07 Jan The human face of coworking
The economic and productivity benefits of coworking for entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, SMEs and corporates are well established. Coworking gives businesses of any size access to state-of-the art agile workspaces without the overheads of a long-term lease or office fit-outs, and with a higher utilisation of space.
But what about the human side of coworking, what do we know about the emotional and psychological benefits for people in coworking spaces? As it turns out, quite a lot and the results are proving what many of us have personally experienced in the past few years.
So here it is: it’s people who thrive in coworking spaces, not just businesses. Studies have shown that people who work in coworking spaces report higher than average levels of thriving compared to employees who work in regular offices.
Just what is it that makes coworking spaces so effective for the people who work in them? A Harvard Business Review study which surveyed hundreds of workers from dozens of coworking spaces revealed three key areas that enable people to thrive.
1. People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful
The people surveyed reported finding meaning not just in the type of work they are doing, but in being able to bring their whole selves to work. Because coworking spaces bring together people from a range of organisations, ventures or projects – with little direct competition or internal politics – people feel less pressure to put on a ‘work persona’ to fit in.
The culture of coworking spaces is based on values of collaboration, learning, community and sustainability. While not everybody goes to their coworking space to collaborate with others, coworking enables people to feel they are part of a social movement with other like-minded business people. For those who do thrive on collaboration, coworking opens up opportunities for workers with different backgrounds and skill sets to develop their own strong work identities.
2. Coworkers have greater job control
Coworking spaces give workers choice and flexibility, both real and perceived, that regular office workers are less likely to experience. As coworking spaces are usually accessible 24/7 people can fit their work hours to suit them, whether they need to put in a long day to finish a project, take a break during the day for another commitment, or work from home without repercussion. They can also choose different spaces to suit their work needs from day to day or hour to hour, from a quiet space to focus or a more communal space for cross-pollination.
And while people value the control and autonomy, they also value the structure and community that comes with a coworking space. Too much autonomy can be a barrier to productivity as many a remote worker has found. Coworkers report that being part of a coworking community gives them the optimal degree of independence with structure.
3. Coworkers feel part of a thriving community
Connection with other business people, entrepreneurs, corporates and like-minded souls is a big reason why people thrive in coworking spaces especially when compared to remote working from home. While it can be great to work in your pyjamas all day, the sense of isolation from working at home too much can have a negative effect on people’s overall wellbeing.
Coworking spaces provide not just workspaces but communal areas, opportunities for networking and socialising, and group facilities that enable interactions between people. Even those who aren’t looking for a lot of interaction benefit from knowing that the potential for interaction exists if they want or need it.
Benefits for businesses
What does all of this ‘human thriving’ mean for entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs, corporates? Of course, a happy and productive workforce is good for any business but it goes beyond this to fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.
Enterprises are increasingly recognising that their value is in their innovation capacity which requires face to face environments and investment in organisational culture. Business ‘real estate’ is transitioning from being an overhead to focusing on unlocking the full potential of the organisation’s most valuable resource – its people.
As more and more companies turn to coworking spaces for some or even all of their workforce, other organisations are taking the principles of coworking and applying them to their own work environments – enabling people to craft their work in ways that give them purpose and meaning; providing opportunities for collaborative work and quiet work; and fostering connection, interaction and community beyond work meetings. Led by the learnings and benefits of coworking, these changes are creating a better work experience for many people.
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