Cafes vs Coworking Spaces

I’ve been debating the use of coworking space. If you aren’t familiar with the term, coworking is the act of working in a shared space with other people who aren’t necessarily in your company or organization. It typically is held in some kind of office space and includes independent contractors, startup entrepreneurs, freelance writers, and those who travel frequently.

Within San Francisco, there are dozens of coworking spaces. I’ve listed all that I could find below alphabetically. Some have certain entry requirements, others are affiliated with investment organizations. The prices listed are for 24/7 first-come, first-serve seating. There’s a higher fee for dedicated desks.

Coworking Space Price per month Entry Affiliations
Citizen Space $300, $150 for 9-5 access Open to anyone None
Dogpatch Labs Not publicly stated Interview required Polaris Ventures
Hub Bay Area $445 Application required, social change startups preferred Hub Ventures
NextSpace $285, $235 for a 12-month pack Open to anyone None
pariSoma $275 Open to anyone None
Sandbox Suites $345, $295 for 8-6 weekday access Open to anyone None
Founders Den Not publicly stated Invite only None
Mission Social $300 Open to anyone None
RocketSpace $650 Open to anyone Kicklabs and Kauffman Labs $275 Open to anyone None
Reactor SF Not publicly stated Open to anyone None
PeopleBrowsr Labs $600 Application required None, but offers the use of their products
Social Venture Technology Group Not publicly stated Interview required None
The Summit SF Not publicly stated, though the 8am-10pm cafe area is free Interview required through I/O Ventures I/O Ventures
Krux Labs $500 Open to anyone, 3-month contract minimum None

The alternatives for me happen to be cheaper: working from home or working in a cafe. Working at home isn’t effective because I tend to get distracted easily. It’s just too easy to get up, get a snack, or take a nap. Bad me, I know.

I love working in cafes though. I luckily found a great cafe near me that has free wifi, friendly proprietors who know my name, and available seating. It is also relatively quiet, yet has enough stimulation to keep me energized. That’s important too; I love cafes because of the buzz of activity there. The people-watching, the conversations, the music, all of it adds to this vibrant ambiance that helps me focus. It’s relatively cheap too, though I don’t skimp on making drink and food purchases to pay for my fair share of their space.

The downside is that it’s not easy to work with others in cafes. There’s no guarantee that a colleague will find a free table next to mine. Add two to four more colleagues, and it becomes near impossible.

Enter coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces aren’t as cheap as working alone in cafes. But with colleagues, having a guaranteed space together is important. As is the energy of the community within many of the coworking spaces listed above. They all have a particular vibe. Some are more professional, some are more scrappy, some are more artsy. But all offer a community of like-minded people who could help my colleagues and I in unexpected ways. And us them.

So it’s time to start winding down my cafe days and find a new home in a coworking space. Goodbye cafes, hello coworking spaces!

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

5 thoughts on “Cafes vs Coworking Spaces”

  1. Oh god, I’m the same way re: working from home. I start out with the best of intentions and then: oh look! Today with Hoda and Kathie Lee is on! And then I stick around for the commercials and buy a 24-pack of Activia yogurt. It’s a bad scene.

  2. Activia, huh? Whenever I think of that yogurt, I think of the SNL skit:

  3. That’s all well and good… but if you don’t have the discipline to tune people/TV/noise out while you work at a cafe or at home, then you won’t fair much better in a co-working space.  Outside of feeling the hurt on your wallet.  Having worked in a corporate environment for about six months or so, and then went to hybrid working, then straight telecommuting for the next decade, I have to say that you have to train yourself to just do things.

    And if that doesn’t help?  Go spend that first month’s rent at a co-working space on some Bose headphones that tunes out noise.  The expensive kind that pilots use.   I don’t need them, but it’s a way to just get in your own little zone.

    Just my own two cents, having done it for … a bit too long.

  4. That’s great for you, but I would caution applying it for all other people. I’ve been working at home and in cafes for several years now, with a brief stint back in a corporate office. And I’ve worked alongside many other freelancers, lifestyle entrepreneurs, and startup workers.

    What I’ve seen is: everyone is different. Some thrive at home. Others in a cafe. And yet others, in a coworking space. Each will swear that their environment is the best for them. You can find dozens of blogs promoting the benefits of each one too.

    (BTW, I wouldn’t categorize a cafe and home in the same bucket at all. They are VERY different environments.)

    Sure, with enough discipline, you can be more flexible. But many people have a natural inclination for one over another. Mine is actually a cafe. I can work at home pretty well, but can get into the zone much faster in a cafe.

    For many others that I’ve been talking to lately, it’s a coworking space. They like to separate home from work. And I totally get that. It’s like how sleep scientists tell you to only use your bed for sleeping if you have insomnia. The way your mind associates an environment to an activity can shape its performance in said environments.

    Personally, I like ambient noise. I sometimes put cheap headphones on with the volume low, so I can hear some music and some outside noise. Weird huh? But it’s my personal preference, just as you prefer expensive Bose headphones.

    We all have our optimal environments. And all have pros and cons. It’s a matter of having an open mind & trying various kinds out, then using the best environment for you. Sounds like you’ve found your optimal environment – and thumbs up to that! I haven’t worked in a coworking space for an extended period of time yet, but I’m looking forward to giving it a spin.

  5. I hear ya. When you have no choice, you have no choice. You gotta do with what you have and hopefully you can make the best of it. I totally agree with you there.

    But when you DO have a choice, then… Happy day! Then you can check out various options and see what is best, in case one is better than others for you.

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