CoWorking Spaces – the New Office Trend

The popularity of coworking spaces is growing at a rapid pace, and for good reason. Coworking spaces are membership-based workspaces where start-ups, freelancers, remote workers and independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting. These spaces can manifest success in a number of ways by including a variety of workers in different jobs and varying industries together in one space, such as Denver’s Galvanize; or a creating flexible space for start-ups and growing companies, such as Industry Denver. These spaces can also represent independent workers and smaller firms in the same industry, such as LawBank in Denver – a shared workspace for people in the legal industry; or even spaces for businesses that share a common thread, such as Green Spaces in Denver, which is dedicated to green and socially conscious entrepreneurs. When it comes to co-working spaces, people working in them report their levels of thriving at an average of 6 on a 7-point scale, which represents more than a full point higher than the average employee working in a regular office.

In 2015, the Harvard Business Review surveyed hundreds of workers from several dozen co-working spaces around the country, including several co-working space founders and community managers, and discovered three significant predictors of thriving in a co-working environment:

People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful. Unlike traditional offices, coworking spaces are generally made-up of members working for a range of different companies, industries, ventures and projects. Because of this, there tends to be less direct competition or internal politics, thus eliminating the need to put on a work persona to fit in. Often, the culture in coworking spaces is to help each other out, and with a variety of workers representing different skill sets in a given space, people can get different perspectives, or offer their thoughts, while also making one’s own work identity stronger.

They have more job control. Members can generally access coworking spaces 24/7, which allows them to put in a long day if they’re working on a deadline, or take a long break in the middle of the afternoon to go to the gym or run errands. They can also choose to work in a collaborative space where they can interact with other members, or work in a quiet space when they need to focus. While this autonomy is valued, so too is the need for some form of structure in their professional lives. Productivity can actually diminish greatly if a worker has too much autonomy due to a lack of routine. Workers in these spaces have reported that having a community to work in helps create structure, discipline, and motivation.

They feel part of a community. Creating connections with others is a significant reason why people pay to work in a communal space, rather than working from home or renting a nondescript office. Many owners and managers of coworking spaces spend a great deal of time, money, and effort to create an environment that is conducive of collaboration and success. Members can determine when and how to interact with other members of a space; be it having a casual conversation over coffee in the café, or something more structured, or to even work alone when the time calls for it. While not all members prefer to interact with other workers, there is comfort in knowing there is the potential for such interactions when they want or need them.

Harvard Business Review’s research suggests that it is the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience that coworkers demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts. The most important factors for this success include the greater amount of autonomy and the ability to be themselves at work.