possibilities can make the choice harder, raising the question: What kind of work space is best suited to the freelancer? Leaving aside hotel lobbies and shopping malls, we’ll focus on four of the most common choices: home offices, laptop-friendly cafés, coworking spaces, and executive suites (private serviced offices ready to move in and start working).
 
The simplest choice is to work from home, which has many advantages:
  • The price: if you can work from an existing room using your existing Internet account, working from home work at home doesn’t necessarily add anything to your monthly rent other than the added utility bills for the extra time you spend there. On the other hand, if you’ll need your own office and don’t have space for it already, space for a home office can cost as much as outsourcing office space. You’ll also have to sink in the initial investment for office infrastructure (desk, chair, lamp, etc.). 
  • The convenience: set your schedule as you want and eliminate the commute entirely. There is no opening or closing time and you don’t even need to leave your bed in the morning to get working (but see disadvantages).
  • Comfort: you dress and work on how you want! There is no rule when you work from home, except for the ones your partner or children make for you (again, see disadvantages)!
But working from home has also many disadvantages:
  • There is no separation between your professional and your private life: if the kids want attention or your partner needs help, it’s hard to say know when you set your own schedule and work from home. On the other hand, it’s also often hard to stop working and make time for friends and family when there are no clear borders between when and where you work and play.
  • Distractions: kids, flatmates, pets, household chores… it’s sometimes difficult to focus on work.
  • Loneliness: whether it is personal life (you go out less and meet fewer people) or professional life (harder to extend your network while staying home), working from home can be lonely, being lonely can be depressing, and being depressed makes it to do your best work.
  • Motivation and procrastination. Even if you don’t feel lonely, working alone removes many of the external social motivators and feedback that helps most people stay motivated and to stop yourself from binge-watching the final three seasons of Breaking Bad
  • Too much comfort and convenience (a.k.a., “Why are my family and friends staring at me with concerned looks?)”: While it’s wonderful not to have to leave your bed or worry about what you wear, if you’ve worked from home for a while, you may have noticed that you aren’t actually spending much time in the civilized world anymore, where people do things like dress or take showers (or speak or move their legs).
  • Stagnated learning and professional development. It’s hard to find a mentor, a collaborator, a teacher, or just an answer to a simple question such as where to print business cards in the neighbourhood when you’re at home all day.

Working from a café is another choice appreciated by freelancers. It also has its advantages and disadvantages. However, with Cafes there are many factors left to chance and your luck:

  • It creates a separation between professional and personal life: just changing your place of work and getting out of the house will give you this separation.
  • A motivating social atmosphere: sometimes just the mere presence of other people working on their laptops can provide a break from loneliness and the motivation to work that working from home cannot. It’s a lot harder to escape from reality and watch the final episode of Game of Thrones from a cafe when you feel the judging eyes of other laptop workers on your back than it is from home if you live alone (but see inconveniences).
  • Price: Cafés can be even cheaper than working from home because the real estate, Internet, utilities, and desk and chair are all free. But, again, see inconvenience.
The inconveniences of working from a cafe are:
  • The security: it is possible to get your belongings stolen while you are in the restroom, or even to get your passwords stolen (public WIFI so it’s not secure).
  • The schedules: you will have to follow the café’s schedule and adapt your work day to it.
  • Lack of privacy: the fact of being surrounded inevitably leads to a lack of confidentiality.
  • Non-professional space to meet clients or even to talk to them if the cafe plays loud music or has constant loud background noise. 
  • Just as the environment can be stimulating and socially rewarding, it can also be distractingmusic, loud or strange customers, the constant grinding of espresso machines, people wanting to start conversations all point to an environment that can be very hard to work in.
  • Price: While cafes can be free, they can also be more expensive than even a private office once you factor in the expensive drinks and food you end up buying. You might easily find yourself spending upwards of 5000 CZK / month on overpriced coffees and the kind of food your waistline and doctor love, but your significant other would rather you did without.
  • Reliability: Café WIFI connections are notoriously (and often intentionally) unreliable. Electrical outlets can be hard to find or unavailable, and if you like to work from the cafes that other people like, too, it may be a matter of chance whether you can find a seat to work from.
  • As with working from home, cafés are limited with respect to professional development and learning, and other forms of more meaningful social connectedness that comes from working alongside people you have a chance to get to know.
  • Nowhere to store your things when you go out for lunch or leave for the night. You’ll need to carry your entire office in and out of work every day.
 
