What Flexible Workspaces Have Taught Corporates About Fostering Community

Team of creative people looking at colleague showing project plan on his laptop. Diverse group of young people having a meeting at the office. They are discussing about new project.

“Because people’s primary commitments lie elsewhere, the workplace will never be a true community.”

While this might have been true back in 1985, when Byron WJ wrote it in his abstract for the academic paper The Workplace as a community: promoting employee satisfaction, we cannot say the same applies to today’s workplace culture.

Byron WJ was right, however, by noting that “the workplace will be better if employees show concern and respect for coworkers and if employers celebrate traditions, recognize achievement, and encourage creative thinking.”

He believed that in order to foster a supportive workplace culture, employers needed to offset excessive competition; which he believed could be done by doing the following: “(1) provide communication outlets, (2) faster loyalty to the job by providing attractive surroundings and benefits, (3) promote cooperation by allowing employees to participate in decision making.”

His proposals are as relevant today as they were back in the late 1980s, especially considering the current work revolution and the demands of the new workforce generation. Life and work are no longer two separate elements in a person’s life; more and more we are seeing how individuals seek a work-life balance that allows them to succeed professionally while also maintaining healthy personal relationships and ties. Flexibility has been the top enabler towards this balance.

And flexible workspaces have been at the front and center of this movement, providing workers with workspaces that have flexible lease terms, are affordable, a short commute away, and offer benefits like a community, snacks, access to technology, networking, events, and learning opportunities.

Flexible workspaces have facilitated making connections and have revolutionized how professionals see the ‘office’. Taking Byron WJ’s proposals, flexible workspaces do provide:

(1) communication outlets–via social media, in person, and with the rest of members;

(2) attractive surroundings and benefits–flexible workspaces tend to adopt the latest design trends, offer benefits like access to unique events and workshops, and foster collaboration;

(3) they promote cooperation by allowing everyone to participate in decision making–allowing members to choose events and workshops to host, and provide suggestions for improvement.

Corporates and businesses have seen how these spaces have been able to create and foster communities that are strong and supportive. Which is why some companies have decided to adopt flexible workspace design models, incorporating open plan spaces to their offices, as well as lounge areas that allow for employees to connect with one another.

This sense of community may help ‘save’ companies by building more positive cultures. In past years, “somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. In the United States in particular, many great enterprises, along with the country’s legendary sense of enterprise, have been collapsing as a consequence.” – HBR, 2009

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Fortunately, companies and businesses alike are starting to realize that they are only as strong and as successful as their employees feel, just like flexible workspaces can be successful as long as its members are successful themselves. This is where a strong sense of company culture and community comes in.

With companies and businesses adopting new workplace design and models, they’ve been able to replicate the interactions that are common in a flexible workspace, where open plan environments foster interaction and collaboration. Whereas in traditional offices, where employees were separated by department or speciality, implementing new design models has allowed staff from different areas to connect and collaborate with one another–fostering a stronger sense of community and opening up even more the available communication channels.

Flexible workspaces have taught corporates how to foster community through interaction, open-plan and transparent design models, and a genuine feel to collaborate and help one another without letting competition get in the way. It’s about workers wanting to be in the workplace as opposed of having to be there. 


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