Smile@Work | Solutions for happy workers

Words from pros
12 Mar 2020

Coworking and well-being, are they compatible?

No, coworking isn’t just for start-ups! Alain d’Iribarne, a sociologist who specializes in work and who chairs the Actineo scientific committee, discusses this underlying trend in the labour market.

bien-être au travail dans les espaces de coworking, ! Alain d’Iribarne, sociologue du travail

The rise of coworking is one of the profound changes in recent decades and has given working people a great degree of freedom. According to research published in 2017 by Actineo, which monitors the quality of life at work, this new approach has led to “an increase and diversification of suitable places to work, and their role in a three-fold paradigm shift in terms of flexibility, mobility and innovation.” The challenges created by this transformation are to build new points of reference, and to better understand the needs and aspirations of working people, in an era when the desire for well-being has never been so important and so diverse. Alain d’Iribarne answers our questions on the topic.

How would you define well-being at work?

Alain d’Iribarne: Well-being is a feeling, and it’s not always easy to define. The challenge is to find out ‘what makes me feel good when I’m at work.’ And you can see that some aspects are more or less important. Generally, there are three levels : the first level is the quality of life at work. This covers all of the individual’s essential needs, such as the layout of the workspace, the lighting, the level of noise and the equipment available. The second level, which is the sense of well-being at work itself, is more personal. It involves a type of recognition that goes beyond someone’s remuneration. It’s the relationship that someone has with colleagues, for example. Finally, the third level, which means genuine happiness at work, goes beyond any feeling of well-being. It is more subjective, and more difficult to quantify.

Today, we are seeing a shift in expectations when it comes to quality of life at work, and we are moving towards the notion of well-being. The way that the world of work is evolving leads to a change in the usual points of reference. In the end, you can see a link between four different elements: well-being, freedom, feeling and recognition.

What does a coworker look for when he walks into a coworking location?

Alain d’Iribarne: Working in an open space tends to make the criteria I have just mentioned more important. It is clear that what’s required for a good workspace increases significantly. For a person working in a compagny, for example, not having a designated place to work can be confusing, whereas someone who chooses a coworking space is making a conscious decision. It’s not something that is being forced on him. It gives that person greater freedom.

Research conducted by Actineo in 2017 confirmed the main reasons why working people choose a coworking space. They include the desire to network with other people and to develop their professional activity, so the coworking space is effectively being used as a way of socialising. Another approach is to consider  remote working from a coworking space as a way of maintaining, if not strengthening, a person’s bond with their employer, despite the change of location. On the other hand,working from home can lead to both a physical and an emotional detachment from the employer. Finally, coworking provides access to a space that is both professional and fully equipped for freelancers and mobile workers.  Other factors may also be considered such as countering feelings of isolation, meeting the need to work between two meetings, or providing access to complementary services, such as a concierge.

In your opinion, is coworking an effective solution to improve the well-being of workers on a daily basis?

Alain d’Iribarne: A coworking space is suitable for manydifferent profiles of working people and a wide variety of needs, which can often be generational. For example, it’s a way of reproducing a routine for someone who likes to go to the same place at the same time, which is the case for older generations. They need reference points in their lives, otherwise they may feel overwhelmed. For them, a coworking space is a way of transposing a familiar habit to another place and then reproducing the same routines. On the other hand, the younger generations want more freedom. They like being able to organise their time and to change it as they wish. In cases like this, coworking space meets a need for flexibility. For them, freedom leads to well-being. So, depending on who I am, my social environment, my relationship with my employer and the type of activity I have, I expect my coworking space to have all the facilities necessary to meet my needs. It is about being in harmony with who I am as a person, where I come from, and why I am doing this.”

Whatever the profile of the individual, their professional status or their needs, coworking can be a complementary solution to the usual way of working. If certain essential criteria for the choice of workspace are respected to, coworking can also bring freedom, flexibility and well-being. For every situation, Multiburo can provide a response!

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