Coworking spaces: a social movement towards higher levels of thriving

Coworking spaces: a social movement towards higher levels of thriving

< Back to Articles | Topics: Responsible Business

Contributors:

Mina Atia
Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Intern, Communications Coordinator

There’s been a shift in workplaces over the last decade. With the rise of tech start-ups and younger entrepreneurship, businesses are moving away from the traditional office with rows of cubicles, no work/life integration, and wearing full suits in the summertime.

Coworking spaces are taking over the modern workplace. These spaces are membership-based and allow diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, entrepreneurs and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting.

This social movement aims to create spaces based on a sense of community, collaboration, learning and sustainability. They’re set up for working professionals to thrive in.

For starters, coworking spaces offer freedom and autonomy for professionals. They feel in control of their work schedule, routine and mode of operations. They decide to work when they feel most productive and able, on their own terms.

Some say it lacks the structure of the office-based counterpart, however, working in a coworking space offers motivation.

With the lack of routine and less pressure to be over-productive, professionals are more motivated. They adopt their individualistic work style, best-suited for their own needs.

“When you walk into Many Hats you will immediately notice it feels different from a traditional workspace,” says Jenine Panagiotakos, Founder and CEO of Many Hats Workspace.

“Its inspiring art pieces, warm colour tones and scent of fresh brewed coffee instantly put you at ease and create a deep sense of belonging.”

Making connections with other professionals is one of many reasons why there’s a sense of community and belonging in coworking spaces. There’s little to no direct competition between workers or internal politics to navigate. And there’s no pressure to adopt a work persona to fit in.

“Many Hats promotes collaboration over competition and is seen by many as a community, not just a workplace,” says Panagiotakos.

“Occupants can regularly be found engaging in meaningful conversations with their peers and supporting them through the ups and downs of their business journey.”

Working amongst a community of professionals from different fields with vastly different backgrounds and experiences strengthens the individual’s own work identity.

It creates a culture where it’s the norm to share expertise, help each other out professionally and develop business growth. The variety of workers provides a unique skill-set for community members to benefit from and a wealth of knowledge that can be easily tapped into.

As coworking spaces offer excellent areas for collaboration and comfort for members, these benefits also have their own obstacles. “Workspace offerings have had their challenges, mostly related to the open-office design they are normally located in,” says Pamela Dempster, owner and senior health & wellness specialist at Dempster Wellness, a corporate health & wellness firm.

“Open-office designs usually see lower cubicle workstation panel heights, which allow noise levels throughout the space to carry more and offer decreased work privacy within the cubicle space,” she says.

Coworking spaces are shared spaces based on the concept of hot desking – chairs, cubicles, desks and stations are shared by many. It presents challenges in making the furniture adjustable to many different needs.

“If the workstations and chairs are not extremely adjustable by the user, it can increase the risk of maintaining very awkward, non-neutral joint postures, which can then increase workloads throughout the body when completing computer related tasks for extended periods of time,” says Dempster.

Dempster Wellness offers assessment services, conducted by certified professional ergonomists, to evaluate furniture and equipment prior to being procured by coworking spaces.

They ensure a decreased discomfort in those spaces by selecting extremely adjustable and ergonomic working stations. They also conduct follow-up sessions to provide proper training and education on all new items.

To attract new members and meet the needs of existing members, owners of the communal spaces curate a unique experience and vibe. From coffee amenities to online platforms and services, coworking spaces offer many perks for a membership.

“Many Hats strives to offer as many conveniences as possible to its occupants such as complimentary coffee, Wi-Fi and printing services; discounts on private meeting rooms and event spaces; a professional business address to preserve anonymity; a quiet, oceanfront view; and a growing online community of entrepreneurs who are happy to connect, encourage and offer advice to other community members,” says Panagiotakos.

These types of offers are the main reason why people opt out of working from home for free or renting traditional nondescript offices.

Coworking environments are not just satisfying and productive for members. They’re also engaging members in creating the future. These environments create an edge to highly energize members and help them avoid burnout, which is harder to do in regular office spaces. Members thrive towards building their own and their company’s success when coworking.

As it has affected most businesses, COVID-19 impacted the future of coworking spaces and is rendering it uncertain.

“Before the pandemic, our workspaces were functioning at capacity with little to no vacancy – business was booming,” says Panagiotakos.

“When the pandemic hit, our meeting and event bookings quickly dropped, and we saw a sharp decline in the number of coworkers sharing space. Home offices were suddenly reinstated and many of our occupants were back to juggling work and family on the home front.”

Declining revenues forced some coworking-space owners to provide generous discounts to members. Throughout April, discounts were a major tactic to help offset costs for struggling companies and professionals plus compensate for no-longer available services due to the pandemic.

According to Dempster Wellness, coworking spaces’ open design has presented some challenges in adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

In terms of air circulation, there is a concern about ventilation and air conditioning locations in creating a proper and safe air flow within coworking spaces.

And hot desking poses the risk of increased exposure when multiple workers access the same stations in one shared space.

“Since restrictions have been lifted, I am pleased to say we are beginning to see many familiar faces again and seeing an increase in our booking and membership sales,” says Panagiotakos.

As a result, Many Hats has implemented the necessary safety measures to counteract these concerns. The coworking space has safety-guideline signs posted, antibacterial wipes and sprays handy and made rearrangements to provide more distance between members.

“I’m optimistic that we will continue to see a steady demand for coworking spaces,” says Panagiotakos. “The pandemic reinforced how essential the division between work and home life is and how important virtual resources are when tangible ones are scarce.”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Responsible Business

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