You might have heard talk about co-working spaces, and the promise of a boost in productivity and innovation.
What is co-working?
It is a fairly new style of working that involves a shared working environment, usually an office, where individuals are typically not employed by the same organisation. The individuals work independently but are typically attracted by the same interest of working in the same location as others who prioritise innovation. Those using the space might be contractors, people who travel frequently, small start-ups, and those that usually work from home. The hope is that by working with others who are also coming up with fresh ideas, it will spark creativity and a hotbed of thought leadership.
Are employees happier?
Some research carried out a couple of years ago showed that 70% of those working in co-working spaces felt healthier than they did in a traditional office setting. Even more compelling was the fact that 90% said they felt more confident when co-working. The positive outcomes associated with co-working went on. So this got me thinking about what it is about these environments that makes people thrive, and can we take any learnings into more traditional office spaces?
Transforming traditional office spaces
Internal politics – what internal politics?
Typically break out groups from organisations working on a specific project locate themselves in co-working spaces. Since there is less hierarchy within their environment, individuals suffer less from the pressure of internal politics. Within a traditional office environment, floor plans should be examined and particularly where project groups are formed, it would be useful to seat them together with room to interact and innovate as a team.
Sharing is caring
In these environments, individuals typically have a wide range of skill sets which they often come to share as part of the relationships that are built. From a traditional office layout perspective, individuals with similar skill sets typically sit together and there are clear benefits of that approach. However, having break out areas within traditional office spaces and encouraging cross functional working would be beneficial, and mirror the co-working experience.
Co-working spaces are usually open 24/7, so individuals can choose when they want to work, and fit it around other commitments such as the gym or being with family and friends. Work life balance is nothing new but many traditional offices do not encourage round the clock working because of overheads, and the concern of productivity being lost from people not being around at the same time. So I think this one would have limited use in most organisations in its purest form, but I do think that having core office hours for people to be present and then wider open hours for flexibility would be a great takeaway from co-working.
There are some very clear advantages of co-working that encourage innovation and employee satisfaction. There are some aspects of co-working that could be transplanted into traditional offices to reap some of the rewards. However, co-working remains to have a fairly specific use case which seems to work best for the younger generation of start-ups who desire flexibility, and to work around others who are also innovative.
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