Varieties of Coworking: A Socio-Organizational Analysis

Sunday, June 26, 2016: 10:45 AM-12:15 PM
134 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Ivana Pais, Universitą Cattolica, Milano, Italy
Giuseppe Scaratti, Universitą Cattolica, Milano, Italy
Rita Bissola, Universitą Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy
Silvia Ivaldi, Universitą Cattolica, Milan, Italy
            The recent economic crisis has brought with it the emergence of new forms of work organization including coworking (CW). CW identifies localized spaces where independent professionals work sharing resources and pay to hire a desk, an internet connection, and other services. The focus of CW has been identified in community-building based on values such as collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, and openness (Spinuzzi, 2012; Capdevila, 2014).

            Due to its rapid development, the focus of research around this phenomenon has been increasingly growing in order to explore the potential of the CW from different points of view. Especially the researches describe CW as: a place for the working and social revival/renaissance of professionals marginalized by the crisis, new and alternative form of organization for knowledge work, crucible for the creation of new relationships, an incubator (in the broad sense of the term) with creative ideas and a place that fosters innovation (Cappelli and Keller, 2013; Gandini, 2015; Merkel, 2015)

            If, on the one hand, the existing literature investigated the positive aspects of CW, at the same time the proliferation of this reality begins meandering the doubt about the sustainability of these initiatives (Gandini, 2015) among researchers and practitioners. In fact, there are those who talk about "coworking bubble” (Moriset, 2014; Gandini, 2015) implying that the near future will lead to a reduction in the number of CWS, a rationalization of the offered service options and, ultimately, to an inevitable concentration of the sector.

            While acknowledging a number of organizational units, options for structuring the spaces, services to workers, choices with reference to governance and the role of CW hosts (Merkel, 2015), the studies conducted so far on the CW have substantially presented the phenomenon as a single reality without ever distinguishing/identifying within different types of CW ventures.

            The aim of this study is to contribute to the literature on CW through the results of a large empirical study that, by proposing a classification of the reality of CW, identifies the socio-organizational dimensions allowing interpreting the differences between different realities of CW thus offering an opportunity for systematization of the phenomenon.

            The phenomenon has now reached a certain degree of maturity where it can no longer be considered as an undifferentiated phenomenon, but it is important to systematize the differences between different realities and understand the dimensions along which you "play" the differences between the various initiatives and organizational realities of this type. Also this forward-looking perspective will allow: (1) providing a photograph/systematization of the phenomenon starting from the understanding of the interpretations, objectives and strategies adopted by the founders; (2) understanding which dimensions are relevant to understanding the differences and then the strengths/weaknesses, the risks and the potential of each type of conceiving the CWS by the founders; (3) envisage also evolutionary trajectories of these business models and the phenomenon of CW more generally.