The psychology of coworking spaces

It’s About Feeling Less Lonely

(Read time: 577 words, about 3 minutes.)

The research on coworking—mostly surveying people who regularly use coworking spaces—is pretty clear: coworking’s biggest draw is valuable social ties. “Community”, “fun”, and “social” are the top words used by members when asked what words best describe coworking.

More than networking: But coworking’s social ties are more profound than superficial business networking for it’s own sake.

Former Surgeon General of the United States  Vivek Murthy attributes  the “loneliness epidemic” to the increasing number of independent and “gig economy” workers.

Murthy also points out that loneliness is much more than just a social problem. It’s also a health problem, “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

The big picture:  Research by Harvard Business Review’s own Small Business Labs  reveals that while coworking spaces are definitely workspaces, they mean much more to the people who use them.

•  87% of respondents report that they meet other members for social reasons, with 54% saying they socialize with other members after work and/or on weekends.

•  79% said coworking has expanded their social networks.

•  83% report that they are less lonely since joining a coworking space.

•  89% report that they are happier since joining a coworking space.

•  82% of respondents reported that coworking has expanded their professional networks.

•  80% reported that they turn to other coworking members for help or guidance.

•  64% said their coworking networking was an important source of work and business referrals.

“Most members (84%) reported that working in a coworking space improved their work engagement and motivation.”

“Most also reported being able to concentrate better due to fewer distractions compared to working from home or in coffee shops.”

“But despite focusing on the work aspects of coworking, our research found that it was the social ties of coworking that proved most valuable to members. When asked to list three words that best describe coworking, three of the top five words mentioned by coworking members — community, fun, and social — relate to social aspects.”

Introverts and extroverts: According to deskmag, self-described  introverts also say coworking spaces improve their social ties , with a few distinct differences than extroverts.

•  Coworking spaces encourage introverts to socialize when they otherwise might not feel like it.

•  Coworking also allows introverts to control interactions by withdrawing when they need to (e.g., wearing headphones in a crowded room, tucking into quiet spaces).

•  Coworking spaces make it easy for introverts to engage on their own terms.

“The proportion of extroverted personalities among female members is almost as high as the total number of those with mixed personalities. Men position themselves predominantly in the middle. However, more extroverted than introverted male members work at coworking spaces.”

Introverted members – are more likely to enjoy relaxed and small spaces. ‘More introverted’ members often speak with around 3 other coworking members per working day, around half as many than ‘more extroverted’ members.”

“The majority of introverted members decided on their own accord to work in a coworking space. They are even more likely to pay for it out of their own pockets. More than among other personality types, the main membership attraction is the social atmosphere in a coworking space.”

Go deeper: Here’s an infographic of deskmag’s complete findings:  The 2018 General Coworking Survey: Coworking for Introverts & Extroverts  (Dropbox link.)

Sources:  Harvard Business ReviewSmall Business LabsdeskmagCat JohnsonGroundwork 

Hi, I’m Keith Monaghan. I’m a researcher. I help creative teams understand the big picture of their project before they start. Once the project starts, I help them understand the details.

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Keith Monaghan