How To Decide If A Co-Working Space Is Worth It

When I began announcing to friends and family that I was quitting my full-time office job to start working at home as a freelance writer, I received some mixed reactions. There was the cheerful and encouraging, “Congratulations!” And there was of course the happy-yet-confused, “Does this mean you’re pregnant?” At the time the answer was nope, not pregnant, but fast forward to 18 months later and now here I am, balancing being a mom to my 7-month-old along with a full workload. Talk about being a work-from-home parent.

Although I love spending my days with my son, I’ve recently found myself wondering about the benefits of co-working spaces, and wondering if co-working spaces are worth it when you're a work-from-home mom? Would it be worth the financial trade-off for a little adult conversation and a semblance of a “real” workplace? Yes, the flexibility to care for my son throughout the day is awesome, but I’d be lying if I said focusing my energy on raising him hasn’t taken a toll on my career. Realizing that sometimes I need a space to concentrate that isn't full of distractions, I decided to dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of co-working spaces, and here’s what I discovered:

Pro: There’s Human Interaction

The stereotype of someone lounging on their couch in their underwear is not that far off, to be honest. There are weeks where I don’t get fully dressed, because why bother? My kid will probably get some type of fluid on me at some point, and it’s not like the mailman cares if I’m wearing an ironed blouse.

However, this lack of motivation to get up and at ‘em can be dangerously pervasive when you work from home. When I haven’t laid eyes on anyone else for a few days except my non-verbal baby, I crave adult conversation as much as I craved waffles during my pregnancy.

Con: It’s Not Home

On the days when I have that dreaded four-hour waiting period for the cable guy to (maybe) show up, the ability to still get things done is invaluable. Plus, as much as I like going out to lunch with co-workers, I save a lot of money by having my entire kitchen at my fingertips. And if I need to take a midday nap — hey, it happens — I can!

Pro: They're Great For Bouncing Ideas Off People

If you think that Facebook is an echo chamber, wait until you work by yourself. I’ve written so many things that I ended up having to send to friends for editing advice; after reading the same sentence a hundred times in a row, even the most well-constructed phrases may read like complete gibberish. Having the ability to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs in a co-working space is a fantastic way to get some quick feedback from other professionals.

Con: It’s Not Free

I'm still going to have a mortgage to pay whether I work from my home or not, so doubling up my home as an office saves me some overhead. Prices at co-working spaces vary depending on location, desk size, whether you rent a private office, and more. When you’re just establishing your business, that extra cost might not back out financially.

Pro: It’s A Dedicated Work-Only Zone

My current “office” is a small desk in the corner of my son’s nursery. It’s convenient to have that overlap — his toys are right next to me to keep him at least mildly distracted — but it can be challenging to mentally separate your work area from your living area when you work at home. Exhibit A: I constantly have to stop myself from bringing my laptop into bed to “finish just one more thing.” Setting up barriers for certain spaces helps, but sometimes it’s best to force yourself to walk out the door to an office, even if it is a shared one.

Con: Childcare Can Be An Added Cost

Unless you only utilize a co-working space when you have free childcare lined up, you're likely also worrying about the cost of a nanny or daycare. For many families, mine included, it’s hard to find affordable childcare, and sometimes the numbers don’t justify it. But if you've been able to work out your budget to get yourself and your kid squared away, a few hours at a co-working space could spell out an extra productive day for you.

At the end of the day, there’s no concrete right or wrong answer about paying for a co-working space when you work from home, but there’s also no harm in trying one out. Check out co-working resources in your city and ask around to see if there's a space that works best for you and your family.