There seems to be something special about coworking spaces. As researchers who have, for years, studied how employees thrive, we were surprised to discover that members who belong to coworking environments report thriving, are happier and more productive. What makes coworking members thrive and so effective? And are there lessons for more traditional offices?
People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful. Aside from the type of work they’re doing – freelancers choosing projects they care about, members reported finding meaning in the fact that they could create flexibility in the work environment.
Why People are Thriving in Coworking Spaces
Identity & Values
First, unlike a traditional office, coworking spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures, and projects. Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in. Working amidst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger.
Second, meaning may also come from working in a culture where it is the norm to help each other out, and there are many opportunities to do so; the variety of workers in the space means that coworkers have unique skill sets that they can provide to other community members.
The social mission inherent in the Coworking Manifesto, an online document signed by members of more than 1,700 working spaces clearly articulates the values that the coworking movement aspires to, including community, collaboration, learning, and sustainability.
They have more job control. Coworking spaces are normally accessible 24/7. People can decide whether to put in a long day when they have a deadline or want to show progress or can decide to take a long break in the middle of the day to go to the gym. They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is encouraged.
And while coworkers value this autonomy, they equally value some form of structure in their professional lives. Too much autonomy can actually cripple productivity because people lack routines. Coworkers reported that having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them.
Connectivity & Networking
Connections with others, community, are a big reason why people pay to work in a coworking space, as opposed to working from home or renting space in a traditional office environment. Each coworking space has its own vibe, and the managers typically go to great lengths to cultivate a unique experience that meets the needs of their respective members.
SharedSpace is a growing network of southeast coworking spaces. Daniel Levison, CEO shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our front line staff knows all of our members, of their respective locations, by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between members.” In fact one of our core company objectives to create an environment where 20-25% of all our members are doing business with at least one other member.
Although importantly socializing isn’t compulsory or forced. Members can choose when and how to interact with others. They are more likely to enjoy discussions over coffee in the café because they went to the café for that purpose – and when they want to be left alone they can be.
Research has shown some people interact with fellow coworkers much less than others, they still felt a strong sense of identity with the community. We believe this comes from coworkers knowing there is the potential for interactions when they desire or need them.
Why Traditional Companies are Choosing Coworking Spaces
So what are the implications for traditional companies? Even though the coworking movement has its origins among freelancers, entrepreneurs, and the tech industry, it’s increasingly relevant for a broader range of people and organizations. In fact, coworking can become part of a company’s strategy, and it can help your people and your business thrive. An increasing number of companies are incorporating coworking into their business strategies.
Companies are beginning to utilize coworking environments as an alternative place for people to work. Michael Kenny, the Managing Partner of San Diego-based Co-Merge, stated “In the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of the space by enterprise employees. We have seen teams come in to use various on-demand meeting rooms. Users from global companies are using utilizing coworking space not only to allow their distributed workers to get productive work done but also to attract employees who demand flexible workplace and work time.” Spending time away from the office at a coworking space can also spark new ideas.
Lessons of coworking spaces can be applied to corporate offices. Just as it’s important to encourage flexibility and support your mobile workforce, there is an equally important reality of creating the right kind of work environment inside your own walls. People need to be able to craft their work in ways that give them purpose and meaning. They should be given control and flexibility in their work environment — many companies are increasingly adopting the best planning practice of providing a 1:1 ratio (or close to it) of desk seats to seats in shared settings used for either collaborative work or quiet work.
Companies are also trying to enable more connections, helping people to interact and build community beyond work meetings. Coworking spaces are one place to look for guidance, as they regularly offer networking events, training programs and social events, some outside the coworking environment. In a way, the company is reverse-engineering its office into a coworking space.
Studies on the Benefits of Coworking Spaces
Research by the University of Michigan – which is ongoing — suggests that the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who cowork demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts. But what matters the most for high levels of thriving is that people who cowork have substantial autonomy and can be themselves at work. Our advice to traditional companies who want to learn from coworking spaces is to give people the space and support to be their authentic best selves. The result will be employees who feel more committed to your organization and are more likely to bring their best energy and ideas to the office each day. Happy and respected employees are more productive employees.
Sharedspace is a regional coworking business focused on creating modern, professional, and energetic work environments to stimulate the creativity and productivity of entrepreneurial businesses and their teams! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if your business is looking for creative opportunities reinvigorate your workforce and brand with a modern coworking environment like SharedSpace. Contact us today to schedule a tour of our facilities or for a consultation on your business.