It’s Not Your Coworking Space, It’s Their Personality: Why Some Members Simply Don’t Engage

A recent study found that almost 50% of the variability in engagement can be predicted by people’s personality
  • Flexible workspace operators often have a hard time getting their introverted members to engage with others.
  • Engagement has been shown to improve productivity, creativity, and happiness levels.
  • A recent study analyzed by the Harvard Business Review showed that character traits greatly influence how much a person engages with others in the workplace.

One topic proposed for the unconference sessions of GCUC UK this year was: “How do I get my shy members to interact more with each other?”

It’s a question many flexible workspace operators have seeked to answer; after all, community is one of the added values that shared workspaces offer to the market. Yet, there’s always one, two, a few, or a handful of members that don’t seem to mingle as much  with the rest of the community.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as 22% of coworking members identify as introverted and 47% as ambiverts, according to a presentation made during GCUC Canada this year.

Still, it seems only natural that operators want their members to be engaged. One of the brand promises of flexible workspaces is that they will help people be productive, that they will help professionals battle loneliness, and help individuals build a strong network. Engagement is key to delivering on that promise.

A recent HBR article states that “when employees (this goes for workspace members as well) are engaged, they display high levels of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation, which translates into higher levels of job performance, creativity, and productivity. (…) In contrast, low engagement results in burnout, higher levels of turnover, and counterproductive work behaviors such as bullying, harassment, and fraud.”

Engagement has many benefits, both at the personal and professional level. Yet, no matter how many times studies have proven that collaboration and engagement are beneficial, there are some people that stray away from interactions at all costs. Flexible workspace operators have tried to appease this by offering events catered to introverts, but nothing seems to have hit the right spot…at least not yet.

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There are some that have argued that there’s not much operators can do. If a person wants to be left alone, then he or she needs to be left alone; there shouldn’t be a need to push  or force people into interacting with others. It’s who they are.

HBR’s recent article “Is Employee Engagement Just a Reflection of Personality?” looks to a recent meta-analysis that set out to estimate the degree to which people differed in engagement because of their character traits.

The study found that “almost 50% of the variability in engagement could be predicted by people’s personality. In particular four traits: positive affect, proactivity, conscientiousness, and extroversion. In combination, these traits represent some of the core ingredients of emotional intelligence and resilience. Put another way, those who are positive, optimistic, hard-working, and outgoing tend to show more engagement at work. They are more likely to show up with energy and enthusiasm for what they do.”

The easy, quick fix to the engagement question would be then to only take on members that have an “engageable personality”. But, that would mean losing on at significant amount of potential members. It would also go against one core value of coworking: inclusivity.

On the other side, the study also found that at least half of engagement comes from contextual factors from a person’s work and work environment. This means that although you can’t force your shy members to interact constantly with others, you can definitely give them a little push in the right direction. This can be done through your design or your events roster.

Stay tuned for ideas on how to get introverted members to engage with your workspace community.

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