Working from home can be isolating and distracting. You have nobody around you during the day, and being surrounded by your stuff can divert your attention from what you have to do.
Coworking spaces offer an alternative for at-home workers. Instead of renting an office -- where you would still be alone, just not at home -- you rent access to a shared workspace. In most cases, that means picking from the cheaper option of having access to a shared desk or paying a bit more for your own permanent desk space.
It's a way to work in an office when you don't actually work in one. The people around you may not be co-workers, but they are potential friends or at least acquaintances with whom you might share a little conversation.
Coworking, however, is not for everyone. Before you move into it, you should consider whether it's right for you.
Will you actually go?
One of the benefits of working from home is that you don't have to go anywhere. You also don't have to get dressed or make any effort to interact with people.
It only makes sense to join a coworking space if you'll actually use it. Do you leave the house every day to work in a coffee shop? Do you get dressed even though you could work in your pajamas? Consider whether you're willing to make those efforts in order to use a coworking space.
Is it worth the money?
A coworking space is about to open in the area where I normally work, in one of a few available coffee shops. The company running the space already had other locations in place, where it charged $175 a month for access to a shared desk. That was tempting for me since if I stopped buying coffee and drank the free stuff at the coworking space, I'd almost break even.
When I got an email announcing the opening for my location, the price for shared workspace was $325 a month. That's a harder number to justify and probably not worth it for the number of times I would use the space each month.
Do you like the people?
Different coworking spaces attract different clientele. I spent a year as a member of a space that was mostly filled with start-up companies. I found that distracting as I was always tempted to jump into conversations to offer my opinions.
On the other hand, some coworking spaces serve largely as secondary offices for established companies or traveling workers. Those people tend to dress nicer than I do, but they're generally quieter and have actual business to attend to.
Know your needs
In considering a coworking space, I'm mostly interested in casual interaction. I'd love to have some fake coworkers -- people I see regularly with whom I can chat a bit about sports or pop culture. I'm not looking to make business connections or to get more work. In addition, I'm not interested in any of the educational programming or networking events that some coworking spaces offer.
It's important to know what you want. Do you need to use a conference room? Is occasional privacy important? Do you need 24/7 access or are normal business hours enough?
Coworking spaces can be a great alternative to working alone in your house. Not every space, however, is right for every person, so you should be picky and do your homework before committing to joining one.