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Proximity & behavior in coworking spaces

1 minute read
by Alex Hillman

As a rule I try not to link to FastCo and instead to the original research that they synthesize.

But this article and the research it’s based on are very relevant to my readers interested in community & shared spaces.

The design of the research seems to be about ‘toxic people’ but it’s really about how behavior is contagious, the impact behavior has on people within a certain radius.

In the context of coworking, it’s less about people being fired or quitting but instead ending memberships prematurely, or simply disengaging from the community and (which is a net loss for both the community and them).

The study doesn’t talk about how this works in the other direction I’ve personally seen this effect cut both ways – “bad behavior” left unchecked sets a bad example (sort of a social variation of broken window theory) but supportive, generative behavior is also contagious.

“Policing” culture doesn’t work – but leadership by example matters a LOT. Too many band-aid solutions make the problem worse in the long run, not better.

My approach has always been to do as much as we can to mitigate and reduce “bad” behavior (a mix of design principals and communication that lend to self selection) while encouraging the good.

I’ll be reading this research a few more times to see what I can draw from it and will share more specific ideas as they come together, but would be curious if others have examples of what they’ve done to curb “bad apples” and encourage contagious good?

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.