How to Develop & Enhance the Community at the Coworking Space
Coworking space or a flexible office can and must be a great platform for creating an atmosphere where people have wonderful time and work efficiently. I believe every coworking space owner will agree that nurturing community and developing the feeling of partnership and belonging to their flexible workspace community is extremely important.
It's a known fact that people come to your space not because you have a chair and a desk for them. They want to join their tribe of like-minded people, to belong, to learn and discuss new things, to chat during the coffee-breaks, in a word to live a happier life.
We at andcards are the evangelists of building active coworking communities as this is the only way for coworking business to thrive, grow, and retain revenue. Coworkings that are focused on best members experience make the smartest bet. Experience is what people are ready to pay for and come back for.
55% of consumers would pay more for better customer experience.
89% of people would stop doing business with a company because of a poor experience.
COVID lockdown and the subsequent slow crawl of your customers back to office clearly demonstrated that coworking spaces with a focus on community have higher customer retention and utilization rates, due to higher customer loyalty and referral. Numerous research shows that coworkers with a sense of belonging put company benefit before their own individual benefit. Not only it helps your flex office business retain existing customers in these difficult times, but also works as an excellent selling point. Smart companies and their HR departners have long realized that community is important and willing to pay premiums to oursource the community to you.
In this article, I am going to reveal a bunch of advice on how to develop a strong community at a coworking space. I will also discuss some software tools and strategies that could help you develop a sense of community at workspace.
The Global Coworking Survey and the Coworking Forecast prove the above statements. Infrastructure and the growing number of coworking spaces with various attractive innovations in them are not the only reason why freelancers choose these places.
People who attend coworking spaces for work, events or negotiations with clients and partners value the feeling of being a part of the larger group, being a member of a creative community. Among other factors experts like Ravi Kaneriya, Head of Asia, Social Engagement Team, World Economic Forum Geneva points out the necessity to create new social bonds and stimulate creativity within groups.
Strong communities stay the main source of support for both professional and personal development as well as nurturing collaboration and new projects. According to the World Economic Forum blog, strong communities are based on a number of components:
- Common values and shared purpose.
- Rituals and shared culture / behavior code.
- Storytelling to reinforce the culture of the space which becomes an abasing ground for a community.
- Connectedness inside groups of any size.
- Facilitating trust, communication, and sharing.
- Maximized interactions.
- A strong brand that is supported by a community as well as space (and this is vitally important for a coworking space).
- Sharing experiences.
Of course, no two communities are alike. Depending on your business model, your community could be very open and collaborative or, in contrast, private and exclusive. You choose and design your community, and whether it's a tech hub for startups, coworking for females, pet-friendly coworking or any other edge, there are some essentials to be covered, starting with communication.
Start introducing community practices to your coworking space by enabling flexibility of communications. Some coworking spaces try to grow & communicate with their community online via Slack or Facebook groups, pages or even separate hashtags on Instagram.
The key piece of advice we can offer here can be condensed into a single word: consistency.
Social media are too distracting. As they say, attention is one of the most valuable resources of the digital era. Social networking sites teem with political news, funny videos, viral games, targeted ads like the one you might've clicked to read this article, and so many more distractions. This channel is great for external marketing, forming your brand awareness for leads, but certainly not for your own very personal touch with customers.
Another popular way is using a messenger for teams. If you just launched or building a lifestyle non-scalable coworking business, using a messenger is rather attractive solution, allowing you a free channel for 1:1 and mass communications with your members. However, keep in mind that these messengers aren't designed for flex office communication, but rather corporate chats. Free tiers are very limited in features, while paid features are several dollars per user. Another weakness of corporate chats is that they can be quite invasive for your customers. Do you really think your customers demand yet another 1:1 chatting app?
Somewhere in the middle lie coworking software. It takes best of all worlds, being laconic, non-invasive, friendly to coworking residents, and facilitates your own brand identity, creating a great opportunity to embed your brand into your customers minds. Some software is designed for administrative tasks, other — primarily for coworking space members. Refer to our guide on how to choose the best coworking app, paying a special attention to Stream newsfeed and communication.
Digital Community serves as a basis for any online community — a directory of people with large profile photos, names, self-introduction, and contact information. It is another feature that can be used by community members to find each other in one place. The best thing about this is mobility and the ability to have coworkers profiles in a pocket. Anyone, from administrators to members, will confirm that having such compact and personal address book of your flex office community is super convenient.
Both community communication and communit address book tools can be used to nurture the community via constant communication and organizing events or making announcements as well as preparing the ground for moving online interactions to offline meetings and shared events. And as I’ve mentioned above, shared culture is vitally important for a strong community. Let’s find out how this can be implemented and why your coworking space manager should become a community manager.
After introducing online tools for communication you can consider training your coworking space administrator as coworking community manager. In a well-managed space like yours, such people are usually the first touch-point for the newcomers. A community manager should willingly give a prospective customer a tour of the whole place as well as introduce new residents to their peers.
