Coworking Spaces, New Workplaces

Coworking Spaces, New Workplaces

Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay (Université TÉLUQ, Canada) and Arnaud Scaillerez (Université de Moncton, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3473-1.ch183
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While technologies now allow the emergence of new collaborative working environments, these new organizational methods, new spaces, and new objectives also refer to a set of issues and challenges that are not yet well studied. However, they bring significant results without necessarily being costly or complex to put in place. This is precisely the basis of the originality and purpose of this chapter. After defining coworking, the chapter presents the implementation of coworking spaces, as well as the benefits offered by these places for the benefit of entrepreneurs, businesses, and employees, but also the limits. The challenges related to the emergence of these new collaborative environments as new ways of organizing work are also addressed. They also try to bring a critical look at the reality of the coworking phenomenon.
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Coworking spaces are part of the category of third places. The study of third places emerged from the work of the sociologist Ray Oldenburg in the late 1980s. The author describes new places of life, neither the house, “first place,” nor the company, “second place”. Oldenburg is one of the first researchers to have conceptualized third places and especially coworking spaces. In his seminal work “Celebreting the Third Place” (2000), he suggests the existence of these places which would be at the heart of the vitality of societies and indispensable to the smooth functioning of modern democracies.

Third places (Good place), correspond to spaces that are neither in the private or the public sphere, but having characteristics that are common to the private sphere and the professional sphere. These places were originally created to revive social interactions in North American cities that were in economic decline. Since then, different authors have added some criteria to the definition, making it broader and thus including other circumstances (Smits, 2015) and other countries. Therefore, to be considered as a third-place, this place must be:

  • Neutral (therefore neither at home nor at the employer's place), hence the third place (Oldenburg, 1989);

  • Free access, therefore open to all without any restriction, especially as regards the type of activity done in this space (Oldenburg, 1999);

  • Facilitating meetings and exchanges (the configuration of the place must be conducive to conversation, with the presence of meeting rooms in particular - or simply places of conviviality like that reserved for the coffee break or lunch (Guenoud, Moeckli, 2010);

With these first elements, one could for example imagine that cafes providing free wifi (such as Starbucks) could be considered as a third places. However, this is not the case, because to be considered as a third place, two other elements must also be present:

  • Frequency of use by the same users (also in fact, with this fourth element, Starbucks could represent a third-place for customers accustomed to come and work and exchange, Gershenfeld, 2005);

  • And above all for a third place to be recognized as such, it is necessary that the knowledge (product, service or other result) that is produced and that emanates from the exchanges between the persons regularly present in the place subsists even after the end of the collaboration, even after the closing of the venue and the end of the meetings between the actors. And it is undoubtedly this element that differentiates places open to the public (such as Starbucks for example), from a third place conducive to work and knowledge sharing (Liefooghe, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coworkers: Users of coworking spaces. They are generally entrepreneurs or nomadic workers, and sometimes employees of companies, or even employees of public administrations. They use these places for several reasons such as improving their business opportunities, reducing their business expenses by sharing premises, fighting isolation, or better reconciling their private and professional lives.

Collaboration: This is one of the major goals of a coworking space. It is an attempt to organize meetings between coworkers in order to encourage professional cooperation.

Networking: Opportunity created by the presence in the same place of several people with various professional activities and skills. Networking allows coworkers to pool their knowledge and clients to create new profitable business opportunities for each participant.

Third Places: New workplaces that allow users to get closer to their home work by reducing the time and commuting distance between home and workplace, thus offering them a better work-family balance. These third places can also allow remote work without staying at home. These places are inclusive (open to all) and seek to promote the sharing and improvement of working conditions, as well as user activity.

Sharing: We can consider that two forms of sharing can be found in coworking spaces. These places allow first of all an acquired sharing which is the sharing of premises and also professional equipment (photocopiers, printers, meeting rooms ...) and equipment of conviviality (collective kitchen, free coffee, rest room ...). They can also spark a second form of sharing, but that depends on the coworkers' will. Here, we refer to the sharing of the professional network, good practices between coworkers with related activities or exchange of ideas and development of common business opportunities.

Community Manager: Person in charge of the management and animation of a coworking space. This feature greatly contributes to the success of a coworking space and its profitability. The job is however little recognized and low paid. It also happens that coworking spaces do not have the financial means to remunerate the function. The tasks are then entrusted to the founders of the place or to trainees or volunteers.

Coworking Spaces: Sharing place to connect coworkers in order to facilitate their meeting and possibly to create business opportunities.

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