FLEXIBILITY VS. COMMUNITY: TWO STUDIES ABOUT COWORKING SPACE AND THE MEMBER’S SOCIAL CONNECTIVITY
Although coworking is commonly associated with the concept of community, few studies have explored whether and how coworking empowers social network formations among the members. The primary goal of this dissertation is to explore how coworking members are socially connected and what environmental factors are related to their social networks formation. This dissertation is composed of two studies. Study #1 is an exploratory study that investigates coworking space characteristics and the members’ social connectivity. Mixed methods were applied to study coworking spaces in New York City. A total of 12 coworking managers were interviewed, and this qualitative data was complemented by 160 hours of participant observation and surveys finished by 42 coworking members from 7 coworking spaces. The results suggest that social connectivity between the members was low even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Three major reasons were identified: lack of opportunity, lack of motivation, and a behavioral norm of minimizing interaction in the open-plan environment. Both the type of membership plan and space access time were found to be significantly associated with the members’ social connectivity. These findings led me to explore the nature of flexibility in coworking. I propose that flexibility is about the spatial-temporal relationship between the space and the occupants, which can be described as how much visibility and mobility the space offers, and how much time the occupants are physically present in the space. A follow-up question was raised: are there potential conflicts between flexibility and the members’ social network formation? A 2x2 online survey experiment (Study #2) was conducted to examine whether increased spatial-temporal flexibility negatively affects an individual’s attitudes toward social interaction in the work settings. Based on data collected from a sample of 315 participants recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, results suggested supportive evidence for my hypotheses. Increased flexibility in space and time negatively affected an individual’s attitude toward social interaction. Increased time flexibility was also negatively associated with social connectivity according to the participants’ previous coworking experience. These results suggest that the nature of coworking may embody a conflicting relationship between the two concepts: “flexibility” and “community.” Overall, this dissertation offers a critical understanding of the coworking environment, the member’s social connectivity, and the relationships between the two. What these findings imply for understanding coworking’s future, and how environment and behavior research could be applied to study emerging design concepts are also addressed.
Corporate Real Estate; Coworking; Flexibility; Office Design; Social Connectivity; Workplace Environment
Tolbert, Pamela S.; Tomlan, Michael Andrew
Design and Environmental Analysis
Ph. D., Design and Environmental Analysis
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis