Kitchen area in a Bond Collective coworking space

By Bond Collective Staff

Office sharing vs. coworking has become a hot topic in recent years as everyone from solopreneurs to large-scale enterprises is discovering the many benefits of these flexible work options. But with those benefits come many questions, such as:

  • What is office sharing?

  • What is coworking?

  • How do the two differ?

  • Which one is right for your business?

In this article, the experts at Bond Collective demystify the world of office sharing vs. coworking so you can find the work environment that best suits you, your team, and your company as a whole.

Office Sharing Vs. Coworking

Kitchen area and bar in a shared office space

Office sharing is not a new idea — companies have been sharing workspaces for a long time — but the concept of coworking in the U.S. has only been around since 2005.

Confusion often arises because the two terms are similar in meaning. On one side of the issue, the industry that offers these work options hasn’t set a standard definition for either. On the other side, the English language hasn’t developed in the last 15 years to delineate office sharing vs. coworking (although things are changing in both regards).

And with the emergence of large work environments that offer both office sharing and coworking options (Bond Collective, for example), the confusion continues to escalate.

As experts in the field, we understand the differences between office sharing and coworking. In the next few sections, we’ll shine a light on the murky issue and help dispel the confusion so you can make the best choice for your business.

What Is Office Sharing?

The formal definition of office sharing is:

An arrangement wherein a company that owns or manages a large space rents redundant offices to smaller companies.

For example, imagine that Xerox leases a large space but only uses two-thirds of that space. They might sublease the other one third to a real estate company or an architectural firm — thus, they share the offices with another business.

Xerox makes some money on unused assets, while the other company gains access to a professional workspace they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

What Is Coworking?

The formal definition of coworking is:

The use of an office or other work environment by people who are self-employed or working for different businesses, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.

In a coworking environment, you might find a digital nomad working at the same large table as one or two members of a stealth mode startup, a lifestyle entrepreneur, and a freelance journalist.

Additionally, the concept of coworking extends beyond the physical space where diverse individuals and teams gather into the realm of shared community based on mutual trust, common core values, and the synergy that comes from working alongside other like-minded men and women.

Can Office Sharing And Coworking Exist Together?

Reception area of a coworking space

The interesting thing about office sharing vs. coworking — and one of the factors that contribute to the confusion that surrounds it all — is that the two work arrangements can exist together in the same space.

Imagine a large office from the 1980s and 90s with cubicles in the center surrounded by smaller separate offices (or suites of offices) on the periphery.

Now remove the cubicle walls so all that’s left are large tables where everyone works side by side. This “open cubicle space” is coworking. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and teams from a wide variety of businesses work, network, and share resources in a communal environment.

The separate offices on the periphery, then, fall into the office-sharing category. Businesses can rent one or more smaller offices (with doors, walls, and privacy) for their dedicated use.

Typically, these multifaceted workspaces are run by a third-party company that maintains both the shared offices and the coworking space, like the coworking space in DC.

So Xerox, the real estate company, and the architectural firm mentioned in the office sharing section above might rent private offices from the third-party company. At the same time, the individuals and small teams mentioned in the coworking section above might pay for a first-come-first-served space in the middle of the room.

Because of that unique arrangement, office sharing vs. coworking can exist in the same space. However, in the next section, we will return to the idea of a shared office separate from a coworking space so you can fully understand the differences.

14 Ways Office Sharing Differs From Coworking

Open office layout with private desks and collaboration areas

1) Privacy

One of the main differences between office sharing vs. coworking is privacy. With an office-sharing situation, you’ll have walls and a door between you and the other people in the space. 

With a coworking situation, you’ll have access to private meeting rooms and phone booths, but you’ll spend the majority of your time in the communal space surrounded by others.

2) Price

Office sharing is more expensive than coworking. You are primarily paying for the privacy and the dedicated space inherent in renting a separate office. You’re also paying for the consistency of having the same space day after day.

With coworking, you may work on one side of the room on Monday and the complete opposite side of the room on Tuesday. It all depends on who else is working that day and what time you arrive.

