Co-working spaces often conjure an image of tech start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers. However, despite its origins in these worlds, elements of co-working spaces are becoming more relevant for large corporations – as many either abandon traditional office spaces, or adopt a hybrid mix to offer workers an alternative environment.1
Whilst making the move to a co-working space is not practical for all corporate offices, there are features common to all co-working spaces which corporates can adopt – helping both the business and their employees thrive.
Wired for connection, humans are inherently social creatures. Whilst advances in technology have meant we have never been more connected digitally, we are seeing increased rates of loneliness and a need for meaningful connections amongst populations.2
Owners and managers of co-working spaces go to great lengths to cultivate a sense of community and connection for their members. Not in the sense of forced socialisation, but by allowing people to choose how and when they interact. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that people were more likely to enjoy a discussion over coffee when they went for that purpose and could equally be left alone when needed. “The satisfaction came from knowing there was the potential for interaction when desired or needed” the article stated.3
For corporate offices, creating this sense of community means building connections beyond scheduled meetings. This can include:
- Coordinate unique experiences, events, and training programs
- Nominate a Community Manager who is embedded in day to day activities
- Offering lunch and learn sessions
These are all ways that leaders can cultivate a sense of community within and across teams in corporate spaces.
Collaboration and cooperation
In co-working spaces, it is not unusual to see an accountant sitting next to a UX designer, beside a social media manager. Such diversity offers chance interactions with different groups of people and often more opportunities for innovation and collaboration. In some instances these chance interactions can offer challenging or different perspectives to find solutions not otherwise thought of.4
In our 2019 Women in Business Insights report it was found that instilling a culture of collaboration is “critical in securing the skills and capabilities needed for the future and for organisations to build a culture that embraces change rather than resits it”.
Corporate models can model this cross team collaboration and cooperation by:
- Creating spill out spaces such as intimate working hubs and casual furniture to create spontaneous social and meeting interactions.
- Mixing and matching departments
- Experimenting with different layouts
Flexibility and job control
24/7 access to most co-working spaces allow people to craft their days to achieve their best output without fear of repercussions. Members can decide if they want to spend an entire day at their desk or break things up – take a midday walk to recharge, or leave early afternoon for some family time before logging back on later that night.
Within the space they are also free to choose a set up that suits their needs for the day, from quiet and closed spaces for ‘deep work’ to collaborative rooms sharing desks amongst other members.5
In addition to the work from home arrangements many businesses have introduced during COVID-19, there is also opportunity to:
- Give greater control of working hours to employees, or integrate them into the team decision on schedules
- Have a culture of working beyond the limitations of your desk. Encourage your team members to take an hour and work outside or in a new location. You’d be surprised the change this makes when idea generating.
- Have open conversation about the ways that your team works the best. What might be right for one employee, may hinder the productivity of another.
As advances in technology enable more people to work from almost anywhere, and predictions that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic looks to change the way we work forever, there has never been a greater incentive for corporate offices to look to their co-working counterparts. By giving employees greater flexibility and control over their day, we are opening up our workplaces to be more diverse, inclusive6, and supportive of building a strong workplace culture.7
1, 3 Harvard Business Review, ‘Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces’ Sept 2015
2. APA, ‘The link between loneliness and technology’ May 2019
4, 5 Business 2 Community, ‘5 Ways Coworking Spaces Inspire Collaboration and Productivity’ Jan 2020
6, 7 Diversity Council Australia, ‘Inclusion@Work Index 2017-2018’