The following post gives an insight into the research activities of our members of the COST Action CA18214, Louise Suckley and Alexandra Bernhardt, who were part of a research team that conducted a survey on the ‘vibe‘ of coworking spaces.
In coworking spaces the atmosphere, ambiance, or ‘vibe’ plays a pivotal role. Coworkers often willingly choose these spaces, with the atmosphere being a crucial factor in their decision-making (cf. Bernhardt 2023). But which factors contribute to a ‘good vibe’ and which are the most important? Some argue it is created through the social practices that take place in coworking spaces such as social interactions, knowledge exchange and networking; while others argue it is the physical elements such as an open plan design, communal areas and lighting. So, the vibe is composed through both, the social and the material elements of a space.
Background of the study
To delve into this topic, a team of researchers from universities in the UK, Iran, and Germany undertook research to find out what makes a ‘good vibe’ in coworking spaces. An online survey was designed to explore the importance of different aspects in creating a ‘good vibe’ as well as exploring the importance of the ‘vibe’ and its impact. Responses were gathered from 150 coworkers between June 2022 – March 2023. In the following the main results are summarised.
 Dr. Louise Suckley, Sheffield Hallam University, UK; Dr. Barry Haynes, Dr. Abbas Shieh, Islamic Azad University Tehran, Iran and Dr. Alexandra Bernhardt, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
Natural light and communal areas as the most important material elements
To find out the relevance of the physical elements, the survey participants rated the importance of different material factors in contributing to a ‘good vibe’ in a coworking space. The results show that communal areas, such as kitchens/ coffee areas, which support encounters and social interactions, are crucial for a good vibe, however this is not the most important factor. Surprisingly, natural light is rated highest – as a factor, which contributes to a good work atmosphere. Other notable material factors are an adequate temperature, the availability of different types of working spaces, individual desks, and meeting rooms as well as technical equipment/ support or connections to nature (cf. figure 1). On the other hand, background noise and music are the less important factors, followed by additional spaces for non-work activities like a gym or communication channels like updated bulletin boards or the digital presence of the coworking space.
The most relevant social elements: The possibility to have conversations, a sense of community and coworkers one can trust
Being able to have conversations, having a sense of community and relationships with coworkers you can trust are the most crucial social elements for the survey participants (cf. figure 2). Furthermore, sharing work-related knowledge and experience, conversations with persons who work on similar projects, as well as regular or also unplanned conversations are rated as very important in creating a ‘good vibe’. Showing that coworkers set their focus on the people with whom they work along day by day. On the other hand, a regular flow on new people is the least important factor .
Overall importance, occupancy Levels, and wellbeing
With a mean score of 3.94 out of 5, a ‘good vibe’ is considered highly important in coworking spaces. According to the survey participants, a ‘good vibe’ has a positive influence not only on health and well-being, but also on their sense of belonging, creativity, productivity, and knowledge – all ranked at a high level. Regarding the occupancy level of a coworking space, three out of four survey participants (74%) think, that 30-60% fullness is ideal to create a good vibe. Since the presence of other coworkers is important, only six percent felt that a ‘good vibe’ could be achieved with an occupancy level of less than 30%.
The survey results underscore the significance of a ‘good vibe’ for coworkers. Regarding the question which elements are more important, one has to answer: Both. Material as well as social factors contribute to this positive atmosphere, with material elements surprisingly playing a more pivotal role. Given the direct influence these material factors have on coworking space design, operators should prioritize them to cultivate a positive vibe that attracts coworkers and fosters various positive effects. Therefore, these findings offer valuable insights. The complete report can be accessed here.
Cover photo: C*SPACE in Berlin by Alexandra Bernhardt