When you think about co-working — shared office spaces with a community vibe — you probably think about them primarily as a home for freelancers and solopreneurs, a place to beat the loneliness, make professional connections, and use the printer or conference room. But according to a recent piece in the MIT Sloan Management Review (free registration required) there's good reasons for companies to consider co-working as an option for employees as well.

The article by a trio of business school professors lays out the case for bigger businesses to call a co-working space home, citing three main reasons:

1. It'll make your team more innovative

Freelancers often love co-working spaces not only for the coffee machine and company, but also for how new and diverse connections and serendipitous conversations can spark fresh ideas and new career possibilities. The same can apply to your team.

Furniture maker Steelcase, for example, sends employees in Grand Rapids, Michigan to a co-working space where they rub shoulders with employees of other large companies “Our belief is that mixing creative teams from different industries will spawn 'happy accidents' that inspire innovation, new products, and different ways of thinking,” a Steelcase executive explains in the article.

2. You employees will like it.

Happy workers are productive workers and studies show that co-working spaces tend to make those who use them happy, both because they can often help an employee avoid a long commute and because of a boosted sense of autonomy.

“I love waking up in the morning and knowing that I'm in charge of where I'm working that day. Because I don't have to go into the office, I actually enjoy choosing my workplace based on how I feel and what I need to do that day,” Alex Hillman, founder of the Indy Hall co-working community in Philadelphia, is quoted as saying.

3. You'll cut costs

Not impressed by touchy feely concerns like employee autonomy? Then how about the nuts and bolts argument that coworking can help bring down your real estate costs and increase flexibility in regards to your team's workspace. If your team is often out at meetings or otherwise traveling this is a particularly compelling argument.

“Our experience in the study of space utilization in organizations indicates that, at any given time, a substantial fraction of workspace in a typical corporate office setting is empty and not being utilized. Much of this underutilization of space is indicative of workers' inherent mobility--going to and from meetings throughout the office or outside of the office,” the authors write. In these situations offices become “drop-in centers.” Co-working spaces can provide the same function at lower cost.

Published on: Sep 30, 2015