Another possibility we often forget about is the library. Indeed, most of them are open for all for free and they have a lot of advantages:
  • The price: most of them are free, as mentioned above.
  • The atmosphere: if you like calm and quiet places, there is nothing better than the silence of a library (but see disadvantages).
  • Create a separation between your professional and your personal life: just the fact of changing of place for work will help you creating this separation.
Libraries also have their share of disadvantages:
  • The security: it is better than most cafés, but not by much.
  • The schedules: you will have to adhere to the library schedule of the library and adapt your work day to it.
  • The atmosphere: while the silence can be great if you need to concentrate, many people feel a sense of oppression or loneliness in the silent open spaces of libraries. If you need to make calls, you may need to leave the library to do so. And if you want to have some food or drink while you work, many libraries forbid it.
  • Lack of privacy, non-professional, and socially isolated: Libraries are more like cafes with respect to their lack of privacy and non-professional environment, and more like working from home with respect to social isolation. The worst of both options in these respects.
 
As mentioned above, there are companies which rent private ready-to-use offices, known as executive suites. Here are the advantages of this offer:
  • Create a separation between professional and personal life: just the fact of changing of place for work will help you create this separation.
  • Security: you can leave your belongings in your office without being scared of getting them stolen, and the WIFI is secured.
  • Professional environment and location: executive suites often provide answering services and mail services. They have top-notch printers and high-quality internet. And they have meeting rooms and office resources that would cost a lot more money than most of us are ready to spend, even if we had space for it, for a home office. They are often also located in great locations in urban centres. But see shortcomings.
  • Privacy and confidentiality: you can meet your customers in a professional location without having to worry about prying eyes or ears. If you like the privacy you get from a home office, but want a higher degree of professionalism, executive suites can be the perfect option.
  • Flexibility: Executive suites are furnished, the Internet is ready to go, and professional office infrastructure is already in place, so you can get to work on the same day as you sign the contract. Leases, too, tend to be possible for shorter terms than the standard 1-year lease you’ll be required to sign if you rent a standard office space. But see shortcomings.
However executive suite office rental also has shortcomings:
  • Price: While they remove the initial cost and time that comes with setting up your own home office or unfurnished private office, they are definitely the most expensive option on a month-by-month basis.
  • Location: while executive suites are often available in city centres, they are limited to larger urban centres, and often even there most of their locations are in office buildings off freeways inconvenient to residential neighbourhoods and impersonal in their feel. They aren’t accessible to everyone.
 
