What does it mean to thrive in a job?

According to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business who studied the question, thriving in a job is distinct from being happy in a job. (It’s also more sustainable.) Whereas happiness suggests contentment, and possibly complacency, thriving means being satisfied in the present, but deeply engaged with helping to shape the future of the company.

The reasons why employees do or do not thrive in their jobs are complex. The Ross study found that having autonomy, opportunities for learning, and colleagues who you get along with are all important. Hardly surprising. But, as described in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, one finding from their study left the researchers in “disbelief.”

The “Coworking Bump”

Among all the different job and company types included in the survey, there was a surprising trend related not to who employees worked with, or what they worked on, but rather, where they worked. The data suggested that people who belonged to a coworking space reported “levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale,” which is “at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their job in a regular office, and something so unheard of that we had to look at the data again.”

So look again, they did. Their data checked out. Moreover, it echoed a host of findings from other research intro workplace satisfaction and goes some way to explaining why the coworking trend has grown so quickly in the past decade.

According to the most recent Global Coworking Survey, by the end of 2017, there will be more than 14,000 coworking spaces across the world, and almost 1.2 million people working in them.

As the industry has grown, it’s also evolved and diversified. Today, the fastest growing demographic of coworkers isn’t startups or freelancers: it’s employees from the corporate sector. Coworking’s core value propositions – flexibility, cost-effectiveness, community – are as appealing to large, established organizations as they are to startups and freelancers.

The term “coworking” has become something of a catchall for a certain type of workspace environment – one that increasingly includes private offices and enterprise suites in addition to communal areas intended for independent workers.

Much of the research into coworking and employee well-being focused on the first generation of coworkers, such as freelancers or remote employees. But the benefits aren’t limited to this group. Whether they work on their own, at a small business, or a massive organization, employees report that their office environments have a huge impact on their levels of satisfaction.

Here are four ways in which coworking helps employees thrive:

1. Increased Productivity

For remote employees, coworking spaces are more comfortable than a coffee shop, and more professional than their home office (slash bed). For employees coming from a traditional office, coworking spaces facilitate more meaningful interactions with colleagues. In a survey by DeskMag, 62% said the standard of their work had improved since moving to a coworking space, and 71% said their creativity had increased.

2. Improved Communication

A 2012 Harvard Business Review article titled, “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” identifies three key elements of successful communication within organizations: high exploration (employees interact with people in many different social groups), high engagement (they interact with the people within their closest social group), and high energy (employees have lots of interactions in total, regardless of who they’re interacting with). A coworking environment can help with on all three counts.

That’s because, like the offices of Apple, Google, or Pixar, they’re designed to create “collisions” between employees – the type of unplanned interactions that are most likely to happen when an office layout mixes openness and intimacy. Shared office environments are engineered to encourage this type of purposeful spontaneity, which has been connected to improved employee satisfaction, and even higher sales.

3. Improved Community

Loneliness at work has been called an epidemic, and is associated with the equivalent negative health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 40% of adult Americans report being lonely; more than half of CEOs do.

While there’s no cure-all to feelings of isolation at work, simply being in a physical environment that encourages collaboration in and outside of your own company can help. One survey found that 71% of coworking members report collaborating with another member of their space and that on average, coworkers interact have 5.2 interactions with other members each day.

4. Greater Comfort

For just about every company in the world, designing and maintaining an office is far from a core competency. Creating a workspace in which employees can thrive is crucial, but also extremely difficult (and expensive – typically real estate costs are second only to payroll on the list of largest operating costs). Outsourcing the office to an experienced provider avoids the need to reinvent the wheel.

In a coworking space, there are also cost-efficiencies that come from higher utilization of shared resources like conference rooms, kitchens, reception desks, and common areas. That allows for investment in higher quality, with lower cost-per-use. Think of it as the difference between allowing employees to fly first class on a business trip, instead of having to fly in the company Cessna. Or, if you’d prefer a more grounded way to think about it (pun intended), consider this: CBRE, a major commercial real estate brokerage, estimated that coworking can offer a 15% cost savings compared to a traditional lease.