A community manager must be a problem solver. For some entrepreneurs, the onboarding process can be an overwhelming event. So, a coworking space community manager must be ready to answer all kinds of questions the users might have, even if these questions seem awkward or funny. A manager must quickly resolve any issue, from troubles with the air-conditioner to minor misunderstandings between newbies and mature residents. A community manager is a person who deals with all kinds of such situations.
Modern flex offices and coworking spaces, however, have many offices and stories, so your concierge services should definitely factor in remote communication. The best thing about community managers is how they're always there to assist, and adding an extra layer by introducing a tool like Intercom customer messaging could greatly boost their availability.
Another important point I want to make is unhappy staff won't make your customers happy. Invest into team building, establishment of great working relationships with your employees, and a positive working environment. Only by making your own staff happy you can achieve a truly happy community.
Your corporate coworking space blog or a monthly newsletter can also become a good start to nurture communication inside a coworking space. You can send direct invites to certain coworking space members taking into consideration their opinions and interests.
Be creative while writing such newsletters and blog posts for your coworking space residents. Remember that the main objective behind newsletters and blog articles is breaking the ice between newly coming members and loyal tenants by showing vast opportunities for networking and topics for discussions. An important goal of these newsletters should be unraveling your customer traits and points of interest, so you can activate their membership by providing more personalized services.
Include in your publication plan topics highlighting certain matters of
- creative industries,
- interviews with industry influencers and coworking space residents.
Read more on coworking content marketing here: The Guide on Writing Brand Content for Your Coworking Space
If you create content for your community, pay attention to its distribution. Of course, you can use all available channels to make your content available to members. Send email newsletters, utilize Stream community feed on andcards, use targeted messages on Intercom, offline displays, and all other channels.
Your 24/7 coworking hub is a place for exchanging creativity, ideas and spreading the culture of cooperation and inventing new things as well as introducing new practices that can be used by freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Networking events at your space give an opportunity to field professionals to learn and grow, to boost profit and establish new connections within the community.
Encourage your members to become speakers or co-hosts of such events as participation in common initiatives works great for developing a stronger community. Not only event participation promotes friendships and mutual introductions, but it helps you fully onboard and activate your new community members.
- Happy Hours. Though this sort of events is considered to belong to corporate culture, they can be held in coworking spaces as well. For instance, you can offer members to end their workday with a glass of wine or some non-alcohol beverage. Happy hours can also be about some discounts organized by partners of your coworking space (stores, gas stations, taxi services, etc.)
- Lunch-and-Learns. A useful type of events when during lunch break members can have a meeting of a book club, some kind of creative session or social impact activities like a master-class or a charity event. You can invite experts for a short-time session — “lunch with a profi”.
- Targeted Networking Events. Don’t forget to curate the audience. Don't just send bulk invites, match the events and members' interests — design, copywriting, web development.
- Interaction Breaks. Don’t forget providing classic board games in coworking spaces in the rest-and-events zone. These games can become a great opportunity for encouraging interaction between coworking space residents.
- Day Trips. Your coworking space managers also can become guides for short trips on weekends or Fridays. They can take a group of coworking space members for a themed trip and help them take a respite from office activities, tasks, charts, and tough schedule.
- Family Day / Pets Day. You can establish a day of the week or a month in a year when members can take family members (kids, younger brothers or sisters) to the coworking space with them. You can also announce a day when your space is welcoming cats, dogs or even beavers (if anyone has them.) An outdoor activity for such a day can be a good solution (especially if you have some kind of open-space zone or a barbeque zone outdoors).
- Establishing Members Wall. It’s rather a tradition for newly coming members. Such a wall can become a place to put photos of family members, pets, colleagues or some cards from vacations — everything that involves people into the conversation and gives more reasons to talk to each other.
- Benefit Review. Your customers always want to know what's new in your benefit and services catalogs. Let them learn about their membership opportunities by hosting an express "What's new at our workspace" events, introducing all the new content.
The main challenge for a coworking space owner or manager is keeping up the original spirit of collaboration and community openness while the coworking space grows and scales up. Besides it’s necessary to develop a culture of participation and ability to give back to the community on a daily basis. What can you do to achieve that? There is a number of ways:
- Review regularly not only infrastructure and opportunities to work and to communicate inside a coworking space, but also the soft skills of coworking space managers. You should check up their ability to keep a high level of giving positive feedback and notice possible problems. It’s a vital source for preventing a lack of personal communication inside your coworking space team.
- Think of your community in a coworking space as a unit existing inside of a larger community of businesses, entrepreneurs, activists, startup team members, etc.
- Increase your impact on the local community solving their needs. Engage with the rest of the local community running your events and announcing new opportunities for both residents and non-residents of your coworking space.
- Provide membership benefits, extra credits to pay for space or bonus membership cards for those residents of your coworking space who actively participate in some activities, donations, and events that are held by your coworking space or supported by it. Social impact can become a source of mutual profit in this case.
Do you agree that coworking community spirit is something new members come for and existing members stay loyal to? What events are loved by your members the most? How does your workspace management app cater to your community-building needs?
Please share your tips, tricks, and advice in the comments. Liked some of my insights? Share this article with your friends.