Julie Tucker
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IBM: How coworking improves diversity, collaboration and productivity

Multinational technology giant IBM is well-known for promoting diversity and productivity. Famous for inventing the tech at the core of today’s business world, IBM strives to create a working environment that promotes inclusivity.

The new location of IBM’s CIO Office (a coworking space in London) encourages a sense of community among the diverse group of colleagues who are connecting and collaborating on the seventh floor. Coworking is fulfilling IBM’s goal of alleviating workplace stress.

With revenue of $77.14 billion in 2019, International Business Machines Corporation is not only a world-leading technology innovator, it also leads the way in supporting and improving employee wellbeing

Why does IBM support coworking?
When the company was searching for new workspace for its CIO Office, they needed somewhere to create an inclusive culture.

The CIO arm manages and develops IBM’s Business Partner applications. The company realised that with a diverse set of people using its tools, it was important to have a diverse group of people building them too. They needed a workspace to attract and retain talent – and a coworking space ticked all the boxes.

IBM had a vision of providing a pleasant place to work, designed in a way that would attract people with the required skillset to carry out various types of work, from tech development to help desk support. The CIO team had worked remotely, using technology, for many years, when IBM decided to focus on bringing teams together physically.

Bringing people back to the office in the UK’s coworking capital, London, was seen as a way of encouraging collaboration and innovation.

How was IBM’s workspace designed?
IBM bosses realised coworking space could help improve diversity and productivity, so they were keen to develop the new workspace environment.

Time was spent designing the best sort of space for the IBM team, including dedicated silent focus areas, breakout spaces with comfortable seats and inspiring views over the city of London. Desks were positioned close to the windows, so people could work in natural light for most of the day.

The idea of working in coworking space was also to encourage employee wellbeing and alleviate stress. Design features with this in mind included a moss wall in a communal space to create a sense of nature indoors. In the centre of the office is a communal area and pantry, enabling the whole team to sit and work together, so they can connect with colleagues whom they have never met before. There’s also a library for leisure time.

Reducing stress has helped to increase productivity, so IBM has developed the strategy further by launching wellbeing classes for employees, including meditation at lunchtime. The impact has been incredible, according to IBM bosses.

How has coworking benefited IBM?
A sense of community prevails beyond the IBM workspace, thanks to sharing a coworking building with many different organisations. The team appreciates having a diversity of different spaces, where they can escape from the work environment when they feel the need and socialise with people from other organisations as well. The result is a coworking space where everybody feels like they belong.

To further the sense of community, the IBM CIO Office has launched an initiative, Our Space, where employees can provide feedback on what they think of their office space and how they would like to use it. The opportunity to help shape the office area has given everyone a greater sense of being part of the team, inspiring them to do their best work.

IBM now has more than 700 coworking desks across several locations, including more in London, as the company sees this as the way forward.

Have other businesses followed?
The IBM coworking office is a prime example of how a great coworking environment can be used as a continually-evolving tool. It empowers its inhabitants, as they can shape it how they wish, improving morale, collaboration and subsequently productivity.

The key is remembering that the employees are not simply resources – they are individuals with their own lives. Feeling free to express themselves in the workplace leads to a happier, less stressed people, which can only improve how they carry out their work.

IBM is not the only global company to use coworking. Other massive brands who have used coworking in the past, or who still use it today, include the ride-sharing and food-delivery service Uber, social networking site Instagram and plenty more businesses who recognise its advantages.


© rcfotostock /Adobe Stock

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