16th June 2015
When we started six years ago we had two average sized coworking spaces in New York and London now with the rise of mega coworking spaces WECREATE and THECUBE have become a boutique space. Therefore it makes sense to question the role size plays in working dynamics. Studies have shown that the current workforce rates the ability to collaborate, build networks, and productivity as essential qualities from a workspace. So how do these qualities play out in smaller spaces.
The main cognitive quality in collaboration is trust. If we don’t trust we are not inclined to engage with people or have the ability to approach new concepts with an open mind. Two obvious behaviours needed to have a productive exchange and execution of ideas. The bigger a space becomes the more of a social vacuum it becomes, which increases anonymity. There have been many studies that have looked at the correlation between anonymity and behaviour. Anonymity acts like a behavioral mask and it has been known to make people more aggressive and act with diminished responsibility. Also the bigger the space the more noise and stimuli it creates, which for some people may lead them to feeling anxious. These behavioural outcomes from big spaces makes it difficult to forge relationships and build the trust needed to start a collaborative process.
It is understood that big spaces offer a rich source of networking. Their large population certainly does increases your exposure to new people, however does it increase the ability to have meaningful conversations which would lead to forging a great new contact? More often it does not. We all complain about the banality of large conferences or networking events. Smaller spaces offer the ability to connect with people on a more substantial level. Studies looking at group dynamics often highlight the efficiency of smaller groups in creating quicker and lasting bonds.
In regards to productivity it really depends on how your brain reacts to salient stimuli. Salient stimuli is any stimuli that stands out from the rest of the environment. For example, if you are crossing the street and your hear an ambulance, that would be considered a salient stimuli in that environment and your attention would divert towards it. In an office setting, any unexpected noise that doesn’t sit in the background is considered salient and as our CNS system is biased towards salience it can become quit distracting and in cases stressful. In a small hospital study conducted with nurses noise was shown to correlate with several measures of stress such as cortisol levels rising as well as tachycardia, which is a faster than normal resting heart rate.
These findings correlate to productivity because they affect concentration, memory, and decision making. If you are stressed you are less able to concentrate as it puts the amygdala on high alert, which starts to create a mental environment where every stimulus is salient. In other words you will constantly diverting your attention from the task at hand. Cortisol also affects the memory system which is needed for learning new task and decision making.
With the increase in demand for coworking it is not realistic to keep coworking space small, however we can strive to create better design to create a sense of belonging, intimacy and calmness. Most of us cannot cannot cope well with office environments that have a large population and are open plan, it becomes too overstimulating. This leads to social anxiety, stress, and eventually to immune system disorders.
1. Effects of prior destructuve behavious, anonymity, and group presence on deindividuation and aggression.
2. Group dynamics over time: Development and socialization in small groups.
3. Socialization in small groups: Temporal changes in individual-group relations.
4. Noise, stress, and annoyance in a pediatric intensive care unit.
5. The effects of stress and stress hormones on human cogniton: Implications of the field of brain and cognition.