The Pacific Standard's The Future of Work: The Water Cooler and the Fridge covers a fascinating academic research study on the important social role offices play.
Key quote from the article:
But the office is not merely a place for productivity; it is also a place for social contact. A defined physical space with a set of loosely connected people working toward a common goal, the office contains the most consistent set of individuals the average white-collar worker will encounter regularly outside family ... Avoiding social contact is all but impossible; making at least some friends, inevitable.
Another key quote on why working from the office is often better than from home:
The simple opportunity to run into others may be one of the most overlooked privileges of modern work life, and the one aspect of the office that work from home can rarely replicate. The water cooler chat became ubiquitous in the workplace because talk, as water, sustains life. One cannot run into colleagues on the way to one’s refrigerator.
Simply put, the office provides many people with very valuable social contact.
The article doesn't discuss weak ties - important links among people who are not closely associated - but the academic article does (warning - it's a really wonky article with lots of academic jargon - to be honest I couldn't get through it all). But the key quote is not hard to follow:
The core discussion network is not a representation of our strong ties; it is a combination of the people we are close to, people we are not close to but who are knowledgeable about the matters we regularly find important, and people we are not close to but who are available because of our routine activities.
The article and academic study help explain why coworking is so successful. Coworking spaces, in addition to providing work environments, also provide social environments and easy access to knowledgeable people.
We often hear that in the future everyone will work from home - and we agree that more people will work from home part of the time.
But it seems very clear to us that most people will spend more time working away from home than at home for the foreseeable future.
Humans are too social and the advantages of working with others too great not to work where other people are.
And other people are increasingly going to found at coworking spaces.