I had a reminder of just how underestimated coworking spaces really are when a member’s client was walking out of the building yesterday and asked her about her office: “so this is like Google or Apple – a cool place to work that’s ‘good’ for you (insert air quotes here).”
As a coworking space, people are usually floored by who we are and how we do what we do. About half the time, they think of us as a cool space with standing desks that likes to talk about coffee and happy hours – in fact, more and more, when Executives or CEOs come in from other offices, their first response has been “oh yeah, we just got rid of our walls and added a ping pong table too.”
As a space who specializes in providing programming and amenities that supports every part of wellness, you can imagine how I shocked, then happy I was when I saw the headline for one of FastCompany’s latest articles on the design trend workspaces are taking. [Check out the article on hip spaces & mental health here.] At first I thought, “hey, we’re hip!” By the time I got to the end, I had changed by tune: we’re not hip, we’re healthy. (We might be hip. I hope we’re hip – or at least making healthy hip. The later means we’re doing our jobs.)
Most people think taking down walls and making sure people stand more often is the solution to fixing mental health. Technically it improves it: people see each other more often, which means they probably chat a bit more and collaboration is easier between departments; switching between sitting and standing is great for circulation, but is it getting you away from as much screen time or helping you last longer?
I thought about the ways that small coworking spaces to massive companies like Google encourage mental health. With depression on a major rise, community is a major way for people to connect and get that endorphin boost that many need they’re needing — and that’s the bottomline of coworking (at least in our book). But to create and continuously cultivate a community is tricky, especially one that takes the next step in having a culture of making mental health a norm. From consistently sharing stories, helping individuals make connections with each other, and providing workshops and programming that encourage processing and emotional growth, there are plenty of ways any size of company can support this growing gap of mental health. And that’s just one part of wellbeing. Some spaces are creating great niches that encourage physical health (climbing gyms integrated with coworking spaces) or offices that decrease pollution to better the air quality around them (hint, hint).
So yeah, fewer walls and standing desks are cool (note, we might be biased). But a place that’s “good” for you, tackles the tough stuff. With many seeing sleep as the gateway to mental health – are you giving places to nap or fitness studios for meditation and restoration yoga? What about little things like eye health – is there enough natural light or encouragement for breaking from screen time or having serious boundaries on shutting off at certain parts of the day? We can put up and take down walls whenever a trend hits, but we’re with Aaron Harvey on this one, you have to speak up and start making mental health a part of the daily conversation until it becomes just a cool as that new Kombucha tap you just installed.