We already know, working in shared workspaces is good for employees.
Research has shown that, compared to traditional offices, those who work in coworking spaces report greater flexibility and ability to network, as well as a stronger sense of community.
But what are the consequences on companies? And how does the business-employee relationship change if there is no longer an office to seal it? Some researchers from the University of Michigan have tried to understand how the culture of coworking affects the professional identity of workers and their companies. The results of their study, reported by the Harvard Business Review, are surprising. The study was conducted from 2017 to 2018 in collaboration with an important American coworking chain, of which more than a thousand new members were interviewed in the United States. Their opinions were collected cyclically, so as to observe their evolution with the passage of time.
Coworking strengthens the worker-company bond
A first survey asked new members how much they agreed with statements such as “I have a lot in common with others in coworking” and “I have a lot in common with others in my company” to determine if they identified more with the culture.
Researchers expected that the link with the coworking space would strengthen over time while that with employers would gradually weaken, thus reducing the benefits of worker-company identification. Instead, the results showed the opposite: “We observed that the link with your company was significantly higher than that with the workspace itself”.
Incredibly, working in remote coworking does not affect the worker-company bond, but it strengthens it. (source)
Coworking and professional identity
Researchers questioned the participants further, asking them if and how coworking affected their professional identity. Their responses highlighted three key themes:
1. Sense of professionalism
Working in real workspaces – and not from home or from a coffee table – gives employees a sense of professionalism and makes them more credible in the eyes of others. Some participants spoke of the workplace as a “legitimation” of their professional seriousness; others said they feel proud and confident working in coworking spaces located in prestigious areas. More than half defined the location as a significant benefit.
2. Employees’ value
Relocating part of employees by forcing them to work remotely can make them feel like second-class workers compared to their colleagues in the office.
Coworking solves this problem: “Employees who have a contracted office feel that their employer takes their needs seriously, regardless of where they are located. This way they know that their company attributes the same value to them as their colleagues who do not work remotely, “reports the Harvard Business Review. This is what emerges from the responses of the participants: “I feel as if my company values me. The atmosphere gives my work a sense of importance “, said one of the interviewees.
3. Corporate image
The atmosphere and the innovative design of the shared spaces have a significant impact on the relationship with customers. The choice to adopt a new way of working such as coworking gives the idea of a cool company open to change, with positive implications in terms of visibility and business growth.
“Having a coworking base helps our company to appear energetic and focused on the future, and not old-fashioned and anchored in the past,” said one participant.
An economic, strategic, and cultural choice
The results of the study tell us a lot about the world of coworking. The decision to work in these spaces comes from practical reasons and economic advantages, but not only: it is primarily a cultural choice. They are workspaces where the assimilation of different visions, ideas and cultures takes place. Professional spaces, capable of strengthening the pride and self-confidence of employees, fueling their self-awareness as workers.
They are spaces for sharing and creating sociality but at the same time they strengthen the bond of the individual with the company to which they belong.
Choosing coworking means creating solid and aware individual and professional identities but encouraging the growth of individual workers and the companies that represent them.