Generally speaking, co-working refers to people who use a common workspace but are not employed by the same organization, for example, those who share space at WORKPOINT, Serendipity Labs, or Stamford Innovation Center. However, the definition is expanding. Increasingly, the term is being used by companies who dedicate spaces to accommodate work-at-home employees who need an occasional check-in with headquarters, and mobile sales forces or visiting clients. The concept also can be applied to spaces for workers who need more flexibility throughout the day than the typical 60 S.F. footprint/per person can achieve. This might include someone who collaborates most of the time but occasionally needs a quiet space for a focused task.
Regardless of whether the employee has a permanent desk, or is transient, the need to have a flexible work environment that offers different settings is universal.
Harvard Business Review has conducted ongoing research about why co-workers seem to thrive. A 2015 article notes: “Our research suggests that the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who co-work demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts. But what matters the most for high levels of thriving is that people who co-work have substantial autonomy and can be themselves at work.”
Corporate America is recognizing this and taking notes from co-working models. Harvard Business Review continues: “Our advice to traditional companies who want to learn from co-working spaces is to give people the space and support to be their authentic selves. The result will be employees who feel more committed to your organization and are more likely to bring their best energy and ideas to the office each day. Even if it is corporate headquarters.”
Remedy Partners, a young, innovative healthcare technology company, with offices in Darien, CT, and New York City, is applying these strategies in its new space. While designated seats of open collaborative benching can be used for teaming, there also are opportunities for those who need heads-down time. The communal library, a quiet space meant for heads-down tasks, offers a destination for employees to work in an open room setting. Within the room are semi-private areas like carrels, and an open communal table. The space is separated visually and acoustically from the rest of the office. It is a “no phone zone.” This library concept supports other research that suggests millennials are comfortable working in libraries, a carryover from college. These quiet spaces also can be multi-functional, serving as meeting or presentation space.
Employers are finding that providing an environment of supportive and diverse work styles has a positive impact on recruitment and retention, a true benefit.