The coworking trend is spreading around the world and gaining popularity with entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers and remote workers affiliated with large corporations. Although it may seem like just another trend spurred on by the millennial generation’s desire for flexibility in where and how they work, scientific evidence suggests there may be more to the picture.
Coworking involves self-employed workers or groups of employees from many different companies sharing a communal office space. For a fee, individuals can come and go as they please, choosing to work for as long as they like at any time. There’s no set “office culture,” no supervisor and no obligation to conform to unspoken social rules. According to one study, these characteristics may be why the setup is so successful.
What the Research Says
A group of researchers from the University of Michigan’s Steven M. Ross School of Business spent four years studying coworking and its effects on those who spend their working time in shared office spaces. Led by Dr. Gretchen Spreitzer, director of the Center for Positive Organizations, the team discovered several qualities making coworking attractive to participants and noted how the setup made them feel about themselves and their work.
One team member even spent six months in a coworking environment to gather further information. This was combined with answers from more than 200 workers surveyed over the course of the study, and researchers concluded the draw of coworking boils down to “flexibility and autonomy” within a setting of “meaningful community.”
The ability to be in charge of one’s own work schedule and career goals is a major part of why coworking is becoming so popular. Individuals in a coworking environment are free to choose where and when to work, with whom they want to socialize, and how to express themselves within the office environment. The lack of universal, and sometimes restrictive, social norms found in traditional offices removes the stress of trying to impress colleagues and frees workers to collaborate on their own terms.
Retaining individuality in a community environment fosters connections unlikely to form in a corporate setting. By removing the necessity of interacting with the same people every day in an effort to conform to an office culture, coworking encourages natural relationships and the free exchange of ideas while preserving individual independence.
With this sense of community as an undercurrent, it’s easier to focus on working toward personal and professional goals. Coworking spaces are free from the constraints of a structured social ladder and career path. Adding diverse personalities and viewpoints to the mix, especially when those working together come from varied industry backgrounds, provides fuel for growth and facilitates ongoing learning. The flexible scheduling puts people together in different groups at different times, offering the unique opportunity to share new ideas with others whose viewpoints may be absent in a traditional office setting.
Since coworking allows individuals to spend their time anyway they wish and direct their careers on their own terms, many see it as a liberating alternative to traditional offices. When combined with a sense of community, this makes coworking an attractive option for modern workers looking for a way to get all the best of an office environment without the unwanted social pressures.