The Social Impact of Coworking

National Coworking Day is a collaborative doors open day inviting people to experience the magic of coworking across the UK. The Melting Pot will be hosting a pop-up coworking space and networking breakfast so people can enjoy a day at one of Europe’s first coworking spaces. As Scotland’sCentre for Social Innovation TMP have taken on the job of investigating the social impact of coworking as part of this national celebration.

Last year saw the launch of National Coworking Day with 40 coworking spaces in 9 Scottish cities opening their doors and welcoming in coworking newbies. In fact one coworking space, social enterprise [email protected], opened its doors for the very first time. This year National Coworking Day is coming to coworking spaces across the UK – check out the app to find a space near you. With this massive upcoming celebration of the coworking movement it’s time to ask: what do we know about the impact of coworking?

We know that coworking is an ever growing industry

Deskmag have just published their predictions for the future of coworking, extrapolating from the 2019 Global Coworking Survey. They learnt that just last year the number of coworking spaces grew by a fifth, by the end of 2019 more than 2.2 million people are expected to be working in 22,000 coworking spaces worldwide. It seems the coworking “trend” is here to stay with 60% of members indicating that they are planning on sticking with their space.

Coworking has the potential to support equality

The Melting Pot’s 2018 Social Impact Report showed that a third of TMP Members founded their organisation, of these founders 42% are women, this is double the UK average of female founders. There will be a variety of factors that attract female founders to The Melting Pot, for one women make up more of the third sector workforce than other areas of work, but supporting female entrepreneurs is crucial to creating a more equal economy.

The 2019 Global Coworking survey included a section on member’s perceptions of how a financial crisis would impact them. In comparison to other groups, women and people on low wages were most concerned about the negative impact a financial crisis would have on their job security. This suggests that people foresee existing inequalities being exacerbated by a financial crisis, which hardly comes as a surprise. The global coworking movement began growing in earnest around 2006, with TMP joining the pack the following year, and it continued on its trajectory throughout the financial crisis of 2007/8. In uncertain economic circumstances it is particularly crucial to ensure we have grassroots resources in place to enhance the resilience of our communities.

The well-being of coworkers is improved

Coworking provides community and that is good for well-being! Globally the top three reasons for choosing a coworking space are a social and enjoyable atmosphere, interaction with others and a community. With the average rating of coworking spaces at 8.3/10 it seems that coworking fulfils those needs pretty well.

The Melting Pot found that 95% of their Members feel they belong to the community. Almost 80% of members gained confidence professionally as a result of membership and 75% have been supported by other Members. Poppy works remotely for DMA Global she said, “Joining The Melting Pot helped me personally and professionally. I realised working from home was not good for my mental health, coming into TMP every week gave me a sense of purpose.”

As we follow the trends of the gig economy and a significant increase in our ability to work remotely we must ensure that workers do not find themselves isolated in the absence of the colleagues found in a traditional workplace. Coworking is a timely solution to this problem, which is exactly why more employers are positioning their workers in coworking spaces. With the right methodology coworking spaces can support the well-being of their members.

Coworking helps people deliver impact

We all know that the right working environment is crucial to getting through that to-do list, with remote working we have more options on where to work than ever before. The majority of coworking space users also work from somewhere else, usually from home, so coworking is just one part of our more flexible working lives. A key benefit that happens in abundance in coworking spaces, that is very unlikely to occur round your kitchen table or in a busy coffee shop, is collaboration.

Around 71% of coworking members around the world have collaborated with someone they work alongside, most often on small tasks. The Melting Pot found that 42% of our Members had formed a collaboration on more significant projects – everything from co-designing events to prototyping an app delivering mindfulness and meditation to pre-schoolers. Everyone who had formed a collaboration at The Melting Pot was satisfied with the results, suggesting that working with your fellow coworkers is a safe bet for generating impact.

Almost all members at The Melting Pot said that membership gave them access to a space that helps them deliver their work but also that it helps them feel inspired and find motivation. These responses, in combination, suggest that TMP contributes more than a place for Members to rest their laptop – coworking can help when looking for the creativity and determination to deliver!

More coworking spaces are opening in smaller towns and cities

Smaller coworking spaces are opening up in small and medium sized cities. While most of the biggest spaces, with over 300 members, are found in megacities coworking is moving into more rural areas. The Melting Pot’s sister organisation the Coworking Accelerator shares the knowledge gathered over more than a decade running their Edinburgh space with other spaces around the world. The idea is to share this successful methodology and take coworking from global to local again, helping independent spaces build their coworking business based on the needs of their community.

Community development trust Sustaining Dunbar are hoping to bring coworking to Dunbar to address the needs of the local community who currently seem to spend a significant amount of time commuting to nearby Edinburgh. National Rail data collected in 2001 showed that 83% of train travel from Dunbar was to Edinburgh, and travel was increasing at a rate of 8% per year. Nearly a third of people who work or study in Edinburgh don’t live there, in fact Scotland wide over 57% of people travel for work or study. But in a world of remote working why should people travel to work? Coworking spaces allow people to stay closer to home during the work day, closer to their children’s schools, and it increases their ability to participate in their local community, socially and economically.

There are over 500 libraries in Scotland. The Scottish Coworking Network is a Scottish Government funded project ensuring these local assets are moving with the times. They’re aiming to provide coworking spaces across Scotland for the 11,000 enterprises that start each year. In the long term they hope to develop a framework that can be used by other library services to expand the network. They have launched spaces in libraries in Edinburgh, Inverness, Dunfermline, Troon and Dundee.

Further from home in Victoria, the largest community buy-out in Australian history has secured the Old Beechworth Gaol for an ambitious regeneration initiative. They’re currently offering tours to give visitors an insight into life behind bars while also developing a coworking space to transform this heritage site into a thriving community space generating, social and economic impact in the region.

So there’s a lot to celebrate this National Coworking Day, as we look back at a movement that generates impact, improves well-being and promotes equality. The future of coworking seems to be heading towards more remote areas as spaces continue to open in droves all over the world to support a changing, modern workforce.

A version of this post was previously published on stirtoaction.com  and is republished here with a Creative Commons License

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