- The Journal of Business Research defines coworking spaces as a space where freelancers, entrepreneurs, employees of firms, and new business ventures share an office that combines workspaces with social spaces.
- A key feature in most coworking spaces is their “openness.” However, the idea of “openness” in coworking spaces is wide-ranging. It can apply across coworking spaces in considerably different ways.
- Research from the Review of Managerial Science believes that “openness” in coworking is summed up and determined by “individual openness to core coworking values.”
While it’s been established that community and collaboration are key to coworking spaces, another component that matters greatly in each space is its openness.
The Journal of Business Research broadly defines coworking spaces (CWS) as office space that combines workspaces and social spaces.
All walks of life and work occupy coworking spaces, and they ideally have the option and ability to work and socialize autonomously.
The Journal of Business Research states, “the interior of CWS should allow office work, but also promote openness to social interaction, participation in the workspaces, and its teams, using knowledge in and from different contexts, and engaging in a mutual creation of knowledge.”
In other words, coworking spaces are designed to promote helpful collaboration, networking, creativity, and independent work. This is one sense in which coworking spaces can be said to be “open.”
“Openness” is a core value of coworking, according to the Review of Managerial Science. However, researchers from the Journal of Business Research believe opinions among experts are mixed on what the word “openness” means when concerning coworking spaces.
For instance, do spaces themselves determine a coworking space’s openness, or do the individuals who occupy the space define it?
The Review of Managerial Science believes “openness” should be understood as the openness of individual coworking occupants to “core coworking values,” like socializing, networking, and creatively collaborating.
What is “openness” in coworking?
The Journal of Business Research demonstrates that many forms of “openness” exist in the coworking industry. The journal says that coworking “openness” consists of fluid team dynamics, worker autonomy, high openness to new members, and transparent cross-office collaboration.
The Review of Managerial Science defines “core coworking values” as reflecting “supportiveness and cooperation” through “(1) diversity of knowledge exchanged; (2) reciprocity; (3) emotional support; (4) workplace friendship; and (5) individual creativity.”
Core coworking values and openness overlap, but in both cases, surprisingly those who occupy the majority of coworking spaces (incumbent firms) reject them.
For instance, according to the journal’s findings, “The ‘typical’ form of CWS by dedicated coworking providers offers high openness to membership…and high degrees of autonomy of users. This openness to outsiders might not exist in CWS created by incumbent firms to provide a new space for the work of company employees.”
According to the Journal of Business Models (2022), “incumbent firms” in coworking are defined as “mature firms that are already in a strong position in the market. They often face the unique situation of balancing the exploration of new business models with the exploitation of existing ones.”
Incumbent firms often reject core coworking values, because the open exchange of information in fluid team dynamics within many coworking spaces can have unintended consequences, like knowledge leaks.
At best, according to the Journal of Business Models, these firms are open to bringing in start-ups to assist with labor demands — apart from this, openness by researcher’s standards is an ideal that’s widely rejected.
By contrast, freelancers and entrepreneurs prefer the open data flow for creative use. As a result, they rarely share sensitive information for such purposes, making them more likely to embrace coworking core values.
Core coworking values are common ideals most coworking spaces do not live up to by the empirical picture the data paints.
What makes a coworking space an “open” environment?
According to the Review of Managerial Science, a coworking space’s openness is determined by how much its occupants are open to participating in core coworking values.
Rejecting the core values of coworking defeats the purpose of occupying a coworking space and even decreases worker performance.
Essentially, a coworking space is only as open as its occupants are — that open free flow of ideas requires a coworking space full of people aren’t constrained and are full of individual creativity.
An “open,” coworking space must be occupied by highly open-minded, engaged, and creative people with a shared — perhaps open-ended — goal.
Coworking spaces with norms like communicating, entrepreneurial or informational networking, creative collaborating, reciprocal emotional supportiveness, and overall friendliness are highly open workspaces.
The people inside coworking spaces, not the coworking spaces themselves, must be the focus when considering a coworking space and its level of openness. Ultimately, people are open, not spaces.