CE22 - Mobilité et systèmes urbains durables

Working in the margin? Collaborative spaces as nodes of a new mobility system outside metropolis – PERI_WORK

Working in the margin?

Collaborative workspaces as nodes of a new mobility system outside metropolises

The changing relationships to mobility, professional activity, life project and territory: new collaborative workspaces outside metropolises and their users

The project takes as its starting point the observation of an increasing spinning-off of collaborative workspaces outside metropolitan centers, in parallel with the digitalization of society. This phenomenon is part of more global societal transformation trends that concern ways of working and organizing work, life projects, reconciliation between the professional and private spheres, growing sensitivity to ecological issues and the relationship to mobility and territory. This trend already existed before the Covid-19 health crisis, but it is finally reinforced by the latter, amplifying it and making it more visible. It is linked to new behaviors of knowledge workers seeking to escape the city and who see collaborative workspaces outside the metropolis as a way to reconcile their professional and life projects, while benefiting from technological and social networks. The profile of this category brings together a number of common features (even if its composition remains rather heterogeneous): a certain level of education and vocational training, sometimes even without a diploma, career paths marked by mobility and bifurcations, a fairly high degree of autonomy and individuality in the exercise of professional activity (as an entrepreneur, freelancer or self-employed person, but also sometimes as a highly qualified and experienced employee). This population is nowadays quite a minority in the territories. However, we can think that it brings renewal to these latter. This project seeks to understand the role of these spaces on their territories, considering the characteristics and geographical and social trajectories of the users, their interactions and relationships both within the same space and with the outside world, their mobility, as well as their projections on the future.

The methodology is based on three complementary approaches:
- thirty monographs of territories located in France, Germany and Canada based on semi-structured interviews conducted with members and managers of collaborative workspaces and local and regional elected officials;
- the analysis of the individual mobility of users of non-metropolitan collaborative workspaces based on GPS tracking and mobility narratives;
- an online questionnaire survey among occasional or regular users of collaborative workspaces located in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas in France, Germany and Canada. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2020. It addresses four themes: effects of the health crisis, uses/practices of space, mobilities, interactions before the health crisis.

The monographs carried out at this stage show that the profiles of individuals who use collaborative workspaces in non-metropolitan areas are heterogeneous. However, some common features emerge, such as the individuality of career paths, the importance of residential and professional mobility in the building of these career paths, relatively high levels of education and sensitivity to environmental issues and the quality of life (work-life balance). The use of a private car is often necessary for the daily and professional mobility of users of collaborative workspaces, but this use seems to be well thought out and is complemented, when possible, by other means of locomotion (cycling, walking, car-sharing, car-pooling, train, etc.).

The first analyses of GPS tracking and mobility narratives reveal a relative diversity of mobility practices. The users of collaborative workspaces in non-metropolitan areas do not seem to have given up spatial mobility. This mobility, more or less intense depending on the individual, is combined with a strong adherence to a local-centric territorial development model that the collaborative workspace catalyzes. This result thus confirms the role of spatial mobility as a vector of territorial anchoring.

The first results of the quantitative survey for France indicate that, from a strictly professional point of view, the health crisis seems to be a weak vector of change for users of collaborative workspaces. A majority of respondents believe that these spaces will play an identical role in their professional and personal lives in the future.

An extension of the project for an additional six months has been requested (end in September 2022).
In spite of the uncertainties related to the pandemic, the team remains determined to pursue the project until its completion through the following actions:
1) New phase of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in a few spaces to assess the impact of the pandemic on activities and attendance.
2) Analysis of the quantitative survey data
3) Exploitation of the GPS survey.
4) Closing seminar open to stakeholders in NETC in a small town in Canada in June 2022.
5) Actions towards socio-economic actors and the media (forums, conferences, seminars). In the absence of being able to hold such events, preference will be given to alternative formats (in addition to videoconferencing): interventions on radio and television, publications in the regional print and online press, columns in the online press, dissemination of results to the users' committee.
These actions will be facilitated by the partnership with the Institut d'Aménagement et Urbanisme de Rennes via the shared recruitment (50-50) of a project manager, Anne-Laure Peyrou.
6) Continuation of scientific promotion (publications).

