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3 Key Ways Office Sharing Differs from Coworking

The way we work has been in transition since Web 2.0 got its start. Independent and entrepreneurial ventures are more common, and even more traditional businesses like design and CPA firms are realizing the need for flexibility in commercial real estate.

In turn, the market is delivering on that need. More and more flexible workplace services — from coworking to office sharing in all shapes and forms — are cropping up.

The commercial real estate scene and our expectations of it are shifting, that much is clear.

What’s not so clear is just what options are available to those of us who want a flexible alternative to a traditional lease or sublease.

Many companies that aren’t ready to sign a traditional lease for whatever reason, are often advised by brokers or business mentors to protect their businesses by choosing flexibility over commitment in the form of office sharing or coworking.

The terms, “coworking” and “office sharing” are used interchangeably, but this practice hides the fact that these are distinctly different approaches to the workplace, each with its own features to offer.

So, how do you choose?

While both are great for allowing you to try out different solutions without making costly commitments, it’s best to educate yourself on your options to avoid wasting time.

So, let’s dive into your two most common flexible office space options — office sharing and coworking — and identify the key differences.


The first step in understanding anything is to define it.

We characterize a coworking space as:

A coworking space is an office that exists for the purpose of housing independent workers or workers from different companies in need of flexible office space.

The key points here are a.) The goal of the coworking space itself is to profit on the workers using the space and b.) the workers within the space are working independently of one another.

In a coworking environment it is possible that every person in the space may be working independently from anyone else and may have completely different priorities and timelines. In fact it is quite possible to see new people each day in a coworking space.

Shared office space, although similar in concept to a coworking space, is defined differently as:

A space that is leased to a specific business (a host company), that in turn makes extra space available to others (guest companies) who are in need of flexible, yet professional office space.

The key point to note in this definition is that while the space is owned/leased by one company, as with coworking, that company does not exist for the purpose on making money through office sharing. Rather, growing companies often select properties with more than enough space with an eye toward future growth and then become host companies. Hosts are typically established in the space, it has a stable atmosphere and continuity, and there is space available for others at a very affordable rate. It provides flexibility for both the host, which can offset leasing costs with office sharing profits, and the “guests”, who can secure the space they want without committing for the long term.

The terms

This ability to avoid a long-term lease is a benefit of both coworking and office sharing. Even if you’re willing to sign a lease, it’s often nearly impossible to find a small space at affordable rates. A coworking or office sharing approach can be an ideal solution for young companies that need to conserve capital for hiring the best talent. It gives time for growth and development.

There are differences in how these deals are structured.

In a coworking situation, tenants can often have the option of leasing space hourly. Some coworking spaces include seminar rooms that can be used for one-time events, as well as workstations that people use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. There is tremendous variation as the nearly 2000 coworking sites worldwide strive to meet their clients’ needs.

Generally speaking, you can expect more structured terms in an office sharing arrangement. This type of space is geared toward allowing you to develop your company culture and grow the business, all without locking you into a long-term lease. Office sharing offers a range of options in terms of space – if your company needs private offices, those are available. You can choose the neighborhood and the office culture that suits you. The office sharing arrangement has benefits for both businesses, including a more consistent work environment.

The work environment 

The key difference in work environment between coworking and office sharing is level of customization. In a coworking space, it’s typically up to you or your businesses to fit into the culture and dynamic already established by the coworking organization. If you find a space that has a vibe that works for your business, then you’re in luck. But if you find a space that needs tweaking, you’ll likely be disappointed.

With office sharing, on the other hand, you’ll be able to customize your workspace as much as your host company will allow. And in many scenarios, your host will WANT you to be as comfortable as possible in the space, and therefor will let you make the space your own. Often guest companies display their logo on the entryway or even bring in their own art and office furniture.

The main manifestation of this difference is in how well your company is able to cultivate culture in the space. In a coworking environment, many companies like IRIS.TV for example, find that it’s difficult to maintain a culture apart from the coworking space. At a certain point, you really need to establish your own work dynamic. When you reach this point, office sharing will likely be your best bet.

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