14 July 2023

How Coworking Spaces Can Impact Employee Well-Being

Introduction: A New Landscape of Work

The modern landscape of work is shifting, moving away from traditional office spaces and towards more flexible, hybrid work environments. At the heart of this change are coworking spaces. These shared, flexible workspaces have seen a surge in popularity over recent years, particularly in Australia where the growth of coworking spaces has been significant.

This shift towards flexible working environments has been accelerated by the increasing prevalence of remote work and hybrid work arrangements. For many businesses and individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst, pushing them to re-evaluate traditional ways of working and explore more flexible options.

Amid these changes, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published an insightful piece titled Research: How Coworking Spaces Impact Employee Well-Being. The article, grounded in rigorous research, explores the role of coworking spaces in mitigating employee loneliness and fostering social health – a particularly relevant discussion in the current climate.

In this article, we delve into the HBR’s findings, explore the rise of coworking spaces in Australia, and examine the potential of these spaces to enhance employee well-being.

Key Takeaways:

  • Coworking spaces in Australia have seen significant growth, offering a flexible, community-focused workspace that fosters collaboration, innovation, and well-being.
  • Employee loneliness is a critical issue that can be mitigated by coworking spaces.
  • Coworking spaces are socially fulfilling work environments that allow relational job crafting, offer escape from traditional office dynamics, and provide a diverse and less stressful interaction environment.
  • Maintaining the unique qualities of coworking spaces, such as diversity, flexibility, and a relaxed atmosphere, is crucial for their effectiveness.
  • Leveraging coworking spaces effectively requires strategies such as educating about the benefits, offering stipends, supporting relational programming, and providing training and guidance.

Understanding Coworking and Its Growth in Australia

The Concept of Coworking

Coworking spaces are shared workspaces that provide individuals from different organisations with a place to work independently in a communal setting. Unlike traditional offices, these spaces offer flexible rental options, allowing users to rent desks or offices by the day, month, or year.

These spaces are equipped with a range of amenities, such as high-speed internet, meeting rooms, kitchen facilities, and common areas for networking and socialising. They foster a sense of community and collaboration, offering networking events and professional development opportunities.

In essence, coworking spaces provide an alternative to the solitude of home or the static environment of a traditional office, offering the autonomy of remote work with the structure and community of an office.

Coworking Spaces in Australia: A Growing Phenomenon

In Australia, the coworking sector has seen significant growth in recent years. According to a report by Allwork.Space, the number of coworking spaces in Australia increased by 297% over five years. Furthermore, as of 2023, coworking spaces in major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane account for over 680,000 square metres of commercial real estate [Knight Frank Research].

Such rapid growth is a clear indication of the increasing demand for flexible and innovative work environments in Australia. Fuelled by factors such as the rise of the gig economy, the growing number of remote workers, and an increasing emphasis on flexibility in the workplace, the Australian coworking industry has solidified its position as a key player in the country’s business landscape.

Variety of Coworking Spaces

Australia boasts a diverse range of coworking spaces, each offering unique features and catering to different needs. From large, global coworking chains to small, localised hubs, the offerings are vast.

Some spaces cater specifically to niches such as technology start-ups, creative freelancers, or social enterprises. Others might target corporate employees from larger companies looking for a change from the traditional office setting.

Many of these spaces offer added-value services such as meeting room hire, access to mentors and investors, or partnerships with local businesses to provide discounts and benefits to members. They may host networking events, professional development workshops, and social activities to foster a sense of community and collaboration among members.

In essence, the Australian coworking scene offers a multitude of options for individuals and businesses seeking a flexible, community-focused workspace that fosters collaboration, innovation, and well-being.

The Challenge of Employee Loneliness: An Emerging Issue

How Coworking Spaces Can Impact Employee Well-Being

Understanding Employee Loneliness

Employee loneliness is a complex issue that goes beyond the absence of social interactions at work. It pertains to a subjective experience of isolation, a lack of connectedness, or a feeling of not being part of a community. These feelings can stem from both personal and professional circumstances and can have profound impacts on an individual’s well-being.

When employees feel lonely, they may experience a decrease in job satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Studies show that loneliness can lead to burnout, depression, and even physical health issues. Furthermore, it can negatively impact organisational outcomes, including performance, employee turnover, and team collaboration.

