Working apart, together: The challenges of co-work

Casey Swezey, Janet Vertesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Attracting contingent workers, teleworkers, small start-up teams and the self-employed, co-working spaces have grown from corner coffee shops and internet cafes, to business empires with thousands of members in urban locations. Yet the rise of co-working in the twenty-first century has received only limited attention in CSCW, despite co-workers’ copious use of distributed collaborative tools. CSCW has more frequently addressed the challenges of working together, apart - that is, how we might support or otherwise transpose rich collocated interactions into distributed environments. This paper explores the challenges of working alone and apart, yet together, based on observational study and interviews at three large co-working spaces in New York City. Using a sociomaterial approach, we identify and explore core tensions visible in the site between participation in a distributed work team and in a distinct, collocated community, which we label the co-working paradox. This includes local configurations of digital and physical materials that shift locus of participation, that blend work and home, and manage employer visibility. We use these themes to suggest a generative return to certain core concepts in studies of distributed work - namely, common ground, workspaces, and placefulness - to further study and design for the growth of these unique environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number204
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Co-working
  • Distributed teams
  • Sociomateriality


Dive into the research topics of 'Working apart, together: The challenges of co-work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this