Le Nadant A-L, C. Marinos et G. Krauss, «Impact de la crise COVID-19 sur les pratiques de coworking«, Colloque Tiers-lieux, organisations et territoires, EM Normandie, Caen, 24 mars 2021.
Le Nadant A-L et R. Suire, panelistes for the webinar RGCS, 30 juin 2020 «les transformations du travail post-Covid«
Krauss G. et A-L Le Nadant, Travailler à la marge ? Les espaces de travail collaboratif au cœur d’un nouveau système de mobilités hors métropole, Palimpseste, n°4, 2020, pp.40-43
Krauss G. et C. Marinos. 2019, Les espaces de travail collaboratifs en dehors des centres métropolitains. Formation de nouveaux réseaux ouverts ou entre-soi des travailleurs «autonomes« sur le territoire ? 8e Congrès de l'Association Française de Sociologie, Association Française de Sociologie, Aug 2019, Aix-en-Provence, France.

For a few years, we have observed the rise of new collaborative work spaces (NCWSs) remote from major cities. These places of social interaction echo the expectations of a population looking to evolve at the fringe, both geographically (away from great urban centers) and socially speaking (hoping for greater work life balance). This international project aims at studying the part played by these new peripheral centralities for workers. A multidisciplinary team of researchers working on German, Belgian, Canadian and French research fields will detail the impact on mobilities for the territories studied. This research project deepens and reorients another approaching completion on third places (INTIMIDE financed by the GIS M@rsouin and the Région Bretagne).

The choices made by a new generation of independent workers, relying mostly on digital technology for their professional activities, could revitalize non metro areas often faced with the loss of economic and social activity and with negative net migration. This possibility depends both on the way these workers insert in a professional, institutional or social network and on the way they might contribute to their territory’s development be it direct or indirect. From this perspective, the emergence of NCWSs outside large metropolises works as part of the great societal trends at work today and notably the blurring between the location of residence and the location of work. The expectations of young workers regarding life and work quality, daily commute and the means of transportation to choose from –and more largely environmental stakes– remap the relationship to the territory and mobilities.

Even if this trend remains rather uncommon, the growing part of these workers –among which a large part of independent workers, lonely entrepreneurs and teleworkers– testifies to the evolutions of our society. We postulate for these populations the existence of a larger life project, including not only their professional aspirations and activities but also their expectations in terms of life quality. The approach chosen differs from major explanations of professional mobility and residential choices as it includes non-economical and extra-professional arguments in our analysis model.

The problematic is interested in knowing whether NCWs can become nodes of temporary spatial concentration as places of meeting and activity and intermediaries to access physical (face-to-face peer groups) and digital (broadband) networks. We are suggesting that nodes are forming at the margin of metropolises bringing about a relative centrality, far from traditional major actors and yet essential to the career path of independent workers.

The objectives of the research follow three lines. The aim is:
1/ to understand the role of NCWSs by studying the geographical and social characteristics and paths of individuals who join them and the interactions between users and founding members within a common space and their external relations;
2/ to observe the various mobilities generated on the territory by these NCWSs and measure their ability to form a node, that is to say to become points of anchorage and territorial adherence;
3/ to analyze how individuals view their future in order to propose a prospective analysis of NCWSs that will be useful to the definition of planning strategies.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LIRIS Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Recherche en Innovations Sociétales
ARUC TÉLUQ, Université du Québec / ARUC (Alliance de recherche université-communauté)
York University / Glendon Campus
LEGO Laboratoire d'Economie et de Gestion de l'Ouest
Université McGill / McGill School of Urban Planning

Help of the ANR 290,388 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2018 - 36 Months

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