Building Community Through Coworking: A Case Study Of Spatial Factors Affecting Member Satisfaction With Coworkspaces And Collaborative Activity
Coworking is a recent movement in workspaces, having developed as a formal working style around 2006. Coworking describes the act of sharing a physical workplace and office resources with other people who are not employees of the same company. It is an elective process, considered one of the many elements of the new sharing economy. Because coworkspaces allow members with very different backgrounds to come together and work in close proximity, they represent nodes within a community that can increase the social network ties of members. An increase in social network ties is linked to an increase in an individual's social capital. Having many individuals with robust social capital connections helps to build the overall resilience of a community. For this reason, coworkspaces represent an important opportunity for improving social capital and resilience. Many workplace studies examine the effects of worker satisfaction with setting on work activities, including collaboration and knowledge sharing. Because coworking is a relatively new phenomenon. Understanding the effects of spatial factors of the coworkspace on member satisfaction with the setting, and the collaborative activities that take place there, will lend new insight and allow for improvements on the design of coworkspaces. This thesis examines four coworkspaces in a single community (Ithaca, NY). User experience was measured through a survey measure of satisfaction with spatial factors and collaborative activity. The survey findings were enriched through ethnographic observations and one-on-one user interviews, to develop a better understanding of what elements in coworkspaces may lead to member satisfaction. Spatial factors investigated include openness, proximity to others, flexibility, privacy, distraction, and territoriality. Other factors emerged, during interviews, as meaningful to members, including artwork, presence of plants, daylight, and window views. Despite having different square footages and different design, the four sites have notable similarities. All four are in historic buildings in downtown Ithaca, NY. High windows are present in all four buildings, as are elements of historic architecture. Work zones are also similar; each site has two meeting rooms, a large open work area, and an area for food storage. Sites varied primarily in their aesthetics and decoration, their specific location within Ithaca, their size, and the emphasis of their membership marketing. Openness, variety of settings, and auditory distractions are found to be major spatial factors that contribute to changes in satisfaction with the collaborative environment in coworkspaces. The combination of one main open work area, two private workspaces, and options for workstation location and height contributed to member satisfaction with variety. Additionally, differences in satisfaction were apparent for staff members and based on gender, signifying that role and personal traits affect members' perception of the spaces and their experiences within.
coworking; social capital; collaboration
M.S. of Human-Environment Relations
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis