Do co-working spaces actually work?


Co-working spaces claim to increase productivity and happiness for people in their jobs, but do they really work?

Co-working spaces are great opportunities for small businesses and start-ups to have a professional area in which to work on their businesses. Considering most spaces are able to be rented from anywhere between one day and one year, small businesses or start-ups are best suited for these spaces. 

An article in the Harvard Business Review by Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi and Greg Lindsay titled, “Workplaces that move people”, explores the idea of the workplace set-up as an opportunity.

“Recognise office space as not just an amortised asset but a strategic tool for growth.”

Photo: Desk Union/ Wikimedia

These co-working spaces induce interaction between co-workers, better know as ‘collisions’.

These collisions, are where co-workers interact with one another, bouncing ideas and ultimately creating better ideas, or better outcomes for the business.

Harvard Business Review looked into executives at a pharmaceutical company, that were responsible for around $1 billion worth of sales annually.

Harvard Business Review then deployed sociometric badges with the executives, to distribute them as they pleased. These ‘sociometers’ as they are referred to, automatically measure the amount of face-to-face interaction with other people.

“The data collected over some weeks showed that when a salesperson increased interactions with co-workers on other teams- that is increased exploration- by 10%, his or her sales also grew by 10%.”

However, these spaces are not what could be deemed quiet. Considering the focus on interaction and the number of companies within any given space, it’s often isn’t a quiet working area. As much as employees need interaction, quiet time to concentrate and complete tasks. This is a downfall for such spaces. 

Another idea surrounding this is that people who choose to work in these co-working spaces intentionally interact with members of different kinds of organisations, which results in a sort of community of social interaction and learning.

A 2011 Deskmag survey of more than 1,500 co-workers in 52 countries supported this idea with the results being:

  • 75% of workers reported an increase in productivity since joining their space.
  • 92% reported an increase in the size of their social circle.

An article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Why People Thrive in Co-working spaces”, outlines three reasons why these shared spaces are said to work:

– People who use these spaces see their work as meaningful

Because of the range of different work and different companies existing in these spaces, there isn’t a constant pressure of competitiveness or internal politics. People are able to see the impact they are having on the company, and ultimately find meaning through doing so.

– People have more job control

Considering that a lot of these work spaces are open 24/7, workers are free to come and go as they please, meaning that a work-life balance is much more attainable than the regular hours of 9-5 as many offices adopt.

– People feel part of a community

This community consists of people offering to help one another, and interacting with a range of people from different companies. As stated earlier, this increases the level of productivity in most cases, and allows for better results for companies and individuals.

Photo: Deskmag/ Wikimedia

Ben Cherrie is the head of content at Workplace Arcade which have Melbourne and Dallas officers, and used the co-working spaces for both. 

Workplace Arcade is a company based around increasing productivity and output through games and rewards.

For a company such as Workplace Arcade, who have started around six years ago, advertising and getting the name out there is important. Co-working spaces don’t offer branding or opportunities to advertise the company. Alternatively, small office buildings at least have the name of the business printed somewhere so that passers by can see what the company is. 

Considering that Cherrie works for a company involved in motivating staff for other companies, one would assume that management understand how to keep staff motivated and involved. Arcade uses co-working spaces for both their Melbourne and Dallas offices.

Cherrie states,

“Workplace Arcade uses co-working offices because of: The flexibility they offer when scaling our team; the benefits of the professional fit-outs, and the networking culture they cultivate”.

Cherrie continues,

“If we have a great company culture, keep staff challenged, and have an environment that’s conducive, they’ll love their job.”

These spaces offer a healthy and fresh alternative to the offices that have stayed the same for so long.  Although there are drawbacks, for small businesses and start-ups, co-working spaces are a good place to keep staff happy and get work done 




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