Work-life balance

How coworking supports work-life balance and why it matters more than ever

It’s International Day of Happiness this Sunday (March 19), and it got us thinking… What element of work makes us happiest?

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According to Gitnux, 72% of the U.S. population say it’s not free lunches, ping pong in the office, international travel, or even pay rises. It’s having a work-life balance. Employees would forego a job with a 10% pay rise to choose a job with a better work-life balance, according to a 2022 Gartner survey. From spending less time commuting to having more time to devote to family and friends, coworking spaces are supportive environments tailor-made for greater work-life balance. 


Creating a healthy balance


Juggling life and work is inherently stressful. Of course, leaving the workforce entirely isn’t really an option for most people. Living expenses don’t pay for themselves. But a better way to work – one that’s empowering to the worker, not deflating – can make a difference. Coworking offers the trappings of a physical workspace without the rigid constraints or internal politics associated with traditional office life. It similarly frees individuals from the distractions of the home office as numerous and varied as they can be. It’s emerged as a kind of “third way to work” – coworking spaces are often referred to as third spaces – and a viable workplace alternative that researchers (and growing numbers of employers) agree improves productivity while making it easier for workers to achieve a healthy balance between work and life. 


At a time when more employees are reevaluating their own relationship between life and work, coworking’s natural affinity for greater balance between the two may be the biggest selling point of all.


A brief history of coworking


Coworking was once primarily the domain of the creative class whose work endeavors tended toward project-based and whose members enjoyed surrounding themselves and co-mingling with like-minded collaborators. Coworking spaces were typically confined to industrial buildings where rent was cheap and space could be configured to whatever suited the mood and the moment.


Coworking today has evolved, but it continues to represent a break from the fixed hierarchies of traditional office life. Coworking environments are more casual, more inclusive, spaces are personalized and experiences are curated. Most importantly, providing alternative work spaces to employees is increasingly becoming central to any organization’s ability to attract and retain those employees. 


As a practical matter, coworking enables companies to reduce their traditional real estate requirements and associated costs. This is workspace without waste, offices without empty desks, paid for by the square meter. 


And it’s definitely not just for freelancers anymore. 


Building a workplace strategy that reflects changing priorities


In the wake of a pandemic that continues to cause people to rethink their priorities and purpose, one of the biggest benefits of coworking may be the various ways it lends itself to living a healthier, happier, more holistic lifestyle. For starters, there’s the possibility of one’s workplace being closer to friends and family members, or closer to hobbies and lifestyle priorities like the gym. Improved proximity to the features of one’s non-working life may be one of the reasons coworking has been shown to decrease stress levels. Working wherever, whenever sounds less stressful and with the added freedom to work according to what needs to get done in a space perfectly designed for exactly that. Many coworking spaces make work-life balance even easier, offering gyms or child care assistance on the premises.


As far as friends and family are concerned, many would likely agree that maintaining relationships with family and friends is hard work in its own right. Travel time to and from the office is often one of the biggest challenges. By solving for proximity, by reducing commute times and freeing up time to make a child’s dance rehearsal or a friend's surprise birthday party, coworking makes that task a little bit easier.  


The social aspect 


The desire to collaborate, network and work together in a shared communal setting with like-minded workers has been a primary draw of coworking since its inception. It’s also true that the emphasis coworking places on coming together has real ramifications when it comes to fostering a healthier and happier workplace. No person is an island. A distributed workforce occasionally needs a healthy dose of human interaction and connection. Studies show that a lack of social engagement can take a mental toll on workers. So, while it’s true that coworking facilitates interaction and collaboration between colleagues without the inconvenience of having to travel to a traditional office (78% LiquidSpace bookings were for exactly this according to our latest Hybrid Workplace Index), it’s also functioning on a deeper level. It’s literally good for an organization’s health.


Coworking creates structure & reinforces boundaries


The freedom to work where it works for the individual is another key draw of the coworking model, specifically, and the hybrid work model, generally. But there are challenges. Workers may relish their autonomy but they also need structure in their professional lives. Coworking helps create the structure and discipline that drives productivity, without sacrificing that all-important sense of control. Whether they choose to commute to HQ, utilize an alternative space near their gym or child’s school, or work from home, employees call their shots. It’s a structure of their own making.


And speaking of working from home, coworking spaces make it possible for workers to break free of the isolation of the home office, which can present its own challenges. After all, a fact of the rising work from anywhere culture is the gradual convergence of home and the office. Home offices can be a little too convenient, in other words, the latest unanswered email always a few steps away. With boundaries being another important facet of our mental health, coworking helps by facilitating the critical separation between life and work.


Did somebody say workplace happiness? 


What makes the coworking concept so special? We’ve touched on lots of possible reasons, but it may simply be the fact that employees really like it. Coworking makes workers happy. In fact, a Harvard Study from 2015 found that workers who belonged to coworking spaces reported levels of thriving that were higher than employees who did their jobs in regular office settings. 


What’s changed since 2015? Everything, basically. The way we work has changed, the way we feel about work has changed. Coworking spaces have changed, too. They’ve expanded beyond the membership-based model. The types of workers typically associated with coworking and communal workspaces – freelancers, remote workers, solopreneurs – has sharply expanded to include a broader range of working class professionals and organizations of all sizes.  


But one critical facet of coworking culture remains the same – autonomy. The ability to control one’s work schedule, to be master of one’s own destiny rather than a cog in someone else’s wheel, may be the biggest driver of workplace happiness of all and the biggest cause for coworking’s current surge in popularity. Deciding when and where to put in one’s time rather than having it dictated via an outdated 9-5 paradigm is both liberating and self-affirming. Need to start early and leave early to meet the plumber or pick up your child? No problem. You’re in charge of you. Physical space is part of it, too. Workers aren’t confined to using the same desk for every task, regardless of what that task is. They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space or a buzzy, communal and highly collaborative one. 




With hybrid work engagement on the rise, and more workers expecting the freedom to choose where they work, coworking remains poised to play a pivotal role in our workplace lives for the foreseeable future. Flexibility, community, collaboration – many of the advantages originally touted in the Coworking Manifesto still resonate, even as the pandemic-fueled shift in worker values has magnified their appeal. Indeed, in many ways our post-covid world appears to be tilting more and more in the direction of alternative workplace environments – the right space for the right task, be it by the hour, by the day, or by the month. The coworking movement is gaining speed, and if you’re looking for innovative ways to help your people thrive, enjoy a balanced lifestyle, and to attract the sorts of workers that can help your business succeed, it really should be part of your company’s workplace strategy.


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