Inspiration at Work: A Serendipity Labs Member Consumer Survey
Updated: Mar 31
This was written for CAS 829: Evaluation Techniques the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA program.
Assignment: Your task is to complete a research plan. Although you will not actually collect any data for this project, you are going to research a topic then write a short literature review, formulate hypotheses, draft a survey and provide a data analysis plan. Put together a plan as if you were going to start data collection this summer. You should be thinking through all of the steps as if you were really going to collect data in future.
This task requires you to draw on your knowledge learned throughout the course. For example, you will need to write hypotheses that are actually testable. You’ll need to draft a survey that would yield the right type of data for the analyses you have planned. And you’ll need to think through careful recruitment ideas.
Inspiration at Work: A Serendipity Labs Member Consumer Survey
The rise of coworking (CW) has revamped the traditional office environment and invited professionals to rethink what it means to “go to the office.” A mix of dedicated offices, shared workspaces, and “hot desking,” CW offers pros and cons to business owners, employees, and freelancers/contractors as they navigate the divide between productivity and community.
According to a study by real estate brokerage JLL, CW has grown twenty-three percent annually, fueled by a specialized niche and a unique value proposition (as cited in Upsuite, 2019). The Wisconsin CW market is growing consistently with national trends—especially in response to the state’s rapidly growing startup community (Entrepreneur Resources, 2019). Serendipity Labs (SL), a national and soon-to-be international CW corporation, operates dedicated and open suites, offices, and shared spaces through an upscale hospitality business model.
The purpose of this project is to design a consumer experience survey specifically targeted to the Madison and the Milwaukee SL locations. To that end, this project will include a literature review, hypotheses, an online member survey, an analysis plan, and a recruitment strategy.
Headquartered in New York City, SL is a lifestyle brand that features high-end workspaces for remote workers, telecommuters, project teams, and small businesses (SL, n.d.). CEO John Arenas said the company leverages experts in each market—often former hospitality executives—who are able to market flexible, variable real estate over traditional, long-term, leases in local markets (Levy, 2017). SL, under a slogan of “inspiration at work,” reimagines reception as a high-end lobby and the administrative assistant as a concierge-based “experience coordinator.” “Focus rooms,” one-person spaces designed for short-term privacy, are located throughout the lab. The high-end kitchen area features marble countertops, fruit-infused water, gourmet coffee from a local roaster, and fully stocked sodas, seltzer waters, and premium snacks. Offering fifty-inch LCD TVs in each of the conference rooms, secure printing, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, and luxe amenities, SL is rated among the top ten CW firms nationally (Upsuite, 2019).
Occupying 23,000 square feet, Serendipity Labs-Madison (SL -MAD) opened in April 2019. SL-MAD encompasses the sixth floor of a high-rise building on the city’s tony west side (Serendipity Labs, n.d.). Serendipity Labs-Milwaukee (SL-MKE), which opened February 2020, is a 24,000-square foot space west of downtown Milwaukee. Membership agreements are tiered by “Dedicated” (fixed) and “Coworking” (flexible). The pricing is (SL-MAD/SL-MKE): “dedicated desks” for one person ($399/$450); “dedicated offices” for one to two people ($660/$700); “dedicated team rooms” for three to ten people ($1,370/$1,120); “Coworking 1” ($49 one visit per month); “Coworking 10” ($199 ten visits per month); and “Unlimited Coworking” ($299 unlimited visits).
The Rise of CW
Rudimental CW dates back to 1995, where Berlin hackers met in “hackerspaces” (Stevanovic, 2019, p. 3; Foertsch & Cagnol, 2018). Coined in 1999 by video game designer Bernard DeKoven, CW in the late nineties referred to a work style, not a work location (Stevanovic, 2019). In 2005, computer programmer Brad Neuberg opened the first CW space in San Francisco (Stevanovic, 2019). During the South by Southwest festivals, in 2008 and in 2009, CW meetups became popular. By 2010, CW had its own hashtag movement, #CoworkingDay. By 2013, there were more than three thousand spaces and one hundred thousand coworkers worldwide (Foertsch & Cagnol, 2018). It may have started small, but CW transformed quickly from a novelty to an in-demand workspace model (Entrepreneur Resources, 2019). The CW industry grew nearly 62% from 2017 to 2019—with nearly nineteen thousand CW spaces, more than three million coworkers globally, and more than eighty million square feet of CW space (Rothstein, 2019; Stevanovic, 2019).
