A recent study cited in a Harvard Business Review article found that coworkers—professionals working out of a coworking space—reported on average levels of thriving close to 6 on a 7-point scale. Thriving is “shaped by the context in which individuals are embedded,” and is closely linked to positive effect, negatively correlated with burnout, and correlated with increased job productivity. As job satisfaction steadily declines and employees continually struggle with work-life balance, what is the magic of coworking that allows coworkers to thrive—to feel energized and motivated to learn?

Coworking spaces are defined as membership-based workspaces in which a diverse group of professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers work together in a collaborative environment. A natural extension of the sharing economy, coworking spaces provide an alternative to the home office, the coffee shop, and even the corporate office. Coworkers, varying widely in profession, industry, and function, are united both in their passion for their work and by the synergistic coworking culture.

Open spaces allow coworkers to easily choose and change their work environment. | Creative Coworking, Evanston

It is no surprise that people who work in coworking spaces are thriving. 

Following a survey of several hundred coworking members across the United States, the researchers found three substantial predictors of thriving:

1. Coworkers see their work as meaningful.

Many of the coworkers who were interviewed said that they find meaning in being able to bring their whole selves to work. Community members are engaged in different projects, working for different companies, and invested in different ventures, so there is little direct competition, and coworkers don’t feel like they need to “fit in.” In fact, working among people who do different work than one’s own creates a stronger identification with one’s own work.

2. Coworkers have more job control.

Coworking spaces often have extended hours, allowing coworkers to choose when they want to work. Some may choose to start the day later and work through the night, while others may leave work for a few hours to hit the gym. While coworkers have significantly more flexibility and autonomy than those in corporate office settings, they also have some sense of structure through the coworking community, which can help keep them accountable and motivated.

3. Coworkers are part of a community.

Bring dozens of people with extremely varied skill sets together, and collaboration is almost inevitable, helping to create an authentic community. Furthermore, the structure of most coworking spaces is inherently geared toward community-building without forcing socialization. With spaces for quiet work, meetings, and socialization, coworkers can move fluidly from intensely concentrated work to more social networking and relationship building.

As the workforce shifts to increasingly value both community and productivity, coworking spaces—and coworkers—will undoubtedly continue to thrive.

Stephanie Chang, Intern