Cultivating a workspace that boosts productivity and entices employees to come to work is top of mind for hybrid work companies. To help small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) understand the advantages and disadvantages of private offices and coworking spaces, we surveyed over 1,000 Canadian employees.
In this article
- Young companies are most likely to work from coworking spaces
- The collaborative atmosphere is a big benefit of coworking spaces
- Consistency and reduced distractions are among the top advantages of private workspaces
- More coworkers would prefer to work in a private space than the other way around
- Businesses should account for collaboration benefits vs. distractions when choosing workspaces
The shift to hybrid work is in full swing, causing ripple effects to physical workplaces in different ways. The office vacancy rate in Canada could soon reach an all-time high, while the global coworking space market is predicted to undergo exponential growth in the coming years.
With flexible yet well-equipped spaces being a new priority, business leaders may be reconsidering the value and effectiveness of their workspaces. Whether currently working in traditional offices or coworking spaces, it’s important to evaluate aspects such as the convenience of location, availability of amenities, and the management of the facility itself (such as managing room bookings to scheduling maintenance), to name a few.
As private office and coworking space trends evolve, facility administrators and workplace managers should stay up-to-date on the business landscape’s changing needs. To provide insights into the pros and cons of both types of office spaces, we surveyed 1,021 part- and full-time employees working in a hybrid or fully physical in-person model about their experiences. We will refer to those respondents working out of coworking offices as ‘coworking respondents’, while those working out of private offices will be referred to as ‘private office residents’ (for the full methodology, scroll to the end of this article).
Young companies are most likely to work from coworking spaces
The affordability and flexible leasing terms of coworking spaces could be some of the main reasons for their popularity, especially during times of inflation. It makes sense then that fledgling companies are more likely to headquarter their business in coworking spaces rather than traditional offices that may require larger investments.
In general, respondents who work in coworking spaces and private offices were nearly equal, with 54% working in private offices and 46% in coworking environments. However, when the age of the company was considered, younger companies seemed to favour coworking spaces while more established organizations used private offices more often.
When asked the reasons behind their company’s choice to use coworking spaces, coworking employee respondents pointed to a variety of factors. 31% said access to shared amenities is what prompted their company to create their base in a coworking space. This allowed them to enjoy office equipment and other amenities without having to fully invest in them.
Cost reduction and the flexibility of opening hours and available space are also top motivations for the use of coworking spaces, both of which were reported by 30% of coworking respondents. Perhaps coworking spaces’ reputation for low rental prices and high flexibility holds true, especially when compared to traditional office spaces.
In fact, nearly a third (32%) of coworking employees said their company worked out of a private office before moving to a coworking space. Those working in a physical private office before coworking spaces were most likely to report cost reduction and increased flexibility as reasons that prompted their move.
The collaborative atmosphere is a big benefit of coworking spaces
Coworking spaces help create a community and offer more social fulfilment for the employees who use them, according to a research report by the Harvard Business Review. Not only is this aspect great for building social connections at work, but also for finding opportunities for professional development and mentorship. These benefits aren’t lost on coworking respondents: 44% of this group of respondents in Canada say the collaborative atmosphere and networking opportunities are a big benefit.
Other top-cited advantages of coworking spaces are as follows:
- The possibility to meet with coworkers (reported by 40%)
- The office being in a convenient location (37%)
- Access to shared amenities (35%)
- Interactions with professionals from various industries (28%)
Social aspects were some of the best facets of coworking spaces according to those working out of these environments. However, space managers can promote such aspects regardless of their workspace. Networking events (and all the tasks associated with them) can be planned from a single dashboard using some event management software tools.
As for the disadvantages of coworking spaces, many are related to the nature of having diverse people share a single workspace.
To manage aspects like the lack of control over shared amenities and facilities such as a limited number of meeting rooms, meeting room booking software can help. These tools allow users to reserve conference rooms and resources within a shared workspace and avoid double bookings, queues, or confusion at the office.
Consistency and reduced distractions are among the top advantages of private workspaces
Coworking spaces seem to be winning in terms of social stimulation and low costs, but what about the advantages that private offices offer?
Although not as fun as networking events might be, having a consistent work routine is a top advantage for 49% of private office respondents. Having a consistent work routine can help employees avoid unforeseen disturbances and focus on being productive. However, even in shared work environments, productivity software can help teams stay on top of their work queue by simplifying communication and task management.
When it comes to the downsides of a private office, distractions and noise level complaints were reported here as well by 35% of private office users. Since distractive noise is a problem regardless of the work environment, it should be addressed by private office and coworking space managers alike. In fact, space management tools can help optimize workspaces; such tools allow facility managers to plan workspace use strategically with noise reduction or foot traffic in mind.
Other disadvantages of private offices include:
- The lack of workspace flexibility (cited by 30% of private office employees)
- Space constraints (30%)
- Management can be overbearing (27%)
- Limited exposure to different work styles (25%)
A lack of freedom may be the cause of some of the disadvantages of private offices. However, offering flexibility is a major workplace trend for employee retention, so businesses shouldn’t let a traditional office space keep their management style in the past.
More coworkers would prefer to work in a private space than the other way around
The debate of private offices vs. coworking spaces is a subjective one, as both work environments have their advantages and drawbacks. Preferences can also depend on the facilities available and office attendance policies, which we’ll look at in the second article based on this survey.
When asked about their workspace preferences during our survey, 65% of coworking employee respondents would prefer to work from a private office. Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of those in coworking spaces would want to switch to a traditional office, satisfaction with their workspace was still high. A combined total of 67% of employees based in coworking spaces are either moderately or very satisfied with their coworking environment.
When the preferences of those in private offices are compared, the winner of the debate is clear: a majority of those working in private offices prefer to be where they currently are (73%).
Employee satisfaction is also slightly higher amongst those who work in private offices. A combined total of 86% rated their satisfaction with their work environment as either moderately or very high.
However, this isn’t the end all, be all of the office space debate. Personal preferences typically weigh heavily into the decision, and for overall employee happiness, these preferences can be taken into account via employee engagement surveys.
Businesses should account for collaboration benefits vs. distractions when choosing workspaces
Changes to business needs and budgets can always happen, and it’s good to know that different types of workspaces can offer different advantages when needed. Whether you’re a space owner, community manager, or business leader looking to make changes to your current workplace, here are some tips to consider:
- Coworking spaces can be a great option for younger companies who may not yet have many professional connections or the budget to rent a private space.
- The collaborative and communal aspect of coworking spaces is a top benefit for users, but noise levels and distractions were seen as related disadvantages. To help with this, businesses can manage shared amenities with booking software tools to ease high-traffic issues.
- The consistency of having work routines and the availability of facilities were the main advantages of private offices, but the lack of flexible spaces was a downside. Although private office workers seem to appreciate reliability, businesses should keep in mind that dynamic and changeable spaces could also add value.
To collect the data for this study, Caperra conducted a survey in August 2023. To do this, a sample of 1,021 people were selected. The criteria for selecting participants are as follows:
- Between 18 and 65 years old
- Must be a part- or full-time employee
- Must use a computer to perform daily work tasks
- Must work in a company with more than 1 employee
- Must not work fully remotely