CW was both elevated and hindered by infamous CW titan WeWork. Led by eccentric, cult-like CEO Adam Neumann, WeWork catapulted CW into the national spotlight; however, Neumann became a victim of hubris after he tried to diversify the company technologically, socially, and politically by rebranding as “The We Company.” This version of the company boasted a mission to “elevate the world’s consciousness,” but through waste and want, Neumann burned through capital, alienated investors, enraged the board, tarnished the brand, and ultimately stepped down as CEO (Austin, 2019, p. 71; Brown, 2020).
Today, CW is most popular in urban markets and favored by the technology sector, freelancers, artists, consultants, startup founders, and entrepreneurs (Rothstein, 2019; Romano, n.d.). Companies like Uber, Instagram, Indiegogo, and TripAdvisor operate in CW environments (Coworker, 2019). According to an Emergent Research study, there will be 3.8 million coworking professionals worldwide by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022 (as cited in Spectrum, 2019). International Workplace Group (IWG) researchers concluded that fifty percent of global workers work outside of the main office for at least 2.5 days per week (as cited in Moreno, 2019). Increasing growth in online software and tools continues to fuel space-as-a-service growth (Stribling, 2018). CW will see a rise of independently owned spaces that will fight against CW chains for market space (Hobson, 2019).
The Formats of CW
Typical CW formats include hot-desking (working in a shared space in a first-come-first-served desk choice), fixed desks (working in an a shared space with an assigned desk), private office space (a traditional office with a closed door), suites (larger office spaces often with opportunity for expansion through adjoining doors), a day-pass/hourly shared space option, and virtual memberships (for professionals who wish to maintain a professional office address) (Serendipity Labs, n.d.; Spectrum, 2019; Mehl, 2018). CW growth has facilitated off-shoots and differentiation in formats. Emerging segments market to traveling professionals, corporate workers, independent artists, CW for parents, female-only spaces, CW kitchens, rural CW locations, photography and film studios, pop-up retail spaces, dance studios, nonprofits, event hosts, holistic, work-balance spaces (which include a gym and yoga classes), “digital nomads,” college students, solopreneurs, small teams, and pet supply entrepreneurs (Blagoev, Costas, & Karreman, 2019; Moreno, 2019; Coworker, 2018; Purcell, 2019; Orr, 2019, p.7). Franchise agreements continue to grow within the CW industry (Steele, 2020).
The Positives of CW
Executives are knocking down walls in favor of open floor plans (Levy, 2017). CW provides a break for freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups, and “gig economy” workers through low setup and overhead costs and low barriers to entry (Coworker, 2018; Rothstein, 2019; Alton, 2019, p. 5). Flexibility is cited most often in academic and industry articles, so much that is it nearly an appositive for CW. Similarly, the ability to control, plan, and customize space for business needs is another commonly referenced benefit—and investors and CW companies view buildings with a high percentage of flexible space as viable investment properties (Stribling, 2018; Colpaert, 2018). IWG researches state that eighty-five percent of respondents believe their productivity has increased as a result of CW (2019).
Additional benefits include:
• Reduced operating expenses (InWisconsin, 2019)
• Networking opportunities (Purcell, 2019)
• Stimulating innovation (Amador, 2019)
• Improved engagement and motivation (King, 2017)
• Community-based organization of culture and creativity (Brown, 2017)
• Acts as an “incubator” for new and early-stage firms (Harris, 2017, p. 1)
• Serves as a short-term “accelerator” for fledgling startups (Harris, 2017, p. 1)
The Negatives of CW
CW may be increasing in prominence, but the industry is not impervious to criticism. Critics cite a lack of privacy as a downside—particularly with communal physical and social arrangements removing metaphorical and literal barriers (Pochepan, 2018). Much like loud espresso machines and animated, coffee-shop conversations, shared spaces are open to multiple distractions. Smartphones, tables, videos, and conversations may prove distracting for open-space CW (Entrepreneur Resources & Programs, 2019). Depending on the CW company, cost can prove challenging for smaller businesses because members often overlook hidden fees or fail to negotiate favorable terms (Bennett, 2020). Some would-be coworkers may find it more cost-effective to work from home or from free spaces (Entrepreneur Resources & Programs, 2019). Invariably, naysayers may prove reticent based on WeWork’s epic fail: narcissism of c-suite types; false advertising and messaging; inconsistent mission statements; and shifting corporate priorities (Austin, 2019).
