As a coworking business scales up, it risks losing a communal vibe and turn into a place where companies and individual entrepreneurs find an affordable workplace for rent.
Is this a real threat to coworking culture or just the next stage of coworking business development? How to save a priceless communal vibe when running a coworking business at scale?
Let's discuss the topic in detail.
Big coworking brands like Impact Hub and Serendipity Labs put many efforts into creating a culture where members share advice and encouragement.
You should strive to create a sense of belonging and being a part of something bigger.
However, it's not easy to manufacture such an environment without being pushy or ham-handed. Some people are introverted by nature. You need to be careful with them as forced interaction makes them feel overwhelmed.
Your coworking space should offer many different opportunities for connection:
When you offer a variety of coworking events and activities, a person can choose what works best for them.
When your community is united, members help one another to go through non-work-related problems as well. For instance, dealing with losses and breakups or struggling to find a new apartment and childcare. This is also important as family issues seriously diminish productivity.
With more and more coworking spaces mushrooming on a daily basis, it's not easy for operators to tolerate the competitors.
However, if you know your audience and satisfy their wants, you don’t need to fear that your members will leave you for competitors. Having a unique brand positioning, a specific set of amenities, and a connected community is a kind of guaranty that your business will continue to grow no matter the rivals.
In other words, when you put the interests of community members first, you start to see competitors as other community projects that contribute to the growing potential of coworking.
Also, you start to feel great thinking about the increased number of possibilities for freelancers to experience coworking.
No matter how big is your coworking network, members come there for the community. As a coworking business professional, you must strategically foster a sense of fellowship and collaboration.
It's rather difficult for a large coworking network to preserve the intimacy and emotional support between members a small coworking allows. Probably the best advice here is to build a strong business network among members instead.
For instance, you can do it by featuring all members’ and companies’ profiles in a unified Community catalog. All members will browse this catalog like their own contacts learning about each others’ skills.
However, always ensure never to engage in activities that violate the members’ privacy, such as spying on their Snapchat or other social media and emails.
The best current coworking space platforms offer beautiful apps for members. These web and mobile apps can be of great help for building connections. For example, andcards workspace management app has a Stream newsfeed and communication solution. This awesome functionality enables a coworking space community feed where members can communicate.
You actually provide coworking space members with a branded messenger or social media where they connect, post jobs, read the latest news, see new members' presentations, and more. Integrating various communication platforms in the working process will help to strengthen relationships between team members and always keep in touch while working.
In this case, it's safe to say that your coworking space management system works similar to LinkedIn with the possibility of real-life partnerships and collaborations on the project, which is important as according to the WeWork survey, 51% of members do business with one another at least once a month.
Make your coworking space a combination of the cozy home and cutting-edge office. Of course, you can't force community but you can style your environment the way that encourages it.
Study the best coworking space design practices and figure out how to design a space that fosters collaboration. Apply the strategic approach to everything you do, including the optimal number of couches and the ideal location of coffee machines to endorse conversation.
Currently, a lot of coworking space businesses, especially the largest ones, start to speak the language of commercial real estate, which has not much to do with the community. The spaces are beautifully designed, they have cozy shared kitchens, still, it feels like a big corporation and not a friendly gathering of like-minded entrepreneurs as it used to feel before.
Large coworking networks usually provide institutional support to freelancers or startups through networking events, insurance discounts, and mobile apps, though, all these are unable to foster trust and intimacy. This is critical for members. Many people who strike out on their own do need help getting on their feet. They are craving for both emotional and practical aid, that's why large shared workspaces may seem overpowering and cut-off.
To cut a long story short, devoid of the sense of community, coworking is just another way to rent out workspace, which is totally wrong as coworking is a way of life. Coworking spaces are built to help members thrive and you should never forget it.
People come to coworking spaces for those mini brainstorms with peers they meet on elevator rides or by the coffee machine. They come to gather feedback about a new product, to maintain business partnerships with other tenants, to get some advice.
Entrepreneurs join coworking spaces to feel the intangible energy of the place, which means your greatest concern is not only to preserve the spirit but enhance and amplify it.
It's quite clear that the coworking space economy continues to shift towards commercialization. However, lots of people will continue to build careers in coworking environments. Most of those people are freelancers, independent contractors, and entrepreneurs who run their businesses single-handedly.
As coworking business is developing, its core values and ideals mustn't be neglected. Work out the main principles of coworking to easier incorporate them into new coworking communities.
Coworking is more of a real estate opportunity but this doesn't mean it can come down to passive space renting. This will leave a huge chunk of the population feeling isolated and missing people they could really trust.
So, keep up the great job, scale up your business but never lose a community focus. I encourage you to share this article on socials if you agree with its main message.