How to Scale Your Coworking Business Without Losing a Communal Vibe
The coworking business is getting stronger. A recent study by freelancersunion.org shows that 56.7 million Americans freelanced last year. As you understand, this number continues to increase. However, as a coworking space scales up, it risks to lose a communal vibe and turn into a place where small companies 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.
In the mid-2000s due to the downturn of the economy, many people had to start working as freelancers and launch their own businesses instead of jumping on board of the established companies. Some entrepreneurs were enchanted by the flexible work schedule while others were stressed due to the unstable contract work mode instead of a full-time job.
The first shared spaces were informal. Some freelancers leased workspace together to reduce the total bill and make it affordable. Another invited friends to work with them in a spacious garage.
Companies noticed the demand for shared infrastructure and started to offer office amenities:
- conference rooms,
- a reception desk that welcomes customers,
- unlimited freshly brewed coffee.
The first coworking organizations were challenging traditional business practices, they valued community and prioritized meaningful work.
Amenities at the coworking space are surely essential, yet, they are not enough to bring people in. Only the workspace providing intangible benefits can successfully retain members.
Some of those benefits are:
- A community of individuals who contribute to the world that is free from the conventional corporate structure.
- Special atmosphere that brings together a particular type of personality. Those open-minded entrepreneurs are excited to create their own work and enjoy the status of independent workers.
- Entrepreneurs get all help, advice, support, and networking required for running a business at the coworking space. They learn how to incorporate their business, handle marketing and PR, manage payroll and billing, and more.
Big coworking brands like New Work City and WeWork 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:
- motivational meetings,
- new member events,
- online discussion boards, and networking meetups, etc.
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. First of all, these are community projects contributing to the growing potential of coworking. Try to think 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.
The best current coworking space technologies offer beautiful apps for members. These mobile apps can be of great help for building connections. For example, andcards white label 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.
In this case, it's safe to say that your coworking space management platform 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.
In a word, devoid of the sense of community, coworking is just another way to rent out workspace.
Coworking is a way of life. Don't forget that coworking spaces are built to help startups thrive.
- People come to coworking 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.
- People come to 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, it's 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.
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