The franchisee-franchisor relationship may prove contentious as both parties differ in strategies to maximize the revenue from open desks and spaces (Moreno, 2019). King states that “coworking” is a limiting term and doesn’t reflect the industry—a disconnect because language can shift and industries must reflect trends and changes in order to grow (as cited in Amador, 2018). Blagoev, Costas, and Karreman (2019) worry that shared spaces are not always formal, standardized environments. CW may pattern the “where” and “when,” but not the “what” and the “how” (p. 907). CW members and companies exist within the digital structure; thus; a level of cyber-security is removed from members’ control (JLL, n.d.). Finally, the possibility of intellectual property theft or misappropriation may exist within highly shared spaces (JLL, n.d.).
Additional criticisms include:
• Potential for competition within the same CW space (Pochepan, 2018)
• Limited opportunity for customization (Redwood, 2018)
• Negative brand association (with CW parent company) (Redwood, 2018)
• Dissatisfaction with on-site management and staff (Detweiler, 2020)
• Personality or culture conflicts among companies (Detweiler, 2020)
The Psychology of CW
Emergent Research’s Steve King stated that CW possesses social and community facets that elevate the structured office environment—a social dimension that nullified “the pejorative view of the office” (as cited in Amador, 2018, p. 11). CW creates a shared community where freelancers and company employees benefit from a self-directed workspace based on mutual trust and common objectives and values—constructing and nurturing social relations, collaboration, and opportunity creation while eschewing silos and secrecy (Blagoev, Costas, & Karreman, 2019; Amador, 2018; Ahrne and Brunsson, 2011). Garrett, Spreitzer, and Bacevice (2017) describe a partial organization that creates a decided order within CW spaces—a meta-organizational phenomena extracts the traditional order of formal organizations and applies it to micro environments through membership, hierarchy, rules, monitoring, and sanctioning (as cited in Blagoev, Costas, & Karreman, 2019). Ultimately, a common sentiment among the literature is that CW reduces isolation and loneliness among otherwise remote workers (Johnson, 2019; Blagoev, Costas, & Karreman, 2019). King (2017) states that CW can reduce isolation because people “work alone together” in a fun and social community (p. 4).
Thus, CW fosters a relational constructionist world where participants help actively construct the world of an everyday life and constituent elements—a social order comprised of ongoing performances that creates a “form of life” of people who share similar attitudes, values, and commitments (Garrett, Spreitzer, & Bacevice, 2017, p. 9; Merkel, 2015). Shared-identity formatting may serve as an “incubator” for startups and for entrepreneurs (Rothstein, 2018). Shared community bridges urban, socio-spacial disadvantages by creating micro-cultural identities, supporting neighborhood-based development, and shrinking inequalities among a consumption-based, land-use elite (Brown, 2017).
CW can assuage business owners’ and contractors’ intimidation and fears of long-term commitments also, as most CW companies offer flexible billing cycles (Entrepreneur Resources & Programs, 2019). Finally, CW spaces often incorporate the option to network virtually and to connect teams digitally. This CW aspect ties into what Tranos and Nijkamp (2013) refer to as the “death of distance” concept: as the link between location and communication diminishes, technology transcends physical limitations and separation. Finally, CW makes professionals feel as though they belong to an organization but remain true to themselves; for example, many CW professionals bring their own smart devices and laptops to work. This “bring your own device” work culture gives coworkers the freedom to buy the brands and specifications they prefer and customize their equipment as they see fit (CDW, 2012, p. 4).
