Corporate Coworking: Inspiration Beyond Office Boundaries

A revolution is upon us—and it’s not about being hip

As a Research Program Manager at Haworth, Dr. Gabor Nagy leads client advisory engagements and research targeting innovation, collaboration, and organizational culture to develop high performing workplaces.

I’ve been exploring companies that are creating their own coworking spaces for the last several years. Much of this is summarized in a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article* that I co-wrote with Greg Lindsay.

One of the things that the research revealed is that the real revolution in coworking may have less to do with freelancers or startups and more to do with employees of large companies working beyond the boundaries of their organizations. I’m talking about corporate coworking spaces where companies and their employees are searching for the same qualities freelancers and entrepreneurs report from their shared spaces: learning skills faster, making more connections, and feeling inspired/in control. It’s typically assumed these companies are only seeking a jolt of hipness. But, that isn’t what we found.

Companies that have tried in-house coworking spaces are typically seeking one or more of the following: business or cultural transformation, innovation, and future-proofing. One of the organizations we studied describes this as “corpoworking” and it’s an emerging phenomenon that has yet to bear a common nomenclature.

We found an element that is crucial to the success of corporate coworking: vetting participants to curate the mix according to expertise, personality, and cultural fit. While corporate coworking cultures vary according to industry, geography, purpose, etc., they are always different from the parent organization. This is unsurprising given the goals of the space.

Want to learn more? Read the HBR article or dive in deep in my recently published Haworth white paper on corporate coworking.

For more information on coworking in general, check out this 2016 white paper that suggests how coworking has potential to change the world of knowledge work.

*Note: HBR generously provides access to three free HBR articles per month; after that, a subscription is required.

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