Wednesday, April 15, 2009

difference between office suites and coworking

I'll often find that when I introduce the idea of CoWorking to somebody who's never heard of it they will often reply - Oh yeah, I know, its one of those office suite places. No, its not, not even close. How to explain this to people? Its so easy to get caught up in all the details of the differences in physical space and execution. They clearly are different animals. But at the most fundamental level the Office Suite model is all about being fake, and CoWorking is all about being real.

Here is the deal. No doubt people rent space in these office suites because they need a place to work. The suites often offer accommodations and services that would be more expensive on your own. Things like conference rooms, copiers, receptionists. So there is a legitimate value proposition here. But on another level these suites go out of their way to project a pseudo corporate atmosphere. Any branding of the space is very subdued - they do not want to telegraph their identity and break the illusion presented to the visitor that you are in the office of a corporate entity. I'm sure they feel they are being discreet rather than obfuscating. Not to dump on suites, but it points out a core difference in philosophy.

Meanwhile CoWorking is all about being open, transparent, sharing, interacting. The idea that a Cafe Culture is being transposed to a dedicated workspace is at the core of CoWorking. As such it serves to break down barriers between independent workers, rather than build them. You are not trying to hide the fact you are sharing office space and resources - in fact you are trying to exploit it, to everyone's benefit. As such it pays for the space to have a strong brand, to promote with that brand, in order to attract more people to contribute to the overall culture of the site. CoWorking thrives on the reality of the situation - shared workspace.


  1. There are some good points here. Having been the VP of marketing for a large office suite provider, it was amazing how many people choose office suites for the smoke and mirrors associated with having an impressive office with an admin and all the amenities. People do love that aspect of appearing bigger than they really are. Isn't it sad? I have found that authenticity is the key to marketing. I am glad that others are not catching on this this at a rapid rate, because it gets/keeps me ahead of the game :-)
    But I will say this, not everyone chooses to work in an office suite for that reason. And it's not always, or not even usually, all about the smoke and mirrors.
    I now work in a coworking facility in Lexington, KY, and run a website that makes its money from office suite referrals, but we talk a lot about coworking on the site. I like both types of space, but clearly I'm a big supporter of coworking!

  2. Thanks Mike - I appreciate your observations.


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