How we work has changed more since the start of the pandemic than it has over the previous two decades. Some are calling it a revolution because employee preferences are dictating the future of the office environment.
Coworking is one trend that is surfacing. Until now it’s been an obscure option used by freelancers and startups. In other words, this option wasn’t on the radar of anyone who worked full-time in a corporate office in 2019. With the number of remote employees increasing exponentially, coworking could be a viable option to stay productive while avoiding feelings of isolation.
Understand the pros and cons of coworking, and how it can benefit employees beyond the pandemic:
What Is Coworking?
Coworking spaces have been on the map for freelancers, small businesses, and consultants since 2005. The concept has been gaining traction for years, but the COVID-19 surge in remote work has transformed the market.
Today, coworking spaces are growing at a rate of 24.2% each year. Building owners are now thinking about opening coworking spaces rather than traditional office spaces for lease. These facilities allow different kinds of workers to take advantage of flexible office space. They also offer remote workers a chance at fostering productive and collaborative environments.
How do they work exactly? Workers enroll in flexible memberships granting them access to the space when they need it. They can utilize the space daily, weekly, monthly, or in custom-built schedules. Some coworking spaces are even open 24/7.
Workers from a number of different companies may be sharing the space at one time. Established companies may balk at this option, but the fact is successful businesses like Uber and Instagram both got their starts in coworking environments.
Pros and Cons of Coworking Spaces
The coworking model is advantageous for people who work remotely from home. A change of scenery fosters inspiration, and an office space is often needed for face-to-face business meetings.
Coworking spaces are fully equipped with office furniture, Wifi, kitchen spaces, and conference rooms. Some even offer complimentary coffee or snacks. Their mission is to provide pleasant environments to support creativity. Many workers thrive in a structured environment, where they report to the same office at the same time every day. Coworking spaces can help maintain that consistency for remote workers.
READ: How HR Can Enhance the Experience for Remote Workers
Forty-two percent of the American workforce was remote at the beginning of 2021. That amount will likely decrease as offices reopen nationwide, yet remote work isolation has been an unintended side effect.
Communal workspaces provide a sense of community for remote workers. Experts from many backgrounds can collaborate and share inspiration. They can even help each other solve complex problems.
While coworking is effective for many workers, it does have drawbacks. The first being a lack of privacy. Coworking spaces can be noisy and distracting, and there’s a potential for leaked information. These shared spaces can also be problematic for remote workers, freelancers, or consultants if the hours are only 9 to 5. These types of workers rarely follow traditional schedules.
Remote Work Breeds Isolation
There is evidence that coworking is a positive experience for some workers. The big question is whether coworking is a solution to work from home loneliness? There are consequences to continual isolation. Employees can become depressed, may lose motivation, and eventually quit their jobs.
On the flip side, there are remote workers who don’t want to return to the office over health concerns or because of the convenience factor.
Humans are social creatures and there’s no doubt we all benefit from the occasional office visit. Some companies have already recognized this balancing act between working at home and not succumbing to isolation. They’re addressing employee needs and discovering that coworking reduces real-estate costs, increases productivity, and improves staff retention.
The Harvard Business Review discovered in 2015 that employees thrive in coworking spaces. They reported being better off than those with similar roles in the office. Those surveyed said they preferred avoiding office politics or competition. They also valued job autonomy and being part of a unique community of creative minds.
From a logistics standpoint, they can still work remotely from anywhere in the world. But, they use coworking space for an occasional change of scenery or business meeting. Some companies are even providing stipends for remote workers to find these spaces.
Overcoming the Loneliness of Remote Work
Working from home has so many benefits and it’s no surprise that many employees want to keep doing it through the foreseeable future. Feelings of isolation affect everyone differently. Some may never experience this part of remote work, while others may be struggling with depression or a lack of motivation.
Coworking provides a solution for the latter. Employees working remotely can still get their social fix and community through coworking spaces.
The question remains about whether employers are game or fear the lack of privacy that coworking spaces afford? What do you think? Write to Editor@hrexchangenetwork.com to share your thoughts about coworking spaces and whether this is something you would offer your remote employees.