Coworking or Cult? The Thin Line Between Community and Obsession

February 10, 2024
Natalie Thorburn

In the burgeoning world of coworking spaces, the concept of community is often touted as one of the key benefits, offering a stark contrast to the isolation of remote work or the impersonality of traditional office environments. However, as coworking spaces continue to proliferate, some observers have raised questions about the intensity of community involvement in these settings, wondering where the line is between a supportive community and an all-consuming culture.

The Appeal of Community

The rise of coworking spaces is largely attributed to their ability to foster a sense of community among diverse groups of professionals. According to the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), 84% of coworkers report feeling more engaged and motivated in a coworking environment (GCUC, 2019). This sense of belonging and mutual support is a significant draw for many, offering not just a place to work, but a place to connect, share ideas, and grow professionally.

The Risk of Over-Identification

However, the very aspect that makes coworking spaces so appealing— their strong community ethos—can also lead to potential pitfalls. When individuals become overly immersed in their coworking community, there's a risk of blurring personal boundaries and losing sight of individual goals and identities. This over-identification with a work-related community can lead to a cult-like mentality, where the collective identity of the space overshadows the diverse needs and aspirations of its members.

Maintaining Professional and Personal Boundaries

One of the critical challenges for coworking spaces is ensuring that the community remains a source of support without becoming suffocating or exclusionary. It's essential for these spaces to encourage networking and collaboration while also respecting the autonomy and individuality of their members. Creating a balance between community engagement and personal independence is key to avoiding the pitfalls of community obsession.

Expert Insight on Navigating the Balance

Bo Peng, the founder of Mango Space, offers his perspective on maintaining the delicate balance between fostering a community and respecting individuality in coworking spaces:

"In the coworking world, the line between a vibrant community and an overbearing culture can be thin. At Mango Space, we're acutely aware of this balance. We strive to create a coworking space in Tampa that encourages collaboration and connection, without tipping into the realm of obsession. Our approach is to facilitate a diverse range of events and interactions that cater to the broad spectrum of our members' interests and professional goals, ensuring that our community enhances, rather than detracts from, the individual pursuits of our members."

Bo Peng is a coworking space founder with coworking spaces in Wesley Chapel and Lutz, FL. Peng's approach highlights the importance of diversity and inclusivity in maintaining a healthy coworking community that supports individual growth without becoming overbearing.

Conclusion

The discussion around coworking spaces as communities versus cults underscores the importance of maintaining a balance between collective engagement and individual autonomy. While the sense of community in coworking spaces can be a powerful catalyst for collaboration and career growth, it's essential to remain vigilant about preserving personal boundaries and ensuring that the community remains inclusive and supportive. By navigating this balance, coworking spaces can continue to offer a dynamic and enriching environment for professionals from all walks of life.

 

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