The 5 Biggest Complaints About Open Coworking Spaces

It's estimated that the average worker spends about 90,000 hours on the job. That's a long time, especially if you're stuck in an office environment that isn't enjoyable or conducive to your day-to-day activities.

While open coworking spaces have wooed over some professionals with their ping-pong tables and kegerators, they've also generated criticism from workers like Lindsey Kaufman who claim the open-office trend is "destroying the workplace." So, before you go all in on an office with no assigned seating and little, if any, privacy, consider these five complaints about fully open floor plans:

  1. "No seat for you!" - Not a morning person? You might want to readjust your schedule. Showing up to a coworking space after 9 a.m. could mean sitting next to the elevator, kitchen, or other high-traffic areas where it's difficult to concentrate. Even if you're lucky enough to snag one of the better seats in the house, you could find yourself fending off desk snatchers if you step away for lunch or a quick coffee run.
  2. "Yes, we can hear you now." - Sitting in a new seat each day is great for networking, unless you're next to a loud neighbor who takes personal calls at their desk and would rather talk about what they did last night than anything business-related. Translation: pack your noise-canceling headphones.
  3. "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?" - Lighting and temperature can directly impact a worker's performance and productivity, yet the majority of coworking spaces offer little control over these and other workplace variables. A Cornell study found the optimal office temperature to be 77 degrees, which is bound to be too warm for some, too cool for others and "just right" for the rest. Other research has found that exposure to natural light helps keep employees alert and focused. While fans, space heaters and desk lamps can help - if you have a place to store them, that is (see #4) - sometimes the best way to avoid the Goldilocks effect is to look for a workspace with customization options.
  4. "Pack your bags." - Some coworking spaces take a minimalist approach, offering a desk, chair and little else. That means workers have to cart their personal belongings to and from the office each day, or try cramming them into a small storage locker (which usually comes with an additional fee). This can be more than just a minor inconvenience. Without having a dedicated place to store food, beverages and other office "necessities," workers may find themselves eating out at nearby restaurants more frequently, a habit that can be bad for the pocketbook - and the waistline.
  5. "Can you give me a minute?" - A thoughtfully designed coworking space will include separate huddle rooms and phone booths for private calls and conversations, but not all office providers follow this blueprint. Workers who do not have access to enclosed meeting areas may have to resort to using lobbies and other public spaces with a lot of background noise, limited seating, and few work surfaces for laptops and notepads.

Taking the time to vet an office environment before committing to work there is one of the best ways to avoid workplace burnout. When in doubt, talk to the people who already office in and are familiar with the space. If there are issues, they, like Lindsey Kaufmen, will probably be happy to tell you about them.

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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space.