Is it too dramatic to say shared workspaces are the future? No, no it's not.

Aug 23, 2017 10:57:05 AM

Why are you here? Not here as on this planet—that would take years of work with a psychologist, monk, and physicist, and we can only hope to help along the way. I mean here as in, why do you use a shared workspace and what does it say about your society? It may interest you to know your preference is backed by research into human nature, and your actions are helping form and further shifting global trends.

Redefining Work

The fluid workspace is an increasingly relevant staple, and one under intensive study.  More and more people don't work in a traditional office or at home.  By 2020, about half of the workforce is expected to be freelance (4,6).    

It makes sense. Exponential use of tech like social media, smarter smartphones, and real time connectivity are decreasing the need for traditional work times and spaces. Companies can cut overhead and find competitive services by hiring contractors.  But in this atmosphere, the rise of the individual business, personal branding, and a tailored product can yield greater success for the contractor as well (4).

Current large-scale polling of fluid workspace users indicates employment utopia: 70% of people using a shared workspace say they feel healthier now compared to their prior time in a traditional office, and 50% are making more money (1,5,6). The same is true for creativity and productivity.

Why are these people so suspiciously happy? Is there a gas leak somewhere? (We don't endorse that kind of behavior). 

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Our finest scientific minds (we hope) are studying the shared workspace phenomenon, and answers are emerging. Recent work by the Harvard Business School and the University of Michigan has attempted to quantify the quality of "thriving" in working conditions, defining it as "a psychological state in which individuals experience a sense of vitality and learning." (1-3).  Among the workplace variables studied, people using shared workspaces reported a far higher thriving quantification than their counterparts (1). Surprised, researchers conducted and analyzed extensive interviews with these blissful thrivers.

People reported thriving due to:

 a) Finding work meaningful: people who separated their work from their home and social life, and dedicated a harmonious environment to working found their labor more meaningful. They reported a more thoughtful approach and creative finished product. Can't you just feel yourself approaching inspiration? Write the next great American novel!

 b) Being one’s 'true' self: people were able to shed a "work persona" and thus the dress code, office politics, forced socialization, and constant need to be "on."  Working as oneself allowed for better concentration and output. You can finally focus on yourself instead of plotting the downfall of that guy two cubicles over. His music was too loud anyway.

c) Controlling one’s attention and environment: this last one fits neatly into neuroscience-driven studies on types of attention. Most people demonstrate two main types, controlled attention and stimulus-driven attention (3). With controlled attention, you focus intensely on a single task for a prolonged time period. Outside stimuli are blocked. You're "In the zone." With stimulus-driven attention, you're playing cat videos, people-watching, checking email, and working, all in short interwoven bursts. Many of us switch rapidly between the two during a workday or even over an hour. 

People report a greater ability to fine tune their focus and tailor their attention to projects by accessing private or less private areas and times in their shared workspaces. The ability to cycle through natural attention modes makes a vast contribution to workplace wellness and productivity (1,3).

Now you can delete emails to procrastinate, then finally panic and focus to finish a project an hour before a deadline, all in an ideal setting!

Your simple decision to join a shared workspace is driven by everything from encoded neural net patterns to a whole new economy—you're important and evolving.  If there's a brave new world, you're prepared to meet its demands. Stay tuned for our next posts, and keep "thriving!"



1) Spreitzer L, Bacevice P, and Garrett,L. "Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces." Harvard Business Review, Sept 2008.

2) Porath C, Spreitzer G, Gibson C., & Garnett, F. G. (2012). Thriving at work: toward its measurement, construct validation, and theoretical refinement. J Organ Beh., 2012;33(2):250-275.

3) Congdon C, Flynn, D, Redman, M. "Balancing 'We' and 'Me': The Best Collaborative Spaces Also Support Solitude". Harvard Business Review, Oct 2014.

4) Kaufman,M.  "Five Reasons Half of You Will be Freelancers in 2020." Forbes. Feb.2014.

5) Schneider, A. "The Rise of Coworking." Huffington Post. Oct 2016. HuffPost.

6) Emergence Research and Intuit,Inc. (2010). 2020 Annual Report, Labor Trends.

Preeti Putcha

Written by Preeti Putcha

Preeti Putcha is a science writer and current onsite host at cove. She is excited to be part of a warm and intelligent community of cove members and staff. Preeti is a lover of pattern recognition, dark humor, algorithms, the human brain, and societal implications of human behavior. In her off time she pretty much keeps reading about this stuff. Once a nerd, always a nerd.