The Role of Remote and Hybrid Work Models

The Harvard Business Review’s recent article illuminates how remote and hybrid work models can unintentionally exacerbate feelings of loneliness among employees. As the work environment shifts from the traditional office setting to homes, employees may find themselves feeling isolated due to reduced face-to-face interactions and a lack of social connection.

However, the article also highlights that workplace loneliness was escalating even before the pandemic, when most work was conducted in offices. The implication is clear: while the shift to remote and hybrid work models poses challenges, the solution isn’t as simple as rushing employees back to the office. After all, returning to the traditional office environment could limit the flexibility and autonomy that many employees have come to appreciate during the pandemic.

The Potential of Coworking Spaces in Mitigating Loneliness: Insights from the HBR Article

How Coworking Spaces Can Impact Employee Well-Being

‘Third Spaces’: A Fresh Perspective on Work Environments

In our quest to find a solution to the loneliness epidemic among employees, we find ourselves considering not just the traditional office or home locations but the concept of ‘third spaces’. Third spaces refer to places where employees can work that are neither their office nor their home – such as cafes, hotel lobbies, friends’ homes, and coworking spaces.

The Harvard Business Review’s recent research indicates that these third spaces, specifically coworking spaces, show immense promise for mitigating employee loneliness.

Coworking Spaces: Socially Fulfilling Work Environments

Surprisingly, the study showed that employees working from coworking spaces found it to be more socially fulfilling than either the office (64%) or the home (67%). One crucial reason is that coworking spaces offer the flexibility employees crave – not just in terms of where they work, but also with whom they work. This flexibility offers a lifeline to employees feeling isolated in their jobs, presenting coworking spaces as viable, socially beneficial work environments.

Relational Job Crafting in Coworking Spaces

Further, the Harvard Business Review article highlights the concept of relational job crafting – the process by which employees can customise who they interact with during their workday. This process, usually associated with positive outcomes such as increased employee satisfaction, performance, and retention, is particularly enabled by coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces, such as the ones offered by Mobo Co, facilitate relational job crafting by gathering professionals from a wide range of companies and occupations. The diversity of professionals allows employees to choose with whom they want to interact, thus enhancing their social fulfilment at work.

Unique Features of Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces uniquely provide:

  1. Escape from coworkers: Offering a reprieve from office dynamics and unnecessary interactions, which 52% of survey participants appreciated.
  2. A variety of relationship partners: Coworking spaces gather professionals from different occupations and companies, allowing for more diverse interactions.
  3. A respite from competitive pressures: Coworking colleagues do not directly impact an employee’s performance reputation or rating, making interactions less stressful.
  4. Communal norms and mechanisms: Most coworking sites establish a code of conduct and hire a community manager to maintain a positive work environment.
  5. Pro-relational activities: These spaces often arrange activities for professional development and relationship-building, which employees have praised.

These unique features of coworking spaces highlight their potential in enhancing employee social health and mitigating workplace loneliness.

Australian Case Studies: The Impact of Coworking on Employee Social Health

Promoting Social Health Through Australian Coworking Spaces

Across Australia, a variety of coworking spaces are intentionally designed to promote social health and mitigate feelings of isolation among employees. Spaces like Mobo Co offer environments that are not only practical for productivity but are also mindful of fostering a sense of community.

Coworking providers understand the necessity of social interaction and actively encourage it by organising workshops, informal lunches, and networking events. Additionally, communal areas within these spaces are designed to facilitate casual conversations and foster connections among members.

Testimonials from Australian Coworking Space Users

Australian employees who have embraced the coworking model attest to the benefits of these social environments. Here are just a few insights from Mobo Co’s own tenants:

“Our office is within Mobo co and we love coming to a fresh feeling space, with great staff and all the benefits of great amenities that we don’t have to maintain. It’s really helped attract great staff.” – Meletios Pikos

“MoboCo has WOW factor from the moment you walk in. The facilities ooze a modern luxury that never fails to leave an impression on our clients and visitors. The reception staff and concierge are genuine rockstars and you can always guarantee you’ll start your day with a smile.” – Kenneth Lee

“I love coming to work at MoboCo! The building is beautiful, the amenities are high end and the staff are always welcoming and helpful. I also love the group training sessions and member’s events that are organised – it’s a great opportunity to meet your neighbours.” – Kayla Day

“A wonderful office space with friendly people. I found to work at Mobo Co’s space is more productive compared to work at home. Mobo Co’s management team and other staff members are very supportive, they are always there for us if we need anything.” – Celine Xia

Such testimonials highlight the value of coworking spaces in combating the loneliness often associated with remote work and enhancing overall work satisfaction.

