Coffee Shop vs Coworking: Which Workspace Is Right for You?

by James McDonald on November 2, 2015

The numbers are in and the workforce has spoken. A recent study by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that, since 2005, the number of work-at-home employees has grown by 103%. 3.7 million U.S. employees work from home at least half the time; and research indicates that “if those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time the national savings would total over $700 Billion a year.” If you are one of the growing number of “nomadic workers,” you have likely realized a significant boost in your productivity and work/life balance. But for many, working from a home office presents its own set of challenges.

Working from home offers flexibility to work in your pajamas, throw a load of laundry in the washer, and to work the hours that best suit your personal work style. But, like anything, it has its downsides. For those disciplined enough to work from home, it can often be difficult to draw the line between work and home life, finding themselves working longer hours than they would at the office. Working from a home office tends to be a sort of vacuum-like setting; which can stifle creative juices, causing more social people to feel isolated and get cabin fever. And for those that aren’t so disciplined, it’s easy to find all the chores around the house that need to get done, or getting sucked into a “Netflix binge” for hours at a time. Sure, the flexibility and cost savings are great, but at what expense? Luckily, innovators have come up with alternative solutions for today’s telecommuters. Many are turning to coffee shops and coworking spaces as viable options, taking back their homes as a place to relax and enjoy time away from work.

Coffee Shops

Working at a coffee shop has pro's and con'sMany people feel a sense of safety by working in coffee shops, with its perfect balance of ambiance and coffee aromas. With the hustle and bustle of activity, comfortable chairs, free Wifi, and an endless supply of coffee and sweet treats, how could you go wrong? Sure, it sounds great on the surface, right? But, like anything, coffee shop working has its pros and cons.

Those that have found success setting up shop in their local coffeehouse rave about the networking opportunities such a setting has to offer. With a constant influx of people, you’re sure to meet all walks of life, right? While this might seem true on the surface, the reality is that the constant chatter and movement has more downsides than up. Sure, you’ll have the opportunity to meet all types of people, but are you really going to meet that person who will inspire you or contribute to your next project? Every once in a while, yes. But on a daily basis, probably not. It’s a great, informal setting for a business meeting, but you’re not likely going to meet that “useful” person with the skills and knowledge to assist you in building your business. And while the low-volume background noise might be soothing enough to help you stay focused, it’s a distraction for many and makes it almost impossible to conduct business phone calls.

“I’ll just go outside when I need to make a phone call,” you say? But wait, what about your paperwork strewn all over the table? And your laptop or iPad? How do you guarantee no one will tamper with your valuables while you’re gone? You can’t. So unless you have a close friend nearby, you will find yourself packing up all your stuff each time you need to visit the restroom or take a call. And when you get back…someone has taken that perfect spot you fought all morning to get! You know, the one table with ample room to spread out, that’s right by the power outlet.

Have you ever stayed too long at a restaurant, only to feel the burning stare of your waiter? Imagine four baristas staring you down because you’ve been at the same table for 6 hours, yet only bought one coffee. While there are no rules as to how much you should purchase during your stay at the coffeehouse, you will want to consistently purchase treats and coffee to avoid the burning gaze. With all that coffee, you could have just rented a spot at the coworking space down the street, where the coffeepot is always on!


Speaking of the coffeepot always being on; one complaint many have with working in their local coffee Coworking spaces have a lot of things to offer the modern day workershop is the hours. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a project, deep in thought, only to have to pack up and leave because the shop is shutting down for the evening. We all have different work styles and peak productivity times and don’t want our creativity stifled by having to move locations. Coworking spaces offer more flexible hours, many allowing you access 24/7. Yes, a coworking space costs money, but you cannot put a price on positive business investments. And the average cost for these spots are around $200/month, which works out to $7/day. That’s less than you would spend on a day at the coffee shop!

There’s something to be said for the people and things you surround yourself with. Getting up, dressed, and out the door to a professional setting changes your mindset. Surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals helps discipline your business approach and offers a sense of camaraderie. The greatest ideas are born through collaboration and quality social interactions. And if your creative juices are ever stifled, just look around – how do you not get inspired by the energy of those around you? In a recent DeskMag survey of more than 2,000 coworkers across the globe, 71% reported an increase in creativity after joining a coworking space. 38% of the respondents realized an increase in income through quality networking, collaborative efforts, and the inspiration they found by surrounding themselves with like-minded people.

Depending upon the coworking space you find and your personal work style, desk space may or may not be an issue. Many offer workers ample space to spread out, plug in all your devices, and safely leave them when it’s time for a bathroom break. Cubicles, however, are the most cost-effective option for most establishments to invest in. They are not, however, the most inspiring for many of us. They diminish chance encounters/interruptions but many feel cubicles place them in a sort of drab bubble. To take full advantage of all that these workplaces have to offer, look for one that offers a more open setting, with private workspaces, conference spaces to meet with clients, and designated call rooms for private conversations.  

Along with shared resources such as Wifi, coffee and drinks machines, faxes, and private meeting spaces, many coworking places offer sessions such as “lunch and learn.” WeWork, based out of New York City, offers benefits such as weekly classes and lectures given by fellow members. This is a great opportunity to learn from others and connect with like-minded business professionals.

We all have our own personal work styles and workspace preferences and no single setting is right for everyone.  The great news, is that through technology and innovative thinkers, there is now something for everyone.  And, with so many options available, you might do best taking some parts of each plan and constructing your own custom fit. Consider splitting time between two or even three locations to avoid stagnant environments which don’t keep you motivated. Many employees are currently searching for self-sufficient, contracted workers who are able to deliver consistent results. Put yourself in the proper work setting to maximize your potential and be poised to take advantage of this growing workforce market.


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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