Notes On “What is Coworking?” (Part 4): Noisy versus Quiet

Coworking Notes, Part 4 of 6: “Noisy versus Quiet”

In this series of posts I am sketching the variations that can be seen in communities in coworking spaces. I discussed the variability in the overall community, and some of the “rules” that can be seen in their self-descriptive web pages, and how communities are recruited and “curated”.

One of the features of the coworking space itself is the noise level, and the amount of incidental social contact between coworkers. This is exactly the same question faced by any group workspace, except the workers are not part of the same organization or team. Furthermore, if the coworking space has a lot of nomadic workers, your coworkers will be relative strangers.

The self descriptions and public reports of coworkign spaces tell us that there is quite a bit of variability. Some spaces are designed and intended to be very “quiet”, with conversations and interaction restricted to break rooms (and phone booths). Other spaces are designed and intended to be open, “noisy” places, where coworkers are chatting, walking around, looking over shoulders, and so on. Larger coworking spaces may have separate areas with different regimes in effect.

Clearly, different tasks and personal preferences determine how these approaches might work. Also, there may have to be rules and conflict resolution. Much depends, we may suppose, on what the workers are used to and expect. This may, in fact, be one of the most potent “selectors” for who chooses one cowork space over another.

It will be important to observe a space over time to see how the inhabitants really behave (as opposed to the stated “ideal” behavior). There may be a lot of “synergy” happening in a supposedly quite writing space, and a big, “badass” bull pen may actually be calm and orderly much of the time. We’ll have to look and see.

For that matter, it would be interesting to observe the actual social networks that evolve in these communities. Who talks with who, and about what?

There are some indecipherable “codewords” used in some of the descriptions. What is “grown up”, or “spa inspired”? For that matter, what is “badass”?

More tomorrow.


This is a working note describes ideas I’m developing that will need further research. It is based on preliminary examination of we sources, though I have not given citations here. The dataset will be explained and published at a later date.

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