In New Worker Magazine, Stefan Bhagwandin wonders about “The sustainability of luxury coworking spaces”. I’m not sure what exactly marks a “luxury” coworking space, but he is correct that many spaces feature “amenities”, décor, and “a fun social vibe” that attracts coworkers to join the community.
Bhagwandin certainly has a good point that “the owners of these spaces will have to rely on more than first impressions if they want to retain customers.”
He’s particularly concerned whether coworking spaces are actually good places to work, and, in particular, if the conviviality and “fun” actually contribute to productive work. Or is the community networking a distraction?
An “ineffective coworking space”, he suggests, isn’t balancing or integrating work and life, it is “forcing play into your life at the cost of work.” Ouch!
I don’t know how many coworking spaces fit this picture, but I can understand the concern. I’ve worked in conventional offices where there was pressure to participate in “mandatory fun”, which might be good for group cohesion, but often was a pain in the butt.
Bhagwandin concludes with the point that, long term, a coworking space needs to meet the needs of the workers, which is work, not shiny amenities.
I think he is basically right about this challenge. However, the picture is more complex.
First, coworking is not necessarily simply about “productivity” of the individual independent worker. Many people value coworking for the creativity, “serendipity”, collaboration, and networking. Also, many people find useful “cotivation” in various forms, accountability and mutual support. Conviviality may indeed cost some time and distraction, but it may also pay back dividends in “serendipity” and creative boost. Clearly, some workers will value these aspects more than other workers will.
Second, the entire question of what is “fun” versus “distracting” is different for different people, and even the same person wants different things on different days. Keggers and nerf gun battles are fun when you are twenty, and maybe when things are going good. At other times, you need to be heads down and push to the deadline. And older workers, married workers, parents, might not enjoy singles parties and all nighters.
The good news is that, like local coffee shops and cafes, we can have many different coworking spaces, which can feature different kinds of “fun”, and all kinds of “networking’ happening.
- Stefan Bhagwandin, (2016) The sustainability of luxury coworking spaces. New Worker Magazine, http://newworker.co/mag/the-sustainability-of-luxury-coworking-spaces/
What is Coworking?