What makes a coworking space successful? Is it the number of members you have? Or the variety of facilities you provide? When it comes to measuring the success of shared office space, many factors come into play. One major factor is the networking opportunities for members.
Coworking spaces are known for their collaborative environments and thriving communities. And this realization isn’t lost on the workers searching for one. Today, many are looking for not only a modern and flexible workplace but also a community of like-minded people to build their network.
If you've not yet banked on this opportunity, now is the time. Here are 13 super easy ways to transform your coworking space into a networking hub.
The best way to encourage networking between your coworking members is to ask them what they want directly.
For example, some members may want a free refreshment zone or weekly happy hours to collaborate with others in an informal setting. While others may prefer a more formal approach like panel discussions or industry-specific seminars/events.
You can also ask the members if they prefer certain areas of your coworking space more than the others for networking. Conducting surveys is a great way to collect feedback from members and understand their expectations of the space. This also makes them feel that their opinions matter, encouraging a long-term association with the coworking space.
Hosting informal activities is one of the easiest ways to encourage networking in your coworking space.
Let's take the example of Happy Hours. You can organize weekly informal lunches or game nights, like group trivia night, to give members a break from the work week. Such events encourage the community to unwind and connect. What's more, you can easily host these events on a tight budget.
This will encourage like-minded people in the community to come together and not feel alienated. You can also involve members in planning these events to make them feel like a valuable part of an extended community.
If your coworking space doesn't already have an exceptional recreational area, now is the time to act on it. The layout of your space has a huge role to play when it comes to networking with the community. This could mean having a break room with a foosball table or a workout corner, or both, depending on the interest of your members.
If you have a kitchen area, make sure it's spacious enough for members to chat while they grab a bite. And while we're on the topic, try to go beyond just free coffee and tea. Offer free snacks to encourage members to leave their desks and talk with other members while grabbing something to eat.
In traditional offices, employees have a dedicated workstation. It's not uncommon for them to add pictures of their family, pets, or favorite quotes to personalize their space. This personalization and the feeling of belonging in the workplace, unfortunately, gets lost in the flexibility of coworking spaces.
Putting up a members' board will not only make them feel welcomed but will also encourage networking beyond formal greetings. You can put up their photos on the board along with their names, companies, and interests to create a warmer and more inclusive environment. This will help them understand their peers better and connect with them at a deeper level.
Networking requires people to collaborate effectively, and your furniture placement plays a major role in it. Are your work desks spread out far from each other? Can your meeting room accommodate enough members? Evaluate the layout of your furniture to see if certain spaces can be more collaboration-friendly.
For example, if your kitchen area does not have any furniture, you can add standing tables to encourage members to spend some time there and catch up with others over a quick chat. You can also arrange work desks in groups to help members network with others right from their workstations.
The best aspect of coworking spaces is that they bring together people from different backgrounds and specializations. You can leverage this benefit to promote networking opportunities among the community. A skillshare class allows members to share their expertise with others.
This can be anything from marketing hacks and taxation tips to SaaS funding techniques, app development, and writing quality content. The goal is to bring the community together with a shared purpose of learning and help them connect with the people they relate to the most.
From formal work groups to gym membership groups, online communities form a big part of our social lives. And when moderated strategically, they double up as promotion and customer retention channels for your business. Operating an online community for your coworking space can do the same.
You can create one on platforms like Slack or Discord. If you choose Discord, keep in mind that it takes time and effort to grow the community there, and therefore, it would be wise to work with a Discord management agency that can handle management and moderation on that platform.
Use your online presence on your Instagram account. However, the best option is to use the feed that resides inside your workspace app. This will encourage members to connect even outside the coworking premises. But remember, the goal is networking. So make sure you set the rules straight for irrelevant messages.
Being in a completely new workplace surrounded by unfamiliar faces can be an overwhelming experience. This can also make new members feel alienated or out of place. They will not only lose out on networking opportunities but might also not return to your space if they feel too uncomfortable.
To eliminate this inconvenience, it's a good idea to help them break the ice and introduce them to other members during their initial days. This will allow them to warm up to the community and start networking with ease.
Why limit your networking efforts inside your coworking space when you can invite external experts for collaboration? Invite industry leaders or top executives for events or seminars at your coworking space to help your members build connections outside the community.
This also makes for an excellent marketing strategy. When you regularly invite important people for networking, you can attract new members who want to grow their network.
No, we don't mean important business decisions. But decisions that are in the interest of your members. Asking them for their opinions and preferences on trivial matters like their favorite coffee, the type of informal events they like, etc., will help you make decisions that are welcomed unanimously.
When your members feel valued and heard, they will build a deeper connection with the community as a whole. This will encourage them to understand different opinions and connect with others over topics of similar interests.
Bringing a community manager on board, if you don't already have one, is a great first step towards building a thriving coworking community.
Your community manager can take over the reins and organize a variety of networking events to encourage collaborations. From ideation to execution, they’ll be overlooking both the everyday activities like introducing new members and special networking events in the community to keep the members engaged and build a close-knit community.
You can organize fun social events that are not confined to the coworking space once a month or depending on the interests of your members. A group picnic, a trek, outdoor fitness activities like yoga or cycling, and others work exceptionally well.
These group activities will encourage members to find people in the community that share their interests and bond over a fun activity. You can also involve them in the planning process to establish a sense of a united community.
The flexibility of a coworking space is crucial to effective networking. When members don't have a dedicated desk, they can move around the space and sit with new people. This is a great way to expand their network and make new connections.
You can help further improve this mobility by introducing regular breaks. Like setting a scheduled coffee break or encouraging members to switch desks at regular intervals. This will encourage them to start a conversation with new people and share ideas and opinions.
Just one Google search will list down multiple benefits of coworking spaces. And while there may be variations, one benefit remains the same: networking opportunities. This makes coworking spaces popular among not only startups but also big organizations. And if your coworking space isn't facilitating effective networking, you might be losing out on a goldmine.
Use these 13 insanely easy tips to create a strategy that helps your members make the most of the space and expand their network. You don't need to shell out a big chunk of money to incorporate these tips. All you need to do is make a few tweaks to your space, host small in-house or outdoor activities, hire a community manager, and adopt a technology to easily manage people and events along with internal and external connections. But remember, the priority must always be to understand what your community wants.
The article was written by Taniya Saini. Taniya is a content writer for Ukti, a company helping B2B SaaS startups and SMEs create value and drive conversion through high-quality content. She has worked for a range of B2B companies and loves to DIY crafts in her spare time.