Coworking collaborative workspace

Are Coworking Spaces Really Worth the Money?

Written by Brett on 26th October 2017 | Posted in Remote Work

I’ve met several people over the past couple of months as a result of joining co-working spaces, through YouTube, and just being out and about. Many people are asking me about the co-working spaces and whether or not their really worth it?

I’m going to try to address the whole co-working scene because right now there are so many co-working coffee shops particularly where I am currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

There’s probably got to be more coworking spaces in Chiang Mai than any other city in the world. There’s like two or three coffee shops on every block throughout the entire city, which is just wild.

The Difference between a Coffee Shop and a Coworking Space

In co-working spaces, you have to pay a monthly membership up to about 4,000 baht here in Chiang Mai (a lot more in western countries) while the coffee shop style co-working spaces are free most of the time. You just have to buy a coffee and then you get like a little token which will vary between two and five hours for each coffee you buy. Bear in mind, a coffee is 50 to 70 baht depending on where you’re going. When you take that into consideration, you start to think are these co-working spaces really worth it at a monthly membership cost of about 4,000 baht?

That’s what I’m going to get into today.

I’m going to give you my opinion and hopefully, it will help some of you that may be looking to come to Chiang Mai or just those of you who are looking to join a co-working space anywhere in the world.

What’s a Coworking Space?

A co-working space is like an open plan office that anybody can come to. You get internet access, computer chairs, and tables. There’s some lounge areas. Free tea, free coffee, and fridge where you can get some water or whatever you want to drink, cokes or whatever is in the fridge at the time.

They’ve got some Skype rooms as well and some meeting rooms and private offices. It’s basically just a big, fancy office, that you pay a monthly membership for. A space where you can go and sit down with others working online. Not much different to a coffee shop except everybody in the co-working space is actually focused on working, whereas, in a coffee shop, you might bump into families and groups of people socializing.

The coffee shops in Thailand aren’t like the coffee shops anywhere else in the world. People in coffee shops are usually working on their computers.

How Much Do Coworking Spaces Cost?

In Thailand, you’re looking at between 2,500 and 4,000 baht a month for the privilege of sitting down, for the privilege of getting those desks and for theprivilege of comfy computer chairs with back support.

That is about $120.

I recently just joined a Punspace, I was there for a month. I’m not going to renew my membership.

I join the paid monthly co-working spaces when the coffee shops are busy because Chiang Mai it’s a university city so once or twice a year, you have exam season and every coffee shop in the city is packed with students.

Students like to stay up late here in Thailand so they’re in there until around two in the morning. Once or twice a year, I will join Punspace until exam season is over and then I’ll go back to the coffee shops again.

There are people I’ve met in Punspace who have said to me, “I tried to go to the coffee shops and they were packed, I couldn’t get a seat.” Fortunately, that’s only at a specific time of year when the exams are on. I’m guessing the students in Chiang Mai don’t study throughout the year and then just at the last minute, the coffee shops are busy three or four weeks before exams.

The Pros of Coworking Spaces

The good thing about the monthly coworking spaces like Punspace is you do have reliable internet. Sometimes, you go to a coffee shop, you buy a coffee and sit down only to find the internet’s playing up. Now, it doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s really annoying, especially if you’ve just bought a coffee and the internet doesn’t work. You can’t get online and so you’re going to have to go somewhere else and buy another coffee or another drink somewhere else.

The good thing about monthly coworking spaces is that never ever happens.

At least you know when you join Punspace, Star Works or some of the other ones in the city that you’re going to get reliable internet. I’ve never had a bad experience with the internet connections in coworking spaces.

Another good thing about coworking spaces is the chairs. You get comfortable desk chairs. If you’re going to be sitting down all day in the coffee shops, you’re going to get chairs that aren’t going to be as comfortable as a desk chair.

That might be something to consider if you like to stay in the same place for prolonged periods.

They also have standing desks if you like to stand up but so too do some coffee shops. Some coffee shops in Thailand have the proper desks as well.

24-hour access is another perk. You can get into Punspace at any time of day or night and at night, it’s almost completely empty.

The majority of members that attend coworking cafes in Thailand are foreigners. I very rarely see Thai people in there and most foreigners generally like to work between the hours of 9 and 5. If you go anytime kind of past 8 pm. You’ll be almost guaranteed to have the entire coworking space to yourself.

That’s kind of nice, the 24-hour access is great and it’s quiet at night.

The Downsides to Joining a Coworking Space

On a flipside to that. During the daytime, a lot of coworking spaces are absolutely packed, western people like to get up early and work during the day and finish at 5 pm. Everyone wants to start and finish at the same time.

During the daytime, these places are absolutely packed.

You can’t get a seat.

When I was a member, I didn’t go during the day, you’ve got to squeeze in next to someone, it’s cramped and the tables are small.

Coffee shops I find are quieter during the day.

Are Coworking Spaces a Good Place to Meet People?

Another thing that I found when speaking to people, is everybody wants to join coworking spaces because of the social aspect.

They say things like, “Well, I’m going to join because everybody’s working online. I’m going to be a digital nomad and meet other people that are doing the same thing as me.”

I actually found that when I was there for the entirety of last month, I spoke to about one person.

People were very antisocial, everybody’s was focused on their work with a frown on their faces. People just weren’t friendly at all. I hardly spoke to anyone there and I found it uncomfortable, almost like people were scared to talk to one another.

It was different to when I first joined my first coworking space three years ago.

The first coworking space I joined was Punspace back in 2015, I made lots of friends and overall it was a great experience. I was a member for six months and everyone was friendly.

This time around I didn’t get that same vibe. I actually got a negative vibe last month when I joined Punspace for the second time.

It may just be me and maybe I’m anti-social but I didn’t really meet people and I didn’t find it to be a place that was thriving with people looking to connect.

A lot of people have the perception that in a coworking space they can hook up with people doing the same thing them and collaborate.

A final thing to consider if you’re going to join a monthly co-working space is you can actually get an apartment for cheap in Chiang Mai. You can get a one-room apartment for 2,500 or 3,000 baht in Chiang Mai. With the internet and your electric, it’s going to be less than your co-working space rent which is absolutely crazy.

If you’re going to pay 4,000 baht for a desk, chair and a Wi-Fi connection an apartment would set you back for less.

You really should consider whether you want to pay that or not. Like I say, there’s tons and tons and tons of co-working cafes, coffee shops that are free. It’s something to weigh up and that’s kind of why I wanted to talk about it as they’re quite expensive for what they are.

I know in England, you can pay around 600 pounds and in the U.S., you can expect to pay $500 a month for co-working. Comparative to all the options you have in Asia, I’m not sure that paid monthly co-working spaces are worth it.