Making members happy is probably a priority task for every coworking space. However, people rarely know what can make them happy, so they chase the wrong goals all the time. It seems like Lindsay Hedenskog, CEO and COO of LAMB anti-burnout coworking space and social club in Stockholm, moved farther than anyone else I know in cracking this hard question.
What’s more, she agreed to share her hacks with me in a recent interview exclusively for andcards. Hope you will enjoy reading it!
Igor: How did the concept of Lamb come to your mind?
Lindsay: I've been thinking about this for quite a long time before we actually started. One of the things that have been very clear to me for a long time, is that we have a problem where we are all quite disconnected and distracted, disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from other people.
And because we're disconnected, we have this habit of focusing our attention outside of ourselves. When we have a problem that needs fixing, we go off and chase the wrong things, not the things that make us happy and healthy. We think the solution is a new job, a new relationship, a vacation, a new house, having a baby, buying a new pair of shoes or shoelaces, going out and drinking a bottle of wine, or eating a cheeseburger. However, these are not the things that make us happy and healthy, the things that actually do that are quite simple.
The fix is reconnecting with yourself and with other people asking yourself, what it is that you need. So, we wanted to create a space where you could meet these needs, both physical and mental-emotional, all under one roof as part of an ecosystem that is already a natural part of your life, which is your workspace. A space where you could go on that journey of growth with yourself surrounded by other people in a supportive environment that you could easily make a part of your everyday life without having to change too much.
Igor: How does a workspace dedicated to well-being actually help members reach it?
Lindsay: It makes it so much easier to create healthy habits and routines because amenities that you need to do what's healthy are right in front of you all the time. You go to your office, there's a gym downstairs, a retreat room upstairs, and there are 20 events a month that are all geared toward play and exploration and trying new things and getting in touch with yourselves, connecting with other people. It makes it so much easier to do those things that actually make you happy and healthy.
Igor: Do you think you have found the reason why people are so reluctant to prioritize their wellbeing?
Lindsay: The problem is that you always have to add something to an already packed busy life. It's an app, an exercise regimen, a gym that you're going to…
We just said, look, we're just going to incorporate it into something that's already a natural part of it so that you don't think about so much.
Why do we keep talking about work and life? You are a complex human being at all hours of the day whether you're at work or at home. We keep trying to make this separation and do the things that you need to fuel yourself as a human being outside of work hours.
This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, eight hours a day, you're sitting in front of your computer or in meetings and you're denying yourself those needs. Why?
I mean, sitting quietly for 10 minutes and reconnecting with yourself is not a big ask as well as going down to a gym for 15 minutes and moving your body a little bit or spending half an hour having a meaningful conversation with somebody who shares your view on the world.
I think work cultures have been broken for a really long time because we've forced this into two separate boxes and people can't be boxed. We are who we are all the time.
Igor: All people are different and need different things to be healthy and happy. How do you help members figure out what exactly they require?
Lindsay: A lot of times the starting point is what the hell are the thighs I really need? And so we want to offer this breadth of experience where you can discover that.
Like, you don't know what? Maybe yoga, maybe it’s sound healing, a sculpting class, or a cooking class. Maybe you discover something that you didn't know fills you up and gives you energy. And the whole idea is that you can try and be on that.
A big part of what we're trying to do is offer the opportunity for growth and learning that most adult environments don't provide. There's this idea that when you become an adult, you got it all figured out. You've got your routine, your work, your home life, your family. And the truth is that most of us, back to the problem we've identified, are disconnected.
Because our attention is so focused outside of ourselves, we get pushed and pulled through life, a lot like a ping pong or a pinball machine. We need the space to sit and meaningfully decide what is it that matters to us and then focus the energy on it.
That is not something that most adults are used to in the context we live in. And the ecosystems in which we live, where we're fulfilling our adult responsibilities, doing what we should and where we're busy and important actually encourage. But you know, we have lost this connection to ourselves and what is important to us.
Igor: What main challenges did you face when LAMB project was in its early stage?
Lindsay: We were trying to create something that didn’t exist and it brought with it several challenges.
The first was really practical and we successfully solved it with andcards. We wanted to offer something that didn’t exist using existing systems. This is a great example, where andcards really helped us bring our vision to our customers because nobody else could. We wanted more flexibility, wanted our customers to be able to decide.
