The Problem with Co-Working Spaces

Is co-work space the price we pay for flexible work hours?

In today’s workplace the adoption of flexibility in work hours is favourable, and employees are reaping the benefits of a work-life balance outside a nine-to-five work day, but does it come at a cost? The growing trend to discard the traditional office environment in favour of co-working spaces, often to facilitate flexible hours and to reduce office space costs, is taking its toll according to Resilience Consultant Michelle Bihary of Workplace Resilience Australia.

A flexible workspace has significant limitations, says Bihary, with many employees saying it’s undesirable. “Employees are finding that the workplace is changing so rapidly, including changes in KPI’s, strategic directions, expectations, work practices and team environments. The constant change of workspace can seriously exacerbate this experience,” she says.

Change Vs Stability: A Balancing Act.

Bihary says as human beings we desire a balance between change and stability. If we have too much stability, we become bored and if we experience too many changes, it can lead to chaos and overwhelm.

“The difficulty with too much change is that it impacts on our brain functioning, reducing our ability to be productive, mentally agile and emotionally grounded. This is undesirable for those who require their highest cognitive, psychological and behavioural functioning for their roles. If we lack perceived control over our environment in the context of rapid change, we may feel more out of control,” says Bihary.

What’s Wrong with Flexible Workspaces?

· A lack of personal familiarity to space, colleagues and personal objects in a flexible workspace.

· A lack of perceived privacy, which may be more important to those undertaking solo and complex cognitive tasks. (introverts and older workers may be more impacted by this aspect).

· A lack of a consistent environment can be especially challenging for those with a lot of personal change, a health or mental health issue.

· A lack of consistency breeds unnecessary stress for those already dealing with challenges. Given that one in five (to six) people in the workforce may be experiencing mental illness each year, flexible workspace impacts unnecessarily.

The Benefits: Creativity and Communication.

There are some benefits to adopting a flexible workspace, specifically to facilitate communication, interaction and teamwork, explains Bihary. “Creative teams, who bounce ideas around, may find flexible workspaces excellent for short term teamwork and a more fluid workflow, where teams form for finite periods and then move around.”

Kate Dinning, a public relations professional for Grays PR, can attest to the benefits of a flexible workspace, saying it’s a necessity in her line of work and essential to peace-of-mind. “We have a seriously flexible workspace; you have to, or you’d go crazy in an industry that’s always on call. It just doesn’t make sense anymore to get to work, sit at your desk, pack up at five o’clock and go home.”

“We do have desks, but none of them are personalised so we don’t have personal artefacts on any desks. They’re all the same with a stationery holder and a tray.

“Sometimes we work from a meeting room or take our laptops to the coffee shop, or hot desk from a client’s office space. Our day-to-day is so unpredictable but it works for us and we wouldn’t be as creative — or hardworking — without that flexibility,” says Dinning.

Consider Priorities of the Workplace

So, do we accept that flexibility in working hours necessitates a flexible workspace environment? The answer is complicated and depends on the nature of the work and the personality of the employee, says Bihary. “Ultimately the priorities (of the company) and needs of the workforce (employees) must be considered when contemplating the adoption of a flexible workspace.”

It may be that a combination of flexible and permanent workspaces be offered, and employees consulted on what type of workspace best suits their personality and work needs.

This post courtesy of Australian Online Courses where flexibility in learning hours is a requirement, but the study space is up to you.

A workforce is a company’s most valuable, tangible asset. To learn more about workforce planning and development, consider The Certificate of Workplace Planning and Development.

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