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Als freiberufliche Grafik-Designerin ist es mir wichtig mich mit anderen austauschen zu können. In einer Atmosphäre wie dem Work Inn und mit meinen Coworkern habe ich diese Möglichkeit, genauso wie ich es früher mit meinen Arbeitskollegen hatte. Darüber hinaus ist das Büro eine willkommene Abwechslung zu den eigenen vier Wänden.
The coworking conference in Barcelona covered several interesting topics. One of them was “storytelling” which was discussed by a panel consisting of Tony Bacigalupo (New Work City, New York), Liz Elam (Link Coworking/GCUC, Austin TX), Alberto Bassi (Lab 121, Alessandria), Yvonne Firdaus (GarageBilk, Düsseldorf) and moderated by Julianne Becker.
Here are their tips on how to explain what coworking means to potential new members:
Sometimes it is difficult to help potential coworkers see what the real “product” is. Tony Bacigalupo would put it like this:
But the best way to make “outsiders” and coworkers understand the true value of coworking is by letting the coworkers of the respective space tell their stories. They can do so by writing blog posts for the space, by taking part in a video about the space like Indy Hall coworkers did, or by simply talking about their coworking story whenever a potential member enters the space and asks for a tour.
A vibrant community is the heart and soul of a coworking space. Hence, it is a vital task of a coworking space operator to foster networking among coworkers.
The following five categories to strengthen a community are based on the theory, outlined in “Community and Community Management” (below), as well as on our research.
Networking facilitation: Especially shy or very busy coworkers need help getting to know their “colleagues”. Hence, networking facilitation could foster knowledge sharing, shared interests, a sense of belonging and integration.
Integration in decisions: This might be a difficult point and coworking space operators might not want customers to “muddle” in their affairs. However, even an integration in smaller decision processes are already appreciated by users:
Feedback or pitch sessions: This might be a very valuable tool both for the community as well as for the individual coworker.The feedback that coworkers gather can be very helpful for their business. Additionally, the members who contributed ideas feel attached (emotional connection) to the project and person because they had influence. Thus, this creates a shared interest – namely that the project of the other coworker succeeds.
Talks and Workshops: Events like this can help to create shared skills, knowledge sharing, personal involvement and influence. Additionally, it can bring new people into the space and thus attract new members. A starting point could be to ask the current coworkers if somebody would like to give a talk about his/her job/hobby etc. (e.g. “lunch and learn” with a 30 min presentation about any topic). Here a members’ board might also be handy.
Social Events: These events would foster shared memories, integration, emotional connections, a sense of belonging and depending on the layout personal involvement and influence.
According to Eysenck’s extraversion and arousal theory (1967) and successive findings (Wilt & Revelle, 2009, p. 31) introversion and extraversion determine whether people prefer to work in a quiet or a busy surrounding (Helgoe, 2010, p. 60). In order to achieve optimal task-performance, people try to maintain moderate levels of arousal (Wilt & Revelle, 2009, p. 32). Findings have shown that extraverts need more stimuli (Hagemann et al., 2009, p. 717) to reach this ideal state (see graphic) and thus tend to seek arousal for instance through social interaction (Wilt & Revelle, 2009, p. 32) while introverts try to minimize external stimuli (Helgoe, 2010, p. 60).
The hypothesis in our study thus stated that people who are extraverted are more interested in coworking because they need a busy atmosphere to reach a level of arousal which enables them to work effectively in contrast to introverted people who need a quiet surrounding. This is also reflected in our results. Professionals who expressed interest in coworking stated that they prefer a busy work atmosphere (43%) while those who are not considering the service tended to prefer a quiet workplace (30%) and state that having people around them during work (50%) and noise (78%) deters them from coworking.
What does this mean for coworking space operators?
Are there 50% less potential coworkers than we thought?
In general we can expect to find more extraverted coworkers than introverted. However, coworking space operators can create a suitable space for people who need a quiet surrounding to work like a separate room or by using room dividers and noise insulation elements. Introverted coworkers can thus enjoy the company of other members during their breaks and retreat to their quiet spots for work.