The COVID-19 Effects on CW
The current literature is brimming with prognostications about the future of CW in the post-COVID-19 world. Similar to SL, many coworking spaces have shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City REALTOR Adam Heinck states that CW has not existed long enough to witness economic shock, the industry exists in a precarious, wait-and-see position (as cited in Roepe, 2020). Negative economic and branding impacts, due to social distancing (SD), lock-downs, safer-at-home restrictions, public perception, lack of information, and inevitable member refund requests, could adversely affect both organizational and operating capital (Stangler, 2020; Vandenboss; 2020; Brown, 2020). SD strips CW of the most identifiable segmentation (community), but CW leadership can pivot by focusing on job creation and recruiting large, established companies—especially as the country heads into recovery mode (Stangler, 2020; Roepe, 2020; McAlister, 2016a). Advertising the “hot desk” piece is prudent because people can sit where they choose at random; thus, one can correct for situations perceived as unsanitary or unsatisfactory (Roepe, 2020).
Ultimately, CW firms should protect their people and their brand, according to Dallas coworking CEO Nick Clark (as cited in Brown, 2020). Stangler (2020) agrees: micro-communities and community hubs will be crucial to reconnecting, rebuilding, and recovering through the community hub as shared values. Post-COVID-19, CW leadership can determine members’ social, cultural, and lifestyle traits, assess risk perceptions of returning to the lab (social, physical, psychological, and financial), and brainstorm proactive strategies to ensure brands remains in the evoked (desirable) rather than the inert (apathetic) or the inept (negative) sets of consumer CW choices (McAlister, 2016b). California advertising executive Jason Sperling said brands have to show the “soul of the brand” and empathize with anxiety, fear, isolation, and lack of routine as they craft postCOVID-19 messaging (as cited in James, 2020, p. 16). The latter concept boosts branding, positioning, and persuasion: help consumers process information; create a unique brand image; and create hopeful and ethical messaging (McAlister, 2016a). Arenas told SL-MAD owner Ryan Jacobson that it will take at least ninety days to return to normal operating capacity (R. Jacobson, personal communication, April 10, 2020).
H1 states that there will be a significant positive correlation between age and productivity rating (Q28:Q10) such that the younger the professional, the less productive and the older the professional, the more productive. This is based on the hunch that younger professionals, raised as “screenagers,” are more likely to become distracted by social media and texting—thus suffering from fear of missing out (FOMO) on social media despite attempts to disconnect (Frey, 2016, p. 15; University of East Anglia, 2019).
H2 states that that there will be a significant relationship between SL membership type (“dedicated” versus “coworking”) and likelihood to host an event within the next three months (Q25:Q16). This is based on the assumption that minus a fixed location, coworking members are more likely to require and to value a physical meeting space.
H3 states that there will be a significant relationship between gender and likelihood to recommend SL to a colleague—such that women are more likely to recommend SL to a colleague than men (Q27:Q23). This is based on what Garcia (2019) describes as a female gender norm that values communal relations more than men.
H4 states that there will be a significant negative correlation between age and likelihood to download and use the SL room-scheduling app (Q28:Q15)—such that the older the respondent, the less likely and the younger the respondent, the more likely. This is based on the theory that younger professionals are more open and curious about ways to maximize productivity through apps, software, and devices. Also, older professionals may be reticent to learn new technologies.
H5 states that there will be a significant relationship between employment status and interest in extended hours (after 5:30 p.m. and on weekends) (Q26:Q11). This is based on the hunch that freelancers/contractors operate on a more flexible, mobile schedule that includes nontraditional work schedules.
H6 states that there will be a significant positive correlation between highest level of education completed and weekly usage of conference rooms (Q30:Q14)—such that the higher the education completed, the more usage. This is based on the notion that participants with graduate degrees are more likely to hold management positions that find them in high-level, private meetings.
H7 states that there will be a negative correlation between generation and likelihood to read the company blog (Q29:Q12)—such that the younger the respondent, the more likely they will read the blog. This is based on the notion that younger professionals have grown up in the digital age and are more accustomed to checking digital channels on a regular basis for content, information, and inspiration.
H8 states that there will be a significant relationship between location and likelihood to require event catering (Q5:Q17). This is based on geographical proximity of each lab to restaurants and ample parking. SL-MKE is located in a dense urban area, and SL-MAD is located in a suburban area. SL-MKE members may find it more convenient to order catering than to leave the lab, brave traffic, and battle city parking.
