Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely. This has led US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to state that we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. One of the contributors to this phenomenon is the growth of the gig economy and remote work, which has reduced the opportunities for people to interact face-to-face while working. Thankfully, the global growth of coworking is helping professionals address this issue. By joining a coworking space, remote and independent professionals can reverse the loneliness epidemic by boosting their sense of belonging.
This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.
Why Belonging Matters
Belonging ranks highly among our universal psychological needs. It takes the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and masquerades as Relatedness in Ryan & Deci’s Self-Determination Theory. The key to fulfilling our need for belonging is to be part of a community and to experience meaningful relationships characterized by trust. Joining a coworking space is a great way to do so.
Coworking can go a long way to enhance belonging. Recent research has found that 83% of coworking users report feeling less lonely since joining a coworking space. The relationships people form in these spaces offer social and professional support, and are a clear part of the value proposition. “We offer a flexible workspace that also enables you to build relationships with fellow members,” states Devin Cole, Workbar’s Head of Partnerships.
At the base level, coworking spaces create belonging by hosting a consistent group of people in a shared space. The resulting social interactions lead to an initial sense of community. “It’s just nice to be around other people,” says Jamie, a software engineer who works remotely from Workbar*. “I felt very isolated if I was just by myself at home working all the time.” Bringing people together already offers value, but coworking spaces don’t stop there.
Trust Among Coworkers Enhances Belonging
The key to achieving the full sense of belonging is to build trust among members. This is best achieved when coworkers get to know each other at a personal level. A coworking space offers two types of occasions for members to build trust. The first includes planned events put on by the community management team, like happy hours and lunch excursions. The second includes spontaneous encounters, like crossing paths by the elevator or sharing lunch in the kitchen. Effective community managers and members will create additional occasions by intentionally introducing members to each other.
For these occasions to be effective, members need to show a genuine interest in getting to know each other. At planned and spontaneous moments, members are encouraged to introduce themselves to each other. It is then effective to share a personal detail, and to ask for one in return. Understandably, this is not obvious for everyone, so it is encouraged to use icebreakers to get things going, especially at group events.
Smart coworking spaces also nudge members to get to know each other in more subtle ways. Workbar, for example, features signs created by members with fun facts about themselves. Several coworking spaces also commonly display profiles of members that are currently present. While these may not necessarily lead to a conversation, they do increase the familiarity among members.
Joining a coworking space is a great way for people who would otherwise work from home to satisfy the psychological need for belonging. Coworking spaces offer a range of memberships that allow members access anywhere from a few days a month to 24/7. At the space, coworkers will get the most value by introducing themselves to fellow members, both at events, and through spontaneous encounters. The community management can facilitate this connection-building through events, introductions, and icebreakers. Finally, the design of the space can ensure work still gets done through smart zoning.