- The concept of coworking has increasingly gained popularity among Filipino workers in the last 5 years.
- The people who often benefit from coworking in a shared space are freelancers, and startups, but in the coming years, more Filipino workers will choose a coworking spot over a traditional office set up.
- Coworking has its pros and cons, and choosing to move to a communal office space is a question of how you work, what you are as a business, and ultimately, which path to growth you want to take.
The last few years have caused a dramatic shift on how the Filipino workforce perceives work. “Work” is no longer limited to having a 9-to-6 desk job, hunched over a desk, typing away at your keyboard while your boss breathes down your neck.
Many people wish for a work setup that is more flexible, collaborative, and supportive of their goals. This is why the coworking movement is all the rage today, as coworking offices have become the mecca of young, brilliant minds driven by their personal and entrepreneurial goals. In the Philippines, new coworking spaces pop up every year. To date, there are over 130 coworking spaces scattered around Metro Manila, addressing the needs of thousands of freelancers, startup founders, telecommuters, etc.
Does the coworking trend deserve the hype surrounding it? Do its benefits outweigh the costs and risks associated with moving to a shared space?
What is Coworking?
In its simplest definition, coworking is a shared office environment where individuals or organizations can rent a specific area e.g. hot desk, fixed desk, or a private office. But over the years, its definition goes beyond shared logistics and infrastructure. It is now more about sharing dreams, knowledge, and ideas toward innovation and sustainability. In fact, some of the biggest brands today started out once in coworking spaces like Uber, Instagram, Spotify, and Indiegogo.
Who Benefits from Coworking Spaces?
- The Freelancer
The gig economy has fuelled the desire of millions of the Filipino workforce to transition from being a full-time employee to being a freelancer. The lure of tenure and stability no longer entices them, as the lucrative promise of freelancing enables them to speed up their journey toward reaching their own financial and professional goals. Many freelancers enjoy 20-30% bigger earnings than their employed counterparts, and they spend less time—on average, 3-4 hours a day—doing work.
Working at home may be practical, but for freelancers who miss the open, friendly, and collaborative atmosphere of their previous offices, coworking is a good proxy for that traditional office ambience.
- The Startup Entrepreneur
Most startup entrepreneurs in the Philippines started out as freelancers, and now that the demand for their services has grown beyond their capacity to deliver, they are finally ready to scale the business.
Because setting up a new office or getting locked into a long-term commercial lease is a risky move for new business owners, it is wiser for them to get an office space that is rented out on a monthly basis. Many coworking offices offer flexible rental arrangements for reasonable price points. Really helpful for startups which often scrimp on overhead costs and would rather spend their funds on service delivery.
- The Country Manager of an International Company
When global brands seek to expand in the Philippines, they often hire a country manager or a similar role to set up the office and hire members of the core team. Unlike the startup entrepreneur, money is no case to them. But because they lack human resources to do the expansion in full force, they need a coworking space where they can temporarily set up camp while they’re looking for a permanent office, processing the business compliance requirements, and recruiting new members.
Pros and Cons of Coworking
To cowork or not to cowork? That is the question. But before you answer that, we rounded up several factors to help you decide if coworking is good for you, your team, and your business:
- Sense of Community
Primarily, coworking spaces provide a sense of community for its members, where interaction and collaboration are promoted and encouraged. Sharing the workplace with others means you get to meet people and groups that complement what you do or help you grow your knowledge and skill set.
For freelancers, they just want the camaraderie that comes with coworking. They don’t mind the occasional flurry of chit-chats, laughter, and other distractions on the floor. These are the same people who are used to the torrent of white noise present in most coffee shops e.g. the muzak, the whirring of a coffee machine, the muffled conversations of people at the next table, etc. Despite working alone, they love coworking spaces because they want an environment that mimics the vibe of a bustling office. They work more efficiently because of, and not in spite of, the background noise.
- Network Opportunities
A perk that the conventional office setup can’t offer you is the opportunity to network while you do your own work. Except those whose jobs involve business development, the average employee in the Philippines can only actively expand their network after office hours when they can join industry conferences, business parties, weekly happy hours, etc.
Networking opportunities are omnipresent in today’s coworking spaces. They organize networking nights where they host wine and pizza parties, invite industry speakers to share their expertise, and sponsor meetups for members to exchange business cards with one another. Coworking’s promise isn’t just limited to having a “cool” social working environment; it’s also about meeting potential clients, brokering partnerships, and paving your path to a successful career.
- Creativity and Inspiration
A coworking space is a fertile ground for leaders and innovators who share a common ground—that is, the passion to fulfil and live their ambition. The enthusiasm is infectious, and whether you’re a freelancer or a startup founder, you can draw inspiration from the people around you. They know your struggles, challenges, and how meaningful each milestone is, no matter how small they are to some.