Serendipity Labs Member Survey
Graziano and Raulin (2012) state that surveys are an effective tool that distill experiences, attitudes, and knowledge. Surveys enable researchers to perform social, market, and psychological research within target populations (Scribbr, 2019).
To view the SL survey, visit: https://msu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_81EAQmd3SOhR0fr
The goal of this survey is to gauge member satisfaction and identify opportunities for improvement specific to SL-MAD and SL-MKE. SL can use this member survey to create a benchmark in demographics, attitudes, and beliefs. SL can use this data and insight for marketing, recruiting, and training.
The survey is a one-time, cross-sectional design administered to a defined sample based on characteristics that exist in the present tense (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). The survey includes single/multiple answer, likelihood sliding scales, and rank-order questions. Correlational categories relate to work habits, productivity, usage and interest in conference rooms/events/catering, motivation, and desire for future services. Predictor variables are location, employment status, age, gender, generation, and education level. No subgroups have been created among participants. This survey is highly scalable. The survey will take approximately five to ten minutes, and participants will not be paid.
• H1 will be measured with a one-way ANOVA. The independent variable (IV) is age (measured on a continuous 18-99 scale) measured in Q28. The dependent variable (DV) is productivity (measured quantitatively by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q10).
• H2 will be measured with a t-test. The IV is membership type (1 = Dedicated, 2 = Coworking) measured in Q25. The DV is likelihood to host an event within three months (measured quantitatively by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q16).
• H3 will be measured with a t-test. The IV is gender (1 = Female, 2 = Male) measured in Q27. The DV is likelihood to recommend SL to a colleague (measured quantitatively by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q23).
• H4 will be measured with a one-way ANOVA. The IV is age (measured on a continuous 18-99 scale) measured in Q28. The DV is likelihood to download and use a room-scheduling app (measured quantitively by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q15).
• H5 will be measured with a one-way ANOVA. The IV is employment status (1 = Business owner, 2 = Coworking employee, 3 = Freelancer/Contractor) in Q26. The DV is interest (measured quantitatively by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q11).
• H6 will be measured with a one-way ANOVA. The IV is highest level of education completed (1 = Graduate degree, 2 = Undergraduate degree, 3=Diploma) measured in Q30. The DV is number of days per week (measured quantitatively by a 1-5 sliding scale in Q14).
• H7 will be measured with a one-way ANOVA. The IV is generation (1 = Baby Boomer, 2 = Generation X, 3 = Millennial, 4 = Generation Z) measured in Q29. The DV is likelihood to read the SL blog (measured by the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q12).
• H8 will be measured with a t-test. The IV is location (1 = Madison, 2 = Milwaukee) measured in Q5. The DV is likelihood to require event catering (measured quantitatively the 1-10 ordinal, sliding scale in Q17).
Surveys are successful when researchers seek information appropriate for the topic and for the population (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). One must select a representative sample—proportionate to the actual study population—or risk inadequate results (Graziano & Raulin, 2012; McAlister, 2020). The first step is to choose current SL-MAD and SL-MKE members (homogenous populations) (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). Management will communicate a brief overview and encourage participation by framing the survey as a choice to improve procedures and practices. The marketing team can recruit by sending the survey link via email, social media, and the company blog. Furthermore, SL marketing can reinforce survey objectives and benefits with decision-makers and leadership among members to amplify buy-in and foster morale. Overall, the recruitment goal is to solicit a minimum of thirty entries among predictive category members so as to maintain a robust, appropriate number for results and analysis.
CW continues to thrive not only as a location, but as a community (Alton, 2019). As SL leadership ponders competitive advantage strategies within the crowded Madison and Milwaukee markets, they can access quick, accurate, and scalable data with minimal interviewer bias (Sutherland, 2019). Online surveys act as well-developed methods of online data capture—allowing for open and candid communication between researchers and participants (Gupta, 2017). With unambiguous, concise, and appropriate questions, surveys can shed light on participants’ experience, knowledge, and behaviors (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). Ideally, the results of the SL online survey will reveal insights on how members interact and use the lab—while identifying opportunities for member satisfaction and for added-value services in the future. Thus, SL-MAD and SL-MKE management can customize support and services. Now, that’s “inspiration at work.”
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