I believe nobody else could solve that problem because everybody's still thinking in the same black and white square box kind of way. Now, with andcards’ credits used as currency in our space, we provide members the utmost flexibility we were dreaming of. They decide what they need at any time and get that.
The next challenge is that the language that we're using has been cooped by a lot of different industries and it’s really easy to get lost in the mire of other wellness companies. For us, it was really difficult to find a way to make our message connect to people. I think we succeeded in a lot of ways. We have almost 150 members who are really excited to be at Lamb and they get what we do.
We have to call ourselves a coworking space to meet a market need. But at the same time, it's more than a coworking space. But when you create something brand new, this is the only way to describe to people what it is.
Igor: I know you succeeded in getting your message across through organizing events. How was it?
Lindsay: It's a good question. If I think back to the beginning, I don't remember making an active choice that we're gonna have a bunch of events.
I think it was so obvious. Because the issue with part of it is that we didn't want to be a coworking space. We wanted to provide this ecosystem where you could design your life around what matters and go on this personal growth journey to discover what that is and connect with yourself.
We were never going to achieve that if we weren't a part of something that they already needed, that's why we became a coworking space. We knew we wanted to create a really strong community because you can't go on a journey if you don't have support.
A big part of being able to make positive changes in your life is having a support system. And not everybody's got that at home or with their families and friends. Some people don't have that strong support system. So the community part was so important to us to create. You can't take that lightly to create a connection between two strangers. Especially because we really want to create connections between strangers.
We did not want to create a physical space for a community that already existed. And Stockholm is very tight-knit. Everybody knows each other. We want to bring people from all these different countries, backgrounds, jobs, socioeconomic backgrounds, demographics, identities, genders, everything.
But we knew that if we were going to do that, putting people in the same physical space is not enough. And this is the problem with most coworking spaces. They say they have a great community but they don’t because everybody's sitting there doing their own work and maybe having quick five-minute chats at the coffee station from time to time.
That's not a relationship. So we said, okay, how can we help our members need each other in a way that is going to reduce the roadblocks to want to meet somebody new.
We didn’t want to put our members in that cold sweat networking event type. We wanted to create a shared context for people and events are such a great way to do that.
Let's say you sign up for a sculpting event. You already have a shared context now, you're both going to a sculpting class. So now the conversation instead of, “who are you and what do you do” becomes “Hey, how long have you been a member at LAMB? Is that your first time at a sculpting class? Have you ever tried this before? I'm so nervous. The perfectionist in me is terrified that I'm gonna screw this up”...
Your conversation automatically becomes a lot more organic, a lot more interesting. And you already have something to talk about that is something you both can relate to. So, for us, the events were such an important part of not just bringing everybody together but helping them create stronger relationships.
The second part of that is that this is the way you learn. You come together, you try something new, you discover a topic. You dive deep. You are vulnerable. This is how you're going to go on that personal world journey.
Igor: I know that around 80% of your members are women. What is different about building a female community?
Lindsay: Yes, you are right, our space members are primarily women. We're not a woman's space, we are mixed but we will always be more women than men, you know.
Women have a very distinct problem. We are very reluctant to treat ourselves or engage in self-care. We have this priority list and it's going to be like work-family routines, get the grocery shopping done, and the bottom of the list is us. And more often than not, we think we have all this time in the world to do all of the things on the list. But we don't.
We make the trade-off and the trade-off is always the same, it’s always us. And if you put all these events we offer, like going to a ceramic sculpting class or joining the choir or we're thinking about having a singing group here or doing inference on or going to a dumpling-making dinner party, you have a monetary amount tied to that.
You are setting yourself up to ask for a hard trade-off. And a lot of times it's like “if I spend that money on this, then I'm not spending it on this.” So, building a female community with the help of events we're trying to get over the roadblocks of why they don't choose themselves.
We managed to do it with the help of a credit system developed by andcards. Members pre-pay their memberships and get credits in their accounts. From that moment their only choice is to use them. And what we found is that it becomes way easier for people to make that choice. Instead of spending 200 kroner to go to an event, they're spending their two credits.
This system lets us help people develop healthy habits and routines. And now we're talking about using the credits as a reward system. For instance, if a member goes to the gym three times a week, we will reward them with extra permanent credits, or if they develop a healthy habit that they do for eight weeks in a row, we can reward them with credits.
