By Lucinda Hewitson
At the beginning of October, Diversity Inclusion moved into our new coworking space at Intersect. We’ve graduated from an office with shared facilities (i.e. meeting room and kitchen) to a space that we share with many other businesses. Coworking refers to “the use of an office or other working environment by people who are working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge”.
Coworking was created in San Francisco in 2004 and coworking facilities now exist across the globe. Research indicates that the number of coworking seats available is roughly doubling each year as people recognise the associated benefits, including reduced costs, more environmentally friendly workspaces and increased productivity. For us, one of the key benefits is the opportunity to meet new people every day in our workspace. This enables us to collaborate with many different people with a range of skills and experiences, as well as to raise awareness of our business and broaden our networks. Working in this space also provides us with first-hand experience and insight into the benefits, and also the challenges, of adopting new ways of working. This in turn helps us to provide advice to clients when assisting them to uptake flexible working and activity-based working.
From my research into coworking prior to our move, I learned about the concept of workplace collisions, which refers to the incidental interactions we share with others at work. In a traditional workplace, these collisions tend to be limited to your immediate team or to those who work alongside you. In a coworking space, where many businesses and teams share the same workspaces and facilities, the potential for workplace collisions is far greater (and their nature more varied). From a traditional managerial perspective, these collisions may not be considered a good thing but rather a distraction from work that is best kept to a minimum (the traditional cubicle or office workplace design is functional in this respect). However, new perspectives suggest that these incidental interactions are key facilitators of innovation, productivity and overall business success.
A 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Workspaces that Move People reports on research, which suggests that more social collisions at work generate increases in sales. In one organisation that sought to bring together the members of different teams within a social setting, the strategic positioning of a coffee machine and new cafeteria area was successful in generating a sales increase of 20%.
Adopting new ways of working is also a great enabler to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Flexible workplaces are more adaptable to change, and are better able to both attract and retain diverse talent. Individuals who work in organisations that embrace future work practices report feeling empowered to make decisions about when and where they work, and trusted to deliver their work, both of which contribute to a more innovative and productive workforce.
In the two months since our move, the Diversity Inclusion team has taken advantage of the new opportunities afforded to us by our coworking space, and already we have experienced the benefits firsthand. My network has grown; during the past three weeks I’ve used my new connections with co-located experts to help me achieve my business goals. My new connections have also asked me to support them in turn, which has boosted my business exposure.
In preparation for our move to coworking, the Diversity Inclusion team created our Transition to New Ways of Workingpre-test and post-test survey. Each member of the team completed the pre-test prior to the move and will shortly complete the post-test. The results will examine how coworking has changed the way we work and, in particular, how it has affected our overall business performance.
We will share these results in an upcoming blog. In the meantime, Diversity Inclusion would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences relating to coworking or other future work options. Please take part in the discussion and leave us a comment.