In the last year or so, there has been a distinct shift in the employment landscape. The necessity for distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to adopt remote working procedures. However, a great many of these have also noted that there are clear benefits to be had from allowing staff to continue working distantly, and are adopting it as a more permanent feature. This means that, as we head toward the new normal, there is likely to be increased demand for coworking spaces that can support remote workers while providing anatmosphere that they feel they can thrive in.
Yet, as we all know, the mere existence of demand doesn’t mean that your coworking space can attract and sustain consistent membership. You need to be able to offer amenities that are well designed to support members’ success in coworking environments and reassure them that your facilities are robust and agile enough to keep meeting their evolving needs. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by working to ensure that your space is aimed toward user-friendliness at all times.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can best approach creating these user-friendly features in your coworking space. What are some of the tools and strategies that you can be adopted to meet and exceed the growing demand?
The most basic requirement to ensure a user-friendly coworking space is to make certain that all users can actually engage with it. Spaces that fail to include measures that welcome people from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, physical and mental abilities, and ages are not just making remote working less pleasant but also missing out on potential members. As such, it is an ethical, practical, and commercial imperative to make accessibility a priority.
The standards for compliance outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are a good jumping-off point, but you shouldn’t limit your efforts to them. These standards are rather minimal and often don’t take into account the full range of challenges that your members might face. Instead, it can be more effective to bring in external accessibility consultants to assess what aspects of your coworking space’s design, your amenities, and even your staff’s behavior may present challenges. The information you gain here should play a role in informing any future changes you make to your business, too.
It’s also vital to remember that accessibility doesn’t stop with the physical surroundings of your coworking space. Your website and booking applications need to be designed to make certain that everybody can utilize them easily. There are some basic standards to uphold — utilize a high contrast ratio between text and background to ensure those with visual impairments or dyslexia can access them, and include alt text on images and buttons for those using screen reading software. If you’re building and hosting your site on a content management system (CMS), there are also a growing number of accessibility add-ons that scan your code and content and highlight accessibility issues.
As the remote working culture grows, there will be an increased need to ensure that businesses and workers can adopt tools that address the challenges. Among the most prevalent of these is isolation. Workers need to be able to use spaces in which they can mingle and network with other professionals. Companies will need quiet, clean, professional environments in which they can hold meetings or sales pitches. Project managers will be looking for rooms that assist in-person collaborations aside from using a project management CRM. As such, one of the ways to make your coworking space more user-friendly to members is by diversifying the working areas to ensure more agility.
Alongside the usual banks of desks, it can be wise to adjust your layout to be more conducive to multiple types of work. Grouped workstations that all face one another where teams from the same business can occasionally come along and work together can help to foster employee bonding. Allocate more casual furnishings to a section — sofas, coffee tables, beanbags — that can both accommodate casual mingling among members and accommodate workers who prefer not to sit at traditional desks. Cordon off private meeting rooms of varying sizes, including some for individual users to undertake confidential video calls.
Remember that your space also includes your online areas. Creating chat rooms either on your coworking space website or via a shared Slack or Chanty channel can provide an additional area for your members to engage with each other. This goes beyond discussions with their colleagues and creates opportunities for members to reach out to each other to take better advantage of their varied areas of expertise. Making it easy for members to build relationships and diversify their networks can be a boost to your space’s reputation.
At its heart, user-friendliness is all about putting the customer’s needs front and center. Therefore, it stands to reason that creating the best possible coworking space comes from focusing on customer experience. This means that you need to gain an understanding of what gives your customers satisfaction, how their customer journey progresses through your organization, and indeed what pain points they need to be addressed along the way.
This means that you need to learn more about the people using your coworking space. This certainly begins with your current members. However, while sending out surveys, survey templates via your email list can be effective, you’re likely to get more by keeping them more intimately involved. Invite them to meetings to discuss your services and what changes would be beneficial to them. Make sure that staff members are both visible at all times and that members know you are open to discussions about the ideas they have. By demonstrating that you keep an open dialogue, you can not only make better improvements but forge stronger relationships with your members.
Don’t neglect potential members in this, either. Data analytics is becoming more accessible to even small businesses, and by teaming up with a consultancy you can gain insights into the desires and needs of your target demographic, as well as your existing members. Utilize these insights to understand where the market is headed, and what the public feels is lacking in most existing coworking spaces — or even their home offices. This way you can build a more attractive and user-friendly experience for members.
In an increasingly technology-dependent landscape, it is no longer enough just to provide a physical environment for people to work in. Just as adopting the right applications can help you manage a great space, a user-friendly operation must provide access to tools that your customers value.
Your considerations here could include:
Do your members need a high degree of security in the work they undertake. If so, it can be important to make sure that your general security efforts are always on display — cameras, keycode or maglock entry, perhaps even personnel. However, you can also go further by providing secure networks, and even access to VPNs on your space’s computers.
While some of your members might be using their own equipment and software, others might prefer you to provide these. As such, it can be helpful to take out multi-user subscriptions on software suites that are relevant to your users. For instance, if your members are primarily graphic designers, access to the Adobe Creative Cloud or CorelDraw suites can help bolster your profile and boost your membership.
User-friendliness isn’t just about helping your members to access your facilities. It’s also about helping them to maintain a level of wellness during their workday that allows them to be happy, productive, and successful in their endeavors. As such, you can provide tools to aid this. Ergonomic chairs, monitor risers, and cushions can help them maintain posture. Provide access to screen filters that reduce blue light exposure. Even introducing healthy snacks in the kitchen area can be beneficial.
A truly user-friendly coworking space goes beyond bringing in members and just letting them get on with their work. You also need to make certain that the environment they are working in is conducive to positive business practices. This begins with demonstrating a high level of business ethics in your operations. When you show that you run your company with integrity, fairness, and accountability, this does more than build trust in your brand among the community. It also helps members to feel comfortable in the fact that your standards reflect the expectations they hold for their own businesses. Not to mention that it can have a domino effect on the actions of your members and other surrounding companies.
This should extend to the standards you set for members themselves. You can’t claim a user-friendly atmosphere if certain members are behaving in ways that make it difficult for others in the space to function. Make sure that your standards of etiquette (rules can feel a little overbearing) are designed with mutual respect in mind. But also make it an open-door policy to discuss these standards so that members can challenge these or come to you with concerns about other members’ actions.
You should also consider that one of the reasons that remote operations are becoming popular among employees, aside from the flexibility, is that it tends to be more environmentally friendly. Therefore, it can be important to make this a feature of your coworking space to make it easier for them to maintain their standards of sustainability. Utilize energy-saving lighting, provide access to recycling facilities, only buy reused or upcycled furniture.
Your coworking space has the potential to be a hub for a positive and agile approach to business. Adjustments that you can make to create a more user-friendly environment can not just boost your membership, but help make you the center of your local coworking community and an influence upon industries. Remember, though, that each of your actions should be aimed at putting your members’ needs front and center.
The article was written by Indiana Lee. Indiana lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.