Members attest to the excellent work dynamics in coworking offices. Surrounding yourself with creative and hardworking people makes you grow and be inspired to work toward your goal. You can forge relationships with other freelancers and entrepreneurs who you can consult and seek advice from when you face problems and challenges.
- Cost and Flexibility
For freelancers and startups who need to manage their operational costs well, coworking comes with an attractive price tag because coworking offices offer a multitude of leasing options. You can pay on a monthly, daily, or even hourly basis. You can also choose whether you want a hot desk, a permanent desk, or a small private office. You are not locked in by a long-term lease so you can end the contract whenever you like.
In many cases, coworking spots offer membership plans that allow you to visit their other branches. It’s a nice feature when you need to travel between cities for business-related meetings. If you’re nearer to a certain coworking branch, you can enjoy full access to it and its amenities, instead of driving back to your usual workplace. What with the hellish traffic in Metro Manila? No way!
- Perks and Amenities
Coworking offices are designed to give its tenants the same vibe and elements they get from working in an office of their own:
* a high-speed internet connection
* shared services (e.g. accounting, legal, HR, courier, front desk, etc.)
* office utilities (high quality printers, etc.)
* ergonomic workstations
In some coworking spaces, when you become a member, they throw in as a cherry on top benefits like complimentary drinks, gym memberships, and travel discounts. Not to mention, the ultra stylish interiors of coworking offices inspire you to go to work every day and help you stay productive all the time!
- Sense of Legitimacy
When you register a business in the Philippines, you need to have a business address. Sure, freelancers and startups can game the system by registering their home address and continue working in their garage, but if a client wants to visit their site or plant, they will think twice about inviting them over.
Renting an office in a coworking space boosts your and your company’s professional image. Also, it is an affordable option versus spending a large amount of money on a new, nicer office. Coworking offices with stunning interiors add to the “wow” factor of your business, since the clients will associate the workplace’s feel and design to your own company brand—aesthetic, professional, and functional.
- Less Office Politics
Traditional workplaces are often riddled with nasty office politics. They are hierarchical and governed by a rewards/punishment system. On the other hand, coworking offices are specially-designed to create an environment where passionate people from different fields can find meaningful connections and opportunities. With this kind of culture, professionals are spared of the usual office politics and competition since they don’t directly work with one another but also have the liberty to collaborate on certain tasks or activities with whomever and whenever they want to.
- Distractions and a Lack of Privacy
The cost of collaboration and social interaction is a steady, unremitting supply of office distractions. For employees who thrive in a quiet environment, the lack of privacy can throw a wrench into their most productive work cycles. If you cowork, expect to witness the most horrendous work habits of someone noisily slurping their warm coffee or another person loudly talking over the phone. A higher dosage of patience and understanding is required for this kind of situations.
Other businesses, regardless how few employees they keep, require dedicated office spaces because of the sensitive and proprietary information they process. If you are an Accounting or a FinTech startup, you don’t want to leave confidential documents lying around on your table, or give anyone unhampered view of your laptop screen.
- Personality Conflicts
Coworking with people from different companies can lay host to a noxious brew of personality conflicts. Especially if you are renting a hot desk, the competition to secure a good spot is tough and you need to move around if your preferred seats are not available.
Todd Goldstein, CEO of LaunchHouse, argues that choosing to work in a shared office space heavily relies on your own work style. If you’re an introvert who values focus and privacy, then coworking may not be your cup of tea. Moreover, it’s hard to settle disputes because there is no HR department to manage conflict and grievances between two parties. When you’re coworking, it pays to be mindful of your own behavior so as not to disrupt others.
- Having your Competitor in the Same Workplace
Occasionally, you will meet within the same space individuals or groups who do the same work as you do, making them your direct competitor. While co-existing with competition under the same roof is possible, the now heightened awareness can lead to uncomfortable moments between both parties. You will tend to compare your performance with theirs—what they’re doing right or wrong, how they acquire clients, and how they scale their own business.
In some cases though, the presence of competition can even kindle a burning desire for someone to improve oneself. Instead of regarding competition as a roadblock, it challenges some people to do better, to be more creative and to keep pushing to achieve their goals.
The decision to move to a coworking space requires a whole lot of reckoning. Just because it’s hip doesn’t mean it’s effective for you and your business. In the end, your decision should depend on what you are as a company, what your goals are, what culture you want to build, and how fast you want the business to achieve growth.
Common Ground is the fastest growing coworking space chain in the Philippines. True to our tagline, “Ambition Lives Here”, our coworking offices exude ambition, collaboration, success, and grandeur. To schedule a visit in one of our branches, click here.
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