In The Business Case for Coworking Spaces – Part 1, I asked if there was any hard evidence that coworking office environments positively affected business, beyond vague pointers from personal stories, futuristic predictions and teamwork instincts. Here are my three proposals.
Global Coworking Surveys
We are conducting our Giant Coworking Survey in order to determine what people want in a coworking community and space. But we’re hardly the first to attempt this. A survey released at the conference by Emergent Research of Lafayette, California,
“found 82 per cent of coworkers say the process expanded their professional networks, 80 per cent turned to other coworkers for help, and 64 per cent landed new business through co-working contacts.”
A 2011 Deskmag survey of more than 1,500 coworkers in 52 countries reported these findings:
- 75% reported an increase in productivity since joining their coworking space
- 80% reported an increase in the size of their business network
- 86% reported a decrease in their sense of isolation
- 83% reported that they trusted others in their coworking space
The 2012 survey added these further interesting facts:
- 71% reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space
- 62% said their standard of work had improved in a coworking space
- Almost 90% of coworkers reported an increase in self-confidence
- 70% of coworkers felt healthier than they did working in a traditional office
- 64% of coworkers were better able to complete tasks on time
Large Company Engagement
Big companies are borrowing coworking principles and practices in order to boost profit. Companies that design their offices to “maximize chance encounters” include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Samsung, Zappos, ING Direct, AT&T, Ace Hotel, and Airbnb. These are not social enterprises or charities. They are not even all tech companies, the usual suspect for forward thinking.
Why bother? Academics have long observed that few traditional employers measure whether the design of their workspaces helps or hurts workplace performance. After collecting and analysing data, they concluded that “face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office.” Further, creating chance encounters – or what they call “collisions” – between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization, improves performance.
Accepted Academic Research
Research into the benefits of coworking, and indeed into the correlation between office environment and performance, is fairly new. One significant study conducted in 2012 found that so-called “mobile professionals” or independent traders and self-employed free-lancers have a wide variety of options. For instance, they can choose to work in offices, executive suites, home offices, or other spaces. Yet many instead are choosing to work at coworking spaces, which the study defined as “open-plan office environments in which they work alongside other unaffiliated professionals for a [monthly] fee.”
A more recent study attempted to answer the question of why. Those business academics conducting the study were surprised to discover that people who belong to a coworking space “report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices.” These researchers attributed this “unheard of” state to the fact that people who use coworking spaces:
- see their work as meaningful regardless of the type of work they do due (the ‘what’ of work) because of what they gain from their coworking environment (the ‘where’ of work)
- possess more job control due to greater access to and flexibility in their office environment
- feel part of a community in which the human element is deliberately cultivated beyond the merely functional
Each of these factors by itself is enough to encourage doubters to take coworking with a new sense of seriousness. But, when added together, they provide a case for coworking that shifts the question from “Why bother?” to “When do we start?”
You’re most welcome to start your coworking adventure with us a WabiSabi Belfast anytime!
Article abstract – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25509577
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Extremely interesting article. For 9 years I worked as an employee in open spaces and the benefits for collaboration and communication were enormous. I think now as a freelancer one of biggest advantages of working is a shared space is idea of camaradie with fellow co-workers and fact that when you are having a bad day there is someone to make you laugh and de-stress you, because we all know us freelancers can get a little stressed out at times wearing all our different ‘hats’. Very much looking forward to trying out lots of existing coworking spaces in N.Ireland and further afield in 2016 and of course your new space to come!
Alison, thanks for your feedback and encouragement. Yes, the camaraderie and craic of an office is often hard to beat. In my experience these elements are quite frequently the best part of a job. A freelancer can totally miss out. But our vision for WabiSabi is a space where members can move from these community areas to areas that have other functions e.g. individual focus, formal meetings or training, R&R etc. Like you say, we wear different hats, depending on task, deadline, mood, energy level, time of day and individual preferences. We believe an office space should facilitate this hat swapping, rather than present a one-hat-fits-all solution.
Enough with the hat metaphors. We look forward to showing you around our new space soon.