How Coworking Spaces Affect Employees’ Professional Identities

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Since the first coworking space appeared in 2005, over 14,000  have opened around the world. While the earlier generation sought to provide independent workers with resources and support that couldn’t be found at home, coffee shops, or other nomadic locations, today’s spaces have evolved into businesses that also support the needs of large organizations. Some use it to house employees located in remote locations, relieving them from the expense of a long-term lease. Other small businesses and early stage ventures that have uncertain headcount projections or business growth rates operate entirely from coworking spaces due to the spatial flexibility.

Over the past several years, researchers Peter Bacevice, Gretchen Spreitzer, Hilary Hendricks and Daniel Davis have studied how these environments impact individual workers, taking into account the amenities, branding, aesthetics, and unique cultures created from diverse people and companies working together under one roof. In the March-April 2019 Harvard Business Review, they recapped their earlier findings that workers benefit from coworking spaces more than traditional offices. Specifically, workers experience greater levels of flexibility ,  sense of community , ability to network, and thriving  (defined as vitality and learning at work).

Furthermore, the author’s revealed their new research which looks at the previously unknown impacts of coworking on the businesses for which those coworkers actually work. That research set out to answer the question: “How do highly curated coworking cultures impact the
professional identities of members
and their organizations?”

The authors wanted to know to what extent members identify with the culture of their coworking space and whether or not this impacts the extent to which they identify with their company or employer. After all, organizations invest valuable resources nurturing connectivity among employees and developing work cultures. But, in a coworking space that houses multiple organizations, there are multiple messages, norms, and values, competing for each worker’s attention.

Between 2017 and 2018, Bacevice, Spreitzer, Hendricks and Davis collaborated with WeWork to survey over 1,000...

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