Michael Kordvani looks at how coworking and the experiential economy is changing the way we live and work in urban environments.
They say happiness doesn’t come from owning stuff but from getting the experience stuff can provide. If that is the truth, then sharing a coworking space in NYC is as good as making part-time co-living arrangements with people who get you, have unlimited knowledge to share and nurture an electric collective.
It not only raises the bar for what a startup accelerator actually is, but also adds to the increasingly growing culture of social sharing which permeates our working lives in tiny and not so unexpected ways. For example, the WeWork and Meetup merger initiative is a smart business move, and so much more. It shows a sense that the asset-free lifestyle is getting more popular across the board – for coworking spaces, as well as for homes and in free time.
In coworking spaces, people work together. However, they also socialise. In the buzz of the metropolitan, a coworking space is a picture-perfect example of how fast the meaning of this changes.
Designing emotionally and socially intelligent shared spaces
People who participate in a creative and urban sharing economy are motivated by a number of sustainability and social factors. As usual, big cities are typical harbingers of change where coworking collectives become stories worth paying attention to. The profound shift toward less individual ownership of physical products and the accompanying evolving self-identities have a lot to do with the digitalisation, and at least something to do with emotional intelligence. We have our work-life balance needs met: we feel happy at the office and satisfied when we take the way home.
There is a famous quote by Lynn Jurich, the CEO of Sunrun, picturing the essence of the coworking culture and its impact on our lifestyle structures: “The new status symbol isn’t what you own – it’s what you’re smart enough not to own”. It seems there is some sharp truth to this saying, especially when you consider the effects of sharing on IT organisations which have been, in a way, traditionally known to dedicate less resources to soft skills. This in turn affects the work life balance of developers, designers and everyone else put into the mixture of startup industries.
Apart from seeing the effects of coworking spaces on boosting people’s emotional intelligence in person, we’ve also seen the immense impact on customers. After all, understanding people has never been a secret interest of digital marketers. A coworking office is an ideal place to hone those skills.
Coworking creates knowledge microclusters
A shared office can be a real knowledge lab. It’s like having your own academic library and business consultancy at the same time. A shared presence in a joint environment stimulates knowledge exchange among colleagues. Proximity is a powerful collaboration stimulator and knowledge transmitter. The sheer co-presence creates a bubbly innovative energy. Spending only one such day or even half a day in a coworking space in NYC is enough to get the drill.
The arguments in favour of what is so great to keep a flexible stake at a workplace are many. No one can deny the costly startup adventures when a digital company tries to find it space under the competitive market sun. A shared cost means less risk, so risk kudos saved here can be spent where they are needed most – in coming up with intelligent digital solutions to old business problems. Coworking spaces become social innovation labs.
A new outlook on social spaces
Nonetheless, it’s not all about the economy, the knowledge and the innovation. This has to have its impact on social restructuring, right? No wonder coworking spaces are getting into the media focus and become a public policy tool. They are turning a stale mechanical age into creative and connected digital cities. The lines between technological and social categories get blurred. Now, perhaps, we get to see even more sense in that move made by WeWork from the beginning of this text. We are sharing workspaces and boosting new ways of socialising in one-of-a-kind urban conglomerates.
Can we assume the next steps of this hybridisation? When you are thrown into the mix in the now, you can gain a wider perspective only by looking few years back from a point in future. Yet, it seems that coworking spaces’ beneficial impact is not only in the area of work socialisation and business effectiveness. Personal lives are affected, too. Look no further than Airbnb. It totally changed the meaning of travelling, hospitality and property ownership. Moreover, people working together report happier families, increased generosity toward others and a greater sense of belonging.
In the end, we don’t need all that research to tell us that something significant is happening in how we work and live. The next best place for space catalysts from the likes of coworking spaces may be in housing. Boundaries are shrinking.