Proximity & behavior

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 this group.

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.

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?



The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.

Better Coworkers:

Weekly Coworking Tips:

My Audiobook:

That’s exactly why I favor a flexible seating in a coworking space. When I went to a space where “residents” worked here and flexible guests sat somewhere else, I was disappointed. The residents work more or less in an office community; me as a guest coworker would interact with people that know less about the space then the residents. But hey, I would get a lot more inspiration as any residents.

In the very sense of a flexible coworking space the identified results of the study in a company setting do not apply to coworking: In an office you rarely are able to decide where you do your work, and who maybe spreads out “toxic” vibrations in your neighborhood. But in a coworking space with flexible desks I can choose a different workplace any time without giving explanations. The work we do in a company might be competitive, in a coworking space we act collaborative.

On the other hand as a coworking host I should be able to sense some “toxic” behaviors (which I did working in the enterprise setting) and work pro-actively on this. Try to get to the point why sb keeps sending out negative impulses, what makes him/her unhappy. Supporting the search for strategies to change what bothers him/her. Be positive and supportive, because as the study pointed out: positive stimulations have a huge effect, too :slight_smile:

I think in a decade we will see more studies about relationships in coworking space environments – and I look very positively forward to the upcoming results. Don’t you?