The Coworking Library held a “meetup” in Warsaw in November . The speakers discussed their current research on coworking in Europe. I’m very glad to see that coworking is (finally) attracting attention of social scientists. I’ve been saying for a long time that there is a lot of interest here, and these investigators are taking interest.
This particular meetup was fairly informal, a sort of “what have you been working on” session, rather than refereed papers. (There are papers associated with the research, but those are reported elsewhere.)
So what have these folks been working on?
The overall impression is that the big picture hasn’t changed. Coworking is still about “community, community, community”. And the reported benefits are about the same as reported many times before, including in my book.
One of the speakers (Marko Orel) discusses a taxonomy of coworking, i.e., what do people mean by the term? As he points out, the terminology has been evolving and mutation rapidly. And, I would add, the terms were never sharply defined in the first place. While creative ambiguity is beneficial for marketing and Internet yapping, it is problematic for academic research. It’s not clear that any two studies are even talking about the same thing. I look forward to his result in the future.
Another speaker (Viktoria Heinzel) is looking at “rural” coworking, which I’ve written about. It’s not clear from the slides how this concept is defined or which specific “rural” areas were studied. The summary of points seems consistent with other work on the topic, including the potential for ”recruitment & return of skilled workers/ young talents”.
Anita Füzi examined what attracts workers to a specific space. The basic finding is that social factors; i.e., “community, community, community”; are what matters most. And she points out that “One space is not better than the other”. As I have said many times, there is no one right way to do it.
The fourth speaker (Miryana Stancheva) explores the idea of looking at coworking spaces as “a living organism”, specifically, through the ideas or Erik Erikson. I’ve never studied Erikson in any detail, though I am familiar with the general topic. This approach requires applying concepts such as “ego development” to coworking. She seems to be trying to create improved coworking communities through this analysis.
I strongly agree with the importance of a developmental model. She also considers the development of satisfaction and happiness, not just numbers and revenue. But, I’ll have to reserve judgement as to whether this particular interpretive framework works well.
I mean, maybe a coworking community is like a child or a family, in some ways. But maybe not in others. For one thing, coworkers can walk away at any time. For another, there is usually very little hierarchy. And for another thing, the community is usually largely self-selected. These features probably have a major impact on both happiness and the development over time.
Overall, it is useful to have this kind of academic exchange. Too much of the discussion of coworking is Internet-grade natter, with little attempt at academic rigor or clarity. Me, I like footnotes.
It is unfortunate that there isn’t an equivalent effort on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it would be possible to add a virtual component, for those who don’t mind video-ing in from far away.
- Coworking Library. Researchers Meetup Warsaw November 13 2019. 2019, https://coworkinglibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Researchers-meetup-presentation-2019-Warsaw.pdf.