Finally, coworking spaces. A coworking space is a company which provides space for work to independent workers, unlike executive suites, they specialize in the quality of their open work areas and they focus on the quality of the community among the people who work there, even though those people work independently. Like all the others it has its share of advantages and disadvantages:
  • Professional environment and location: Like executive suites, coworking spaces provide professional work environments with resources like meeting rooms and printers and data projectors and high-quality Internet provided as a matter of course. Even more than executive suites, they tend to have a wide range of locations from city centres to more residential neighbourhoods, with the rate of growth so rapid it may not be long before they are as plentiful as cafés.
  • The atmosphere of coworking spaces varies widely ranging from more café-like to more executive-suite like, depending on whether you prefer working in an open space or prefer to have a private office. Although many coworking spaces are open-plan offices, almost all of them provide mixed-use spaces, like meeting rooms and skype calling rooms. Some even provide silent workrooms alongside noisier collaborative rooms, allowing members to choose the environment best for them given their particular task at hand.  
  • Create a separation between your professional and your personal life: just the fact of changing of place for work will help you create this separation.
  • The community: the initial motivation behind coworking spaces was to provide the professional development, collaboration and social support you get from working in a traditional office while getting rid of all the office politics, bureaucracy, hierarchy and lack of decision-making independence that also goes with that. Coworking gives you that community by providing a space where you can work alongside other like-minded people, but since you all work for different organizations, it gets rid of the office politics. They tend to organize events and have networks for communication among members to build that sense of community and connectedness in ways that you’ll rarely find in an executive suite or at a café.
  • Extend your network, get quick access to local knowledge and develop as a professional. As with working for a traditional office, but unlike any of the other options listed here, coworking spaces offer workshops and other events so you can continue to learn and grow in your area of expertise. If you’re starting business in a new city or country, they also provide a kind of local knowledge that no other option can provide because you will be working alongside many other people who did just what you did as well as long-time locals who know the ins and outs of living and working in your new home. By facilitating community and collaboration, they also help you network, learn, and cooperate with other members of the space, providing complementary skills and knowledge requiring no more than turning your head and asking for help.
  • Security and storage: Unlike cafés or most libraries, you can store your personal belongings in lockers in the space and also feel more secure when leaving your laptop at your desk, knowing that the other people in the space are your colleagues.
  • Flexibility: many coworking spaces provide 24/7 access (though many don’t, so if that’s important to you, be sure to check), and most also provide short-term memberships as well as longer-term commitments (Locus has day passes for non-members, evenings & weekends memberships, and as little as 1-day / month for those who want to be members), with monthly commitments being the norm rather than the exception.
  • Price: Coworking spaces are a prime example of the sharing economy, allowing freelancers to have meeting rooms, great office locations, and high-quality office infrastructure at a fraction of the cost they would pay for setting these things up in their home office. They save money on real-estate since the work areas are shared. Coffee and tea are usually free, saving money relative to cafés. They also tend to be less expensive than renting a small furnished office, while offering many benefits a private office cannot. Many coworking space members also find the increased professionalism of the environment and the improved network of social connections brings them work they otherwise would not have gotten, more than making up for the cost of the membership. But see disadvantages.
Of course, coworking spaces also have disadvantages:
  • Comfort and convenience: if you don’t struggle with loneliness or procrastination, you’re disciplined enough to start and stop working when you ought to, you don’t have family at home from whom you need to escape in order to be productive, and you don’t need the professional environment of an office, then nothing beats the convenience of working from home. Indeed, the flexibility and convenience of working from home are why many of us left the traditional office environment in the first place.
  • Price: While most coworking spaces are inexpensive relative to private offices or executive suites, nothing beats free. Home offices, libraries, and cafés all have the potential to save the freelancer meaningful money, particularly if you are struggling to make ends meet as it is, or if you will not offset the membership cost with other less tangible financial gains that often come with a coworking-space membership: client referrals and increased motivation and productivity.
  • Distractions and lack of privacy: being surrounded by people inevitably leads to a lack of privacy and to distractions from the conversations of others that you wouldn’t face if you live alone and work from home or work from an executive suite or private office or even library. If you don’t need the community and social connectedness that most people join coworking spaces to get more of, or you like to work in silence, you may be better off with one of those alternatives. Alternatively, find a coworking space that has private offices. Though a private office in a coworking space will inevitably leave you less socially connected to other members than if you worked in an open-plan coworking space, you’ll have more opportunities to collaborate and connect than with other options in this comparison, and you’ll still get the privacy and quiet that fits your needs (Locus does not have private offices, but we’re happy to suggest coworking options that do).
While every option has its advantages and disadvantages, the good news is that unlike working from a corporate office, as a freelancer you really don’t have to choose. You can mix it up, working from home, cafés, the library, or a nice coworking space depending on your mood or the need. If you still don’t know whether coworking is right for you, we encourage you to give a couple spaces a try! You can get a free day in Locus, no strings attached. Better still, try us out for a month and get a real sense as to whether Locus is right for you! First-time members get 1000 Kc off a Full-Time Membership for the first month.