3) Terms

In a typical office-sharing arrangement (like subleasing space from Xerox), you might have to sign a long-term agreement. But with coworking, terms seldom go beyond three months. Some even allow you to rent on a month-by-month basis.

4) Furniture

If you owned the real estate company that is subleasing office space from Xerox, you would likely need to provide all of your own furniture — desks, chairs, printers, servers, and other vital equipment.

In a coworking arrangement, everything is provided for you. Bring your laptop and whatever else you need for the day, find a place to sit, access the on-site WiFi and printers, and you’ve got all the tools you need to be productive.

5) Infrastructure

Sharing an office with another business means that you will need to consider infrastructure. Arranging for, maintaining, and paying for utilities — like gas, electricity, water, and internet — can consume much of your valuable time and capital.

But in a coworking space, all of that is included in your rent and taken care of by someone else. You don’t have to worry about repairs or maintenance.

6) Overhead

If you choose to share an office, you’ll be responsible for the overhead that keeps your business running. You’ll have to budget for services like IT support, decorating, repairs, maintenance, and cleaning. This can put a serious dent in your working capital.

If you choose to rent from a coworking space, those expenses are included in your cost, meaning your overhead basically drops to zero.

7) Flexibility

A unique and beneficial difference between office sharing vs. coworking is flexibility.

In a typical office-sharing lease, you will pay for the space whether you use it all or not. If you suddenly downsize your business from three offices to two, you’ll still be expected to pay for the third office even though it’s empty.

In a coworking space like those at Bond Collective, you can expand or contract your workspace from one month to the next based on your company’s needs.

8) Exposure To New Ideas

For many businesses, new ideas are the lifeblood of their success. But these ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. It takes exposure to new environments, new people, and new problems to get the creative juices flowing.

When it comes to new ideas and office sharing vs. coworking, the latter option can’t be beat.

In an office-sharing environment, your team is usually exposed to just one other business (the one from whom you lease or rent the space). That minimizes your exposure to new ideas.

On the other hand, a collaborative workspace puts you in direct contact with individuals and teams from a wide variety of industries, niches, and specialties. That maximizes your exposure to new ideas.

In fact, access to new ideas is one of the biggest benefits of a coworking space.

Working alongside and getting to know people from a wide variety of backgrounds, as well as tapping into their knowledge and creativity, allows you to absorb new ideas that you might not get from your office-sharing mates.

9) Networking

workers enjoying a break together at co-working space

Networking is all about growing your professional connections to help your business succeed. With a healthy network of clients and industry professionals on your side, your business will thrive.

With an office-sharing arrangement, your team’s networking options are restricted significantly. Yes, your team will interact with the other business’s team now and then, but that’s pretty much it.

Plus, because you’re sharing office space with a business in a similar industry, you won’t be networking to your advantage (e.g., by getting other industries’ perspectives and solutions).

A coworking space, on the other hand, makes it possible to network with professionals outside your niche while you work. This gives you exposure to people, processes, ideas, and solutions you never thought possible.

You can’t get that from an office-sharing arrangement.

When you base your business, your team, or just yourself in a coworking space, you combine networking and working into a single, business-boosting activity.

10) Opportunities To Hire And Get Hired

The perfect team member or the perfect client doesn’t just show up on your doorstep one morning. You have to put in the time and effort to bring them your way. That can be a difficult and tedious job.

It’s not made any easier if you base your business in its own private space or in an office-sharing environment. You can’t hire an employee away from the other business because that would cause significant conflict.

Similarly, because your team only interacts with the other business in your office-sharing arrangement, your opportunities to get hired are extremely limited.

For both hiring and getting hired, you have to go out and beat the pavement to find the right fit. A coworking space, however, is a ready-made talent pool just waiting for you to dip your toes in the water.

By networking and socializing with other like-minded individuals, you can get a feel for professionals from a wide variety of industries and skill-levels and how they might fit into your business.

It’s very much like an extended interview during which you can really get to know the other person. Then, when you’re ready to hire, simply ask them if they’d like to join your team.

The same is true for getting hired. Think of the networking and socializing you do in a coworking environment as a way to make yourself, your team, and your business attractive to others.

