Pros and cons
While coworking is an established trend in many of the nation's larger metropolitan areas, the innovative approach to office space has been slower to gain momentum in Houston from a tenant's perspective, making up less than 1 percent of the city's total inventory of office space.
Coworking has tended to appeal to startups and one- or two-person consulting firms and is currently available in Houston in various forms and price points. Nationally branded WeWork and Techspace offer an amenity-rich and more expensive option geared toward corporate clients, while other coworking providers, like Station Houston and The Cannon, have targeted tenants seeking connections to investors and mentors.
Coworking options can now be found in many parts of Houston. Office landlords are even converting portions of their buildings to coworking suites to meet increased demand.
Before you invest in this new type of office space, consider the following aspects that come with coworking space.
1. Flexibility is the key driver
From a user experience point of view, coworking has both advantages and disadvantages. Flexibility and price are the key elements. In contrast to multiyear year lease terms required by traditional landlords, coworking is a shorter commitment. Terms of six to 12 months for fully furnished offices are the norm, but month-to-month leases are also common. Rent is calculated based on a per-person model, compared to the rent-per-square-foot structure of a traditional office or warehouse lease.
For a one-person company or a small team, sharing a kitchen and conference room can be well worth the lower monthly rent expense, ranging between $800 and $2,000 per month. Touch and go memberships are also available at most coworking locations, providing access to the common areas for a typical monthly fee of less than $200, but without the benefits of a private office. However, as companies scale up and grow, the per-person model for rent begins to make less economic sense.
2. Beware of the add-ons
Coworking typically provides shared use of conference rooms with a monthly allocation of time for each tenant. Some offer beer, coffee, and social and networking events, and a few even permit dogs. It is important to read the fine print of the agreements and be prepared to pay additional charges for extra amenities not included in the monthly rent — everything from garage parking to fees for internet, furniture rental, snacks, and kitchen use.
3. Privacy and identity
Sharing a glass-walled team office with coworkers and taking private calls in a shared space is not the right fit for every company. For some firms, their critical objective is a work environment that reflects company brand, culture, or professional image — a feature not necessarily offered with coworking.
However, as Houston has witnessed changing work patterns, commute issues, and the importance of work-life balance, our city has responded and can now offer many more flexible workspace options.
Julie King is president of NB Realty Partners. She has mentored and provided commercial real estate advice to technology, biotech, and early-stage companies for over 20 years.