Many professionals experience their home office to be isolating (Osnowitz, 2005, p. 89). Studies on mobile workers (Venezia, Allee & Schwabe, 2008, p. 62; Spinuzzi, 2012, p. 401) as well as primary sources produced by home workers (e.g. blogs and articles: Durban, 2010, pp. 232 f.; Conely, 2012, online) clearly show that feelings of isolation are a potential threat in the home office. Additionally, a deficiency of exposure during working hours can have negative impacts on the social network and thus the professional’s business. Moreover, solitude during about seven hours per day can lead to a “lack of motivation and increasing dissatisfaction” (Locke, 2005, p. 19), eroding work-life boundaries (Spinuzzi, 2012, p. 402) as well as “comfort eating, caffeine overdoses and […] serious depression” (Conely, 2012, online).
According to Umberson and Montez, from the University of Texas at Austin, writing for the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the effects of isolation can be even more dramatic (e.g. “recurrent myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, high blood pressure […]” (Umberson & Montez, 2010, p. 55). Due to a lack of in-person social contact during working hours, home workers are less exposed to healthy behaviour of others (e.g. taking breaks, drinking sufficient amounts of water, remarks upon health screenings) and thus cannot profit from the proven salubrious influence of these social ties (House, 2001, online, par. 8). Umberson and Montez stress that “[s]olid scientific evidence shows that social relationships affect a range of health outcomes, including mental health, healthy habits and mortality risk” (Umberson & Montez, 2010, p. 62).
Both participants of our own study and those in deskmag survey (60%, 2012, p. 27) reported to feel healthier since they started coworking. Additionally, we found that professionals who are considering to start coworking hope for a healthier work-life balance (57%) but are not aware of the positive effects coworking can have for their health.
Hence, it is important for the coworking movement to research coworking and its benefits further and to spread the findings so that potential coworkers are made aware of the merits the concept offers.
My research has shown that coworking is not very well known outside the
coworking community, yet. Especially among translators co-working means something totally different, namely translating a text together. Hence, when I started to write about
coworking, everybody said: "Well, I don't do co-working and, by the way, you have to write it with
a hyphen." The very best comment was: "What is cow orking?" At first I thought that person wanted to tell me a joke about cows until I realized that he was referring to the headline of one of my
texts about coworking.
So, what does coworking mean? Is it a new concept? Does it come from the agricultural industry? Or is it just a common typo?
If it was, more than 4,850,000 people would have written it wrong so far according to Google!
The concept of coworking still lacks an agreed upon definition. There are, however, several working definitions available:
All of these descriptions include two major themes: a flexible work space and community spirit. Hence it can be said that:
As the concept of coworking is spreading (see deskmag research results), we can hope that in future it will be less often confused with an agricultural concept or pointed out as a typo!
So, don't forget:
A community can be based on a variety of shared assets. These can be material such as a shared place and resources or immaterial such as shared language, memories,
skills, knowledge, values and interests (van den Broek, 2013). The assets can be understood as pillars on which a community is build. From this basis, a sense of community can develop within the
group. This, according to McMillan and Chavis (1986), consist of membership, integration and fulfilment of needs, influence and shared emotional connections. The membership consists of the
boundaries, emotional safety, a sense of belonging, personal involvement and a common symbol which unites the individuals. Hence, a sense of community results from the emotions and attitudes of the individual members as well as their interactions with the group.
As coworking spaces “sell” community to their customers, it is important for the operators to nourish and foster the formation of social ties among coworkers. Luckily, coworking spaces, due to their concept, provide at least three of the above described foundations of a community (place, resources and language). However, as communities grow stronger the more pillars are utilized, operators might want to try to establish shared memories, knowledge sharing and a common sense of values and interests among their members as well.
Practical ideas on how coworking spaces can tackle this challenge will be presented in the next text on community management. See you then.
DeGuzman & Tang (2011) Working in the “Unoffice”. San Francisco: Night Owls Press
McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. 1986. "Sense of community: A definition and theory." American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.
Schabsky (2013) Nextwork – A business plan.
Van den Broek (2013) “The life and death of communities.” In deskmag (online) Available from: http://www.deskmag.com/en/27-02-13-the-life-and-death-of-communities [Accessed 09/09/13]