That exposure may lead to more work for your business. And it’s all right there waiting for you — no pavement beating necessary.

11) Amenities

The amenities of an office-sharing arrangement are fairly limited. You might arrange for a catered lunch once in a while or an after-work happy hour every few months, but the main purpose for being there is the space to work.

Coworking spaces are more than just places to work. They also provide amenities that make it easier for your team to focus and get things done.

Services such as streamlined billing, online conference room and facilities booking, access to multiple locations (in your own city or across the country), onsite cleaning and maintenance, and even unlimited black-and-white printing give you and your team the freedom to work whenever and however you deem necessary.

You can certainly enjoy those same amenities in an office-sharing arrangement, but you’ll have to put in the work to set them up and maintain them. In a coworking space, it’s all done for you.

12) Association

discussing office sharing vs. coworking

When it comes to choosing office sharing vs. coworking, association is an important factor to consider.

Just like networking and exposure to new ideas, association done right can take your business to places you never thought possible.

As we’ve mentioned, though, restricting yourself to an office-sharing arrangement with one other business puts a damper on the activities that can take your business to the next level.

In a coworking environment, you work alongside and associate with a group of like-minded professionals from businesses large and small. That association fosters a very real sense of community — a feeling that you’re all in it together — that can have a profound influence on the way you, your team, and your business operate.

13) Agility

Agility is all about being ready for whatever your business, your industry, and the world at large throws at you. Growth and decline can strike when you least expect it, so you need to be ready to react as quickly as possible.

For example, when your business is growing, you’ll need more employees — and, hence, more space — to handle the work.

On the other side of the coin, when your business starts to decline, you’ll need to streamline your team and reduce your workspace footprint in order to save money.

With an office-sharing arrangement, you’re stuck paying a set amount for a certain square footage regardless of whether you have employees to occupy it or not (almost like a lease). That’s the antithesis of agility.

A coworking space, however, makes it easy to adapt to whatever your business encounters on the road to success.

Bond Collective, for example, makes it easy to expand or contract your team’s footprint from one month to the next. You can work from dedicated desks in January and February, upgrade to private offices in March and April, and then downgrade to first-come-first-served desks in May and June.

That’s the very definition of agility and allows your business to react to both bull and bear markets.

14) Collaboration

Networking and association widen your sphere of influence and bring you within viewing distance of the spheres of influence of other businesses. Think of them as making your way to the front door of a skyscraper.

What do you do next? You walk in the door and get to work. That’s collaboration in a nutshell.

Collaboration is about working together in a mutually beneficial relationship to provide the products, services, or guidance each party needs to get ahead.

How does collaboration apply to office sharing vs. coworking? In much the same way that the other differences apply.

In an office sharing arrangement, collaboration is limited to the single business sharing your workspace. A coworking space, on the other hand, puts you side-by-side with professionals from a wide variety of business types.

This close proximity allows you to collaborate with CEOs, writers, marketing reps, graphic designers, editors, digital artists, photographers, and specialists of all sorts.

Everything You Need In One Place

Conference room in an office sharing space

At Bond Collective, we offer everything you need in one place — office sharing and coworking alike.

Whether you want a private office, a suite of offices, or just a place to set your laptop, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at any one of our many locations across the United States.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on your own nurturing a startup into existence or you need space for a team of 50 or more, at Bond Collective, everyone enjoys the same industry-leading amenities and expertly designed interiors, such as:

  • Conference rooms for 2 or 20+

  • Custom build-outs

  • Private meeting and phone booths

  • Guest reception and greeting

  • Professional image

  • Unlimited black-and-white printing

  • Fast, reliable WiFi and ethernet

  • Mail and package handling

  • Porter service

  • Nightly office cleaning

  • Fresh fruit, snacks, and weekly breakfast

  • Complimentary spa water, craft beer, and coffee

All of this (and so much more) makes Bond Collective a true turn-key solution to all your business needs.

Three men working at a coworking space

Visit any one of Bond Collective’s many locations in the United States, including workspaces in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas. Or call us today to find out more about everything we have to offer. 

And while you’re at it, schedule a tour to experience first-hand how the boutique work environments at Bond Collective can benefit your business.