What’s So Great About Coworking, Anyway?

Sep 20, 2017 | Jessica Ogilvie

There are plenty of perks to coworking: the free coffee, the free WiFi, the view that isn’t a wall in your house. But in addition, coworking offers tried and tested, measurable benefits for your mental health, your productivity, and your creativity. It’s become a veritable subculture that’s less about a quiet plug and desk and more about a philosophy that aims to redefine the entire international workforce.

“Coworking is a flexible model where people can take as much as they want,” says Julie Jung, the managing director at Los Angeles’ Impact Hub LA, “but also give back as much as they want.”

Coworking Is a State of Mind

The coworking community is so serious about its value system that it has a Coworking Manifesto. Created by Tony Bacigalupo, the New York-based author of No More Sink Full of Mugs: Lighten Your Workload, Increase Participation, and Build Better Culture in Your Coworking Space, the document has an impressive following; it’s been signed by more than 2,500 people, all of whom subscribe to the manifesto’s vision. The signatures are from all over the world; the first 20 alone belong to people from Lagos to Birkenhead to Calgary to Mumbai to the United States.

The Coworking Manifesto envisions a world in which “a group of connected individuals and small businesses” creates “a new economic engine composed of collaboration and community.” The core values espoused therein – nine in all – include “collaboration over competition,” “friendship over formality,” and “doing over saying.”

The Benefits of the Group

This mentality leads to an unusually excellent working environment. Business experts Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath define “thriving” at work as having a combination of passion, excitement, learning, and putting new skills to use. In coworking spaces, research suggests that people thrive at a level six out of seven. And it’s not hard to see why; the spaces attract individuals who are already motivated to do what they love.

Once there, they enjoy the added benefit of likeminded people’s energy and excitement, and learn from what’s going on around them.

Impact Hub LA is in Los Angeles’ booming Arts District, and the space tends to attract start-ups, budding nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs in addition to the typical freelance L.A. hipster type. Jung notes that members glean different benefits depending on their needs.

“The social entrepreneur jumps into an already established network,” she says. “In the nonprofit world, [Impact Hub] is a stepping ground for them as they build and continue to grow before buying really expensive real estate in L.A.”

Both types of businesses might meet collaborators as well: board members, new hires, new clients or people who can introduce them to others.

Always Open for Business

The Harvard Business Review article linked above also notes that being in an environment where everyone has unique areas of expertise also builds a members’ sense of self by allowing them to drill down into their specific skillsets, rather than being one of a staff of people doing the same thing. The fact that coworking spaces are typically open 24/7 also allows for a sense of control over your working life, adding to members’ autonomy. And if all that wasn’t enough to motivate you to try out a coworking space, most also offer social meetups, workshops, or even happy hours.

“We’ve tried a speed dating of giving the best advice you’ve ever gotten about opening up your own business,” says Jung. “That one was very popular.”