What is coworking?
Today, coworking spaces have become indispensable in cities and also in rural areas. They offer for example self-employed people and startups the opportunity to rent a workplace for a certain period of time and to work together in a community. These places are designed by operators and managed by a so-called »community management«. »Real coworking« is based on five core values: collaboration, community, accessibility, sustainability and openness. For many coworkers, the use goes far beyond the flexible booking of an affordable workplace. The focus for them is on the coworking ecosystem and, above all, on the community. This includes, for example, the presence of a community manager as a contact person, the networking of users (especially new users) and the planning of events with the involvement of coworkers. Many coworkers like to share their knowledge through their own offers to the community. For example, a programmer offers workshops on creating their own websites and a graphic designer advises other coworkers on logo design. But also lectures by external knowledge carriers, workshops on methodologies or joint afterwork events can be part of a coworking ecosystem offered by the community management. The offerings vary from coworking space to coworking space and are aligned with the needs of the community (users).
Coworking in companies?
Due to the fact that many coworking spaces are attributed an innovation-promoting atmosphere and startups often begin their activities there, the interest of companies in such places is increasing. Corporate coworking research is at a very early stage. So far, only potential models have been described which could be implemented in the corporate context. One of these models is the implementation of a company-owned, on-site corporate coworking space for associates only.
To find out which potential such a coworking space can have for companies, the »X-Change Lab« was implemented as a prototype at the Bosch Research Campus in Renningen. Its’ concept was developed as part of the doctoral thesis of the author of this article. The aim was not only to create a place that works as a coworking space, but also an associated corporate coworking ecosystem.
The construction was managed by facility management Renningen, and the interior design was provided by the architectural office Scope Architekten Stuttgart. A coworking space with 16 bookable workstations was created on around 356 m2 of former laboratory space. These so-called fixed-desk workstations are height-adjustable desks on wheels, which are equipped with monitors, docking station, keyboard and mouse. The booking is performed via Bosch's own room booking system (eRoom). Roll-up doors allow the three work areas (called Cubes) to be opened and closed. In the center of the lab, you can find a long desk with a kitchen unit and portafilter coffee machine. At that desk, the lab has additional hot-desk workstations (no equipment) that can be used without booking. Hybrid meeting technology completes the highly flexible equipment of the lab and enables the users to design individual working scenarios according to their own needs.
Coworking in times of the COVID 19 Pandemic?
Of course, the coworking space has not been spared the COVID 19 pandemic-related effects over the past two years. Many of the planned coworking elements such as thematic events or community events could not be realized so far. The first event that could now actually take place (on-site and hybrid) was the »X-Change Week 2022« – a special coworking week for networking experts on a specific topic. The first of its type was conducted on the topic of sustainability (more information). Despite the pandemic-related restrictions, the lab's flexibility (e.g., movable tables on wheels, hybrid meeting technology, electric roll-up doors) enabled it to be permanently used for operationally necessary collaboration, even during the COVID 19 pandemic, while complying with all existing regulations on attendance and hygiene. This made it possible to try out new types of work settings under safe conditions.
X-Change Lab: Laboratory for testing new ways of collaboration
The accompanying research examined the topic of corporate coworking both internally and beyond the Bosch context. Surveys and interviews were conducted internally with users of the X-Change Lab to identify the potential and the advantages and disadvantages of a corporate coworking space from the user's perspective. 252 employees took part in an initial mixed-methods online survey. The insights gained from this were deepened by 12 qualitative guided interviews with users of the coworking space. Furthermore, the study focused on finding out why employees use the lab and why they do not. One aim was to identify elements that a corporate coworking ecosystem should include from the users' perspective in order to fulfill their wishes and requirements. Another focus was the X-Change Lab's influence on the innovation and corporate culture as perceived by employees.
In a previous study, the focus was on the corporate coworking landscape in German-speaking countries. For this purpose, qualitative guided interviews were conducted with external companies that have already established and tried out their own corporate coworking space approach within their company. For this purpose, interviews were conducted with 12 operators of such approaches. The results of the research described here are currently being evaluated and will subsequently be published in the form of a doctoral thesis. In summary, this research will lead to recommendations on how to deal with coworking elements from a corporate perspective in the future in order to best support employees in the development of cross-disciplinary innovation.
The X-Change Lab offers employees a platform to try out new forms of collaboration together. The community management is looking forward to ideas and offers by associates. If you are interested or would like to learn more feel free to stop by for a coffee or send us an email. Of course, we also have a short info video about the X-Change Lab for you:
In July 2020, we opened the corporate coworking space »X-Change Lab« on the research campus in Renningen. In collaboration with Facility Management Renningen and the doctoral thesis in design and innovation management presented here, a former laboratory was turned into a place for cross-disciplinary and cross-business-unit collaboration. In the X-Change Lab, all Renningen-based associates have the opportunity to book fully equipped workplaces for at least one day up to a maximum of 30 days. They can also invite colleagues from other business units to work together with them. The flexibility of this approach enables many different usage scenarios. For example, Bosch associates have used the space for multi-day hackathons, sprints or a combination of workshop and collaboration phases. The Community Management team, which is essential for this new working environment, is actively shaping the culture of exchange. They are available to answer any questions and is happy to receive ideas for trying out this new working environment.
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Author: Eva Höfer
Eva is currently completing her doctoral thesis in Innovation Management at the Bosch Research Campus. Her doctoral thesis is written in collaboration with TU Dresden (Technical Design) and Hochschule Pforzheim. Before joining Bosch in 2018, she studied Creative Direction in the Master's program at Hochschule Pforzheim. As a designer she solves challenges by designing user-centric ecosystems. Her particular focus is on fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration and innovation.