Make your workplace your favourite place
Interview with professor Axel Minten
Professor Dr. Axel Minten is a New Work specialist, a partner at the cowork AG and a teacher and researcher at the FOM University of Applied Sciences for Economics and Management. He researches the way we work and how we strive to make our environment more pleasant and for him, coworking spaces are a part of that.
Generation Z is now entering the job market. There’s the assumption that they don’t really want to work anymore but only think of their leisure time instead. Is that true?
I was always critical of this generation model because such differences between the generations have never been empirically proven. What I do see today, however, is that the circumstances younger people find themselves in have changed. They are well-qualified and experience a high value on the labour market. Many people with the right education can choose who they want to work for and subsequently create an environment that makes work enjoyable. They don’t want to put up with a job that’s exhausting and a strain, and they can afford to demand other values such as good health or the work-life balance too.
And coworking spaces are a part of that…
The idea isn’t that new. So-called business centres have been around for decades. What is new is the idea that a coworking space is so much more than just a property. It is about the community and identification with the place. There is an incredible variety when it comes to coworking spaces – you have small spaces with cat rooms, some spaces provide their own maker room with 3D-printers and others might even have childcare attached to them or a room where sick family members can be cared for – the spaces are as individual as we are ourselves. On top of that, a coworking space near your home reduces the need for a long commute and make it much more sustainable.
But isn’t the general view that the next generations will have to work more, because of the demographic change, to at least keep prosperity at current levels?
Work psychologists know that if you are motivated, you will also work more. People prefer to spend their time in nice environments – so, if they like it where they are, they are willing to give their best performance in every way. Additionally, production is becoming increasingly efficient, with AI as well as digitalisation providing support. Why, then, shouldn’t people create an environment in this world of work that makes it as pleasant as possible? Finally, New Work mustn’t be a synonym for “working as little as possible”. Instead, it is about how to organise work in a way that makes it enjoyable.
»Schließlich darf New Work nicht verkürzt werden auf „möglichst wenig Arbeiten“. Sondern es geht darum, Arbeit so zu organisieren, dass sie angenehm ist. «
What about the willingness of employers and companies to tackle the design and organisation of their workplaces?
The willingness isn’t always there and often it only comes about after some pressure. When you can’t find people for apprenticeships and other vacancies, you need to do something. The willingness to invest, for example in a coworking spaces, comes from a necessity. When employers later see the results of such ways of working –job flexibility, greater efficiency and how their company is more attractive – they are very fond of it.
What should a good coworking space look like?
It boils down to the five big ‘C’s. The first one is Communication – you need space for meetings, for getting together, for creative exchange. The second is Concentration – that means if I get interrupted, I can’t focus on my work. Many coworking spaces therefore offer places to retreat to. Next is Co-Creation – for that, you need rooms where you can move the tables and where large whiteboards invite you to scribble on them. The fourth ‘C’ stands for Chill-out – this is the big area of finding calmness, taking a break, having coffee or something to eat. Finally, the fifth ‘C’ – the Community. It promotes identification with the place. You go to your coworking space because it has become a favourite place with a great community. This goes far beyond it just being a property. Some even add a sixth ‘C’ – for Coffee. A great coffee machine is really important.
And that all leads to exchange?
That works very well, however sometimes you need to start it up. So-called community or space managers ensure that events such as member breakfasts, check-ins and other meetings help people fill the space with life. So the community needs to be looked after, otherwise people all just sit silently in front of their laptops like in a business centre. This also influences the architecture of a building, by the way. You don’t need to set up a kitchen on each floor – you can plan a certain kind of gravity towards the community by design.
Why then would you still need your own office spaces if you are a company?
It certainly is a misconception that a company has to provide one room for each member of staff. Every second German company is currently thinking about reducing their office space. Existing rooms then serve representational purposes or they become hybrid rooms, an additional space to retreat or a space for meetings.
What disturbs you the most when you’re working in a coworking space?
Most of all I find it disturbing when I notice that there isn’t any real separation between focused working and communication. Also, when there is no corner that I find appealing, or when I have to sit in the middle of the room and have no wall behind my back.