Maintaining the Uniqueness of Coworking Spaces

In navigating the coworking model, it’s also important to be mindful of potential pitfalls. For instance, it can be all too easy for businesses to inadvertently transform their coworking site into a satellite office, reflecting the same patterns of interaction and company culture as the traditional office environment.

This scenario underscores a critical point for both employers and coworking spaces – the importance of maintaining the unique qualities of coworking, such as diversity, flexibility, and a relaxed atmosphere. The goal is to prevent them from merely becoming an extension of the typical office environment.

As employers increasingly adopt flexible work models, it’s essential to consider how coworking spaces can continue to serve their intended purpose – to offer an alternative, more flexible and sociable workspace that helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and enhance social health. To this end, companies might encourage employees to interact with individuals from other businesses, participate in events and networking opportunities provided by the coworking space, or adopt a rotation system between the home office and coworking space to keep the experience varied and stimulating.

View Mobo Co’s upcoming events here: https://mobocowork.com/events 

Recommendations for Employers: Leveraging Coworking Spaces to Improve Employee Social Health

Capitalising on Coworking: Benefits for Small Businesses

For small businesses, particularly startups and SMEs, coworking spaces offer a unique set of benefits. These include access to a high-quality work environment without the high overhead costs, opportunities for networking and collaboration, and an enhanced sense of community among employees, fostering better job satisfaction and productivity.

Making the Most of Coworking: Practical Advice

Leveraging coworking spaces effectively, however, requires more than just moving your team into a shared office space. Here are a few key strategies to help businesses maximise the social health benefits of coworking, based on the insights shared by the aforementioned HBR article:

  • Educate about the benefits: Ensure that employees understand the advantages of coworking spaces beyond just being a place to work.
  • Provide stipends: Offer stipends for employees to utilise coworking spaces. This makes it easier for them to consider this option without worrying about the financial implications.
  • Support relational programming: Participate in and support coworking space activities that are designed to encourage social interaction among members.
  • Provide training and guidance: Employees may need some guidance to navigate the dynamics of a coworking space. Offer training sessions or onboarding to ease this transition.

Choosing the Right Coworking Spaces

Selecting coworking spaces that preserve employee flexibility and autonomy is critical. Look for spaces that offer a variety of work environments to cater to different working styles and needs. A well-designed coworking space like Mobo Co will offer individual workstations, group collaboration areas, and even quiet zones for deep focus.

Enhancing Acceptance and Effectiveness

Involve employees in the decision-making process related to coworking. This could involve seeking their input on the choice of coworking spaces, understanding their work style preferences, and periodically collecting feedback on their coworking experience. This participatory approach can enhance the acceptance and effectiveness of coworking.


Coworking spaces, far from being just an economic alternative to traditional office spaces, are emerging as critical tools in fostering employee social health and mitigating feelings of loneliness. As we’ve explored in this article, coworking environments offer more than just physical space – they provide opportunities for social interaction, enhance job satisfaction, and can significantly contribute to overall employee well-being.

Looking towards the future, as work models continue to evolve, the role of coworking spaces is likely to become increasingly significant. Australian employers who proactively leverage these spaces and integrate them into their work models will likely see improvements in their employees’ satisfaction, productivity, and overall social health. The key lies in retaining the unique essence of coworking and ensuring they do not merely replicate the dynamics of traditional offices.

Coworking is more than just a workspace solution – it’s a way to shape the future of work and employee well-being in Australia. As the HBR aptly puts it, coworking spaces have the potential to be “socially fulfilling work environments,” where employees don’t just work, but thrive.

Interested in seeing how coworking can help your team excel? Book a tour of Mobo Co today and see what everyone is talking about.