So we've built up this system that finally lets our female members spend money on the things they really want. And now we can turn it around into a sort of tool to encourage healthy habits and routines that we really want to see and do it in a way that doesn't create pressure on members.
We just wanted to abstract the process of caring for yourself so that it didn't feel like you're spending money. And now we have this opportunity because we have this currency already established to use in all these different ways—to motivate, encourage, and reward.
Igor: How do you measure members’ happiness at LAMB?
Lindsay: We do it in a couple of ways. One is that we have a head of community and her whole job is to make sure that members are happy.
In the beginning, she was managing the community and the space. And we recognized pretty early that it is too much to manage the space and the members. You're probably fine with greeting them for meeting rooms and you're there to show them where the coffee machine is and get in the Wi-Fi password. But what we're trying to do is a completely different thing.
We're trying to support them on a journey that goes well beyond the workspace. So recently, we hired somebody to be a space manager. Their only job was to focus on the space itself and then we made our community manager head of community and now her only job is to manage the member experience and get feedback from our members. To sit down and talk to make sure that they feel heard and listened to and implement their ideas for what they want this space to be.
We had a member Jenny who was having a really tough time. She was a little bit irritated with us. So our head of community sat down with her and they had a coffee and a friendly conversation.
It turned out that 80% of what she was upset about was her own personal life and she just needed to get it out. She just needed to talk about it and underneath was this little nugget that had to do with us. And it was why do we charge credits for the retreat rooms which are like meditation rooms with daybeds and iPads and stuff? We are trying to encourage people to take micro brakes during their day and this is an important part of the culture of Lamb.
We went back and analyzed why are we charging members for that? That's a terrible idea. We should not. That should be a part of the offer. So the next day we messaged Jenny and thanked her for that feedback. We agreed with her, that the retreat room should be free. Then we went out and told all our members that the retreat rooms are free and they can book 15 or 30 minutes sessions as many times a day as they want to. Jenny came back and said we made change really fast.
We really try to embrace this idea of co-creation with members and learn what is it that they want. Our philosophy is as follows:
This is your space. This is your home away from home. What is it that you want to see? And then, we'll do the best that we can either. We can implement it, or there's a very good reason why we can't and we'll do our best to shift something else.
We have a lot of conversations with our members all the time to make sure they're happy. And here is another example for you.
We have people in our space who are doing a startup right now. They're building an app to help kids manage their screen time. And they recently hit a bump in the road of their business. It's really stressful for them and they are trying to figure out how to move forward with this. They told that they are sorry and can't afford to sit at LAMB anymore.
We asked them a lot of questions. What can we do to help? What is it that you need? Do you really want to be here? Is this helpful for you to be here? They told that they love the space and don't want to go. So, we suggested talking about figuring out how to solve this. Because we want you here, you want to be here. You hit a bump in the road that happens to everybody. So let's figure out how we're gonna solve this together. Let's come up with a solution that feels good.
Member happiness thing is difficult because it's so emotional, it's not something so tangible. But it is something that we try and talk about all the time and we try and keep it top of mind.
As to the churn rate. We're trying to talk to such members, and give them a little bit more attention and support.
I mean, we haven't cracked the code of how to measure that, although, we are potentially partnering with a company called Nudge Labs, which takes data that is generated by a wearable device like a Fitbit and boils it down into a well-being score that measures sleep, activity and stress.
That is one way where we're trying to determine the well-being, not necessarily the happiness, but the well-being of our members. The idea is that they would get this like a week before they started Lamb so that we get a baseline score and then we would be able to measure their progress.
Igor: If you were to give any advice or cheats for other spaces that are thinking about something like what you've done what would you tell them?
Lindsay: Oh god, go for it. Just taking something that you really believe in and making that the niche for your business and deciding to go for it all the way it is. This is the most incredibly rewarding experience.
There is the feedback that we get from our members. It's so positive. It feels like they made it. It's like “you changed my life”, I am healing things that I never healed before”, “I think what has happened to me wouldn't have happened without this place.”
They're making connections, they're creating relationships, and they praise this place. It doesn't even feel real, it's so incredible. It's an honor to be able to bring people together in any context. And to do it around something meaningful as their well-being is the coolest thing I've ever experienced.
I think just building meaning into your business makes it all worth it.
Hope you enjoyed reading this interview. If you share Lindsay’s view on members’ happiness and building community, give this inspiring piece of content a share so that more people could read it.