Someone recently asked me to explain the difference between London coworking space and Starbucks. Quite a disarming question!

As I wander to East Finchley tube each morning, I glance enviously through coffee shop windows. I see the mothers’ book clubs sobering up. Presumably the night before they were tearing to shreds Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine over a few magnums of wine (each!). I also see a number of lone hipsters, hunched over their MacBooks. I am pretty sure these people are writing books, doing their tax returns or trading pork belly futures. In other words, they are using Starbucks as an office – or “coffice”, as I’ve heard it referred to!

But is Starbucks really a coworking environment?

Are they coworking? I don’t think they are. Generally speaking, they are using the coffee shop environment to get out of the house and avoid interruption. In Starbucks they can concentrate on work without being hassled by their spouse/children/pet/cleaner! They are busily beating deadlines by escaping domestic temptations: watching daytime TV or staring at the contents of the fridge…AGAIN! They are using the coffee shop as a safe, warm, work environment.

But typically, they are not cross-fertilising with other business people and expanding their business horizons. And that to me is the definition of coworking. Furthermore, to keep their spot, they have to buy and drink inordinate amounts of coffee!

People on their laptops in Starbucks are not cross-fertilising with other business people to expand their business horizons. And that is the definition of coworking. And, to keep their spot, they have to drink inordinate amounts of coffee!

What makes a genuine coworking space different?

In contrast, coworking offices offer a range of facilities to help you improve your productivity in a proper business environment. The benefits of coworking space include (in no particular order):

  • Cross-fertilising and socialising – network with like- minded business people.
  • Tapping into shared resources such as meeting rooms, printers and scanners, PA support, fibre connectivity, video conferencing
  • Free tea, coffee and (sometimes) beer!
  • The credibility of a recognisable business address.
  • Meet and do business with people from every corner of London

Have a look at our London coworking space page for a full breakdown.

Going back to the original question: Starbucks and coworking offices do have some obvious similarities. The fundamental dividing line however is this: coworking environments (exemplified in places like the Tea Building in Shoreditch) are far more conducive to business growth. But you will generally get a better cup of coffee at Starbucks!

The Truth: Is Starbucks a genuine coworking office?

About Ian Kitchener

Ian Kitchener

Ian has advised Central London office occupiers for over 20 years. He loves fighting their corner and making sure they get what they need - a great office on the best commercial terms available.

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