If you’d be walking into a coworking space with no preconception of how and why this should actually be functional for the people and businesses using it as their primary work- and office space 1 , I can certainly understand your doubts.

But there are a few things you could get wrong about coworking if you compare it to something similar and, more important, something familiar to you – the conventional office.

How Much “Co” Is in Coworking?

Let’s quickly have a look at the part of the name that implies doing something together.

You can get a range from a chatty, almost coffee shop like atmosphere and activity level to more of a library where people study. I think that’s where each place and its audience or users create a rather individual characteristic.

Co-working in my experience will show up in two ways:

  1. By nature of having the opportunity to select where they are working, a lot of coworking audience / users are freelancers or bootstrapping / running their own small business. If that’s the case there is a tendency to share expertise and experience with one another, informally over a cup of coffee, or, more formally in a meetup or mastermind group.
  2. The other facet of coworking is to actually get people on the project you are working on, and vice versa. Aquiring business through networking.

How Much Work Is Actually Office Work?

Coffee shops and the like coworking spaces are better suited for people who have a few office work hours combined with other acitivities that don’t necessarily require an office in the narrower sense. We get to that in a minute.

For the freelancer who provides graphic design, copy writing, or programming skills for hire, a work place where there is a desk, your computer and some other useful facilities, is rather important. This group is naturally inclined to share office space with others or work from home. If you fall into that group you might be able to pull off the occasional coffee shop visit. A coworking space of the library-atmosphere kind might be the best fit for you.

But there is another category of work. It’s work that doesn’t mainly happen at the desk. Recently, Nassim Taleb uttered this on Twitter:

 Most of one’s work is done lounging. The rest is just a matter of transcribing, jotting things down & other administrative details.

I found this to be interesting and true to some extent. Taleb is a an engineer – and an author, of course. I agree that conceptual work, thinking, reading, etc. can be done in many places and circumstances. In fact, you need impressions and processing to produce creative output. Sitting at a desk all day might not cut it.

To mention another example, fasten your seatbelts for Seth Godin. This man had and still has so much creative output, it’s intimidating.

In an interview about Seth Godin’s writing habits, he claims:

Q: How many hours a day do you spend actually writing (excluding email, social media etc.)?

A: Do you mean typing? I don’t know, fifteen minutes. I can type fast.

Now, Seth also says right at the beginning of the interview that he spends 16 hours per day reading or doing research. He might do that in his office. I don’t know.

Lounging Sprinkled With the Occasional Office Hours

Sounds nice, doesn’t it. Just don’t tell anyone.

The point is, it is entirely possible for a certain line of work to get by without 6 to 8 hours at the desk in your office. You might just walk into a coffee shop twice a day for 90 minutes and do what Taleb said, “transcribing, jotting things down & other administrative details.” The conception and processing of your work happens some place else, maybe on a walk. That’s fine.

As an add on, I wonder if this also holds true for developers these days? Is the part of the work that is concerned with the architecture and conceptual solution happening while typing?

  1. You’re right, I said Office Space. Go see it now! Always worth watching.