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Co-working spaces are happier spaces, it seems, with the people in them reporting more job satisfaction, productivity and, well, happiness than the folks in regular offices – the ones with just one company or department in.
Why does a workspace with different companies, freelancers and hot-deskers make its people happier? Yes, freelancers and smaller companies tend to be doing what they love to do, rather than just working a McJob, but there are other reasons.
The fact that most of the people in that office space in New Malden are independents or from different companies and projects, there’s not the same sense of competition or office politics. Just doing something completely different to your neighbour gives you greater sense of purpose and identity.
This type of set-up also brings lots of people with divergent skills together and the lack of competitiveness makes people more likely to help one another.
Shared office spaces also tend to be accessible 24/7 – if someone wants to pull an all-nighter, or work at the weekend so they can take time off in the week, they can. They are also freer to work with a colleague in a breakout space or to work alone for a while as access control for coworking spaces is seamless .
This flexibility is great, but having a physical focal point – the office – adds routine and structure into the working life of people who can drift or get distracted. Freelancers are a funny bunch – give them too much independence and they can sometimes float off into the ether. An office gives them an anchor.
Freelancing can be lonely, so making a few office-based chums and connections is a huge bonus personally and professionally. Each co-working space will have its own feel and once someone has found the right place, it’s a home from home. If there’s a canteen or café to hang out in, that’s even better.
Not everyone wants to socialise all the time, and that’s OK too, they’re still part of the community – contacts and friends are only ever a few feet away.
What traditional offices can learn from co-working spaces
Shared offices and co-working was started by freelancers and start-ups, usually techie ones, but the more mainstream companies and sectors are catching onto it, as they see the benefits.
Many larger companies have a far-flung workforce who might not, given the option, want to commute for hours every day. Then there’s the working parents who need flexi-hours. These companies are hiring workspaces, or units within them, and employees are using them as halfway houses and meeting spaces and this is increasing productivity and staff happiness.
Getting away from the usual office can spark new ideas and creativity, too, as people are more likely to talk to someone from outside their industry, which leads to cross-pollination.
Changing the existing corporate office
The structures and advantages of co-working spaces can be applied to traditional offices. This doesn’t mean knocking down walls or installing a juice bar, it can mean installing as many seats in breakout spaces and quiet corners as there are seats “chained” to desks. This encourages collaboration, contemplation and better communication between employees.
This reverse-engineering of a traditional office into a co-working office can also be achieved by more unusual methods. Some companies are centralizing coffee machines, water coolers and canteens so that people of all departments have to mingle and communicate.