Coworking spaces, also called membership-based workspaces, redefined collaboration in the workplace. Professionals were no longer restricted to the traditional office setting. In recent years, coworking spaces have surged in numbers exponentially as more people adapt to the concept. Community engagement is one reason for this.
Besides having a suitable place to conduct business, professionals get the chance to be part of something bigger. In an interview with Forbes, Anna Anderson, the co-founder of Kindred, explained that creating a sense of belonging was a big motivation when establishing the company. The desire to connect with other people is innate in everyone, and coworking spaces help fulfil it. According to research (Deskmag), 56% of the people who choose coworking spaces consider the ability to interact with others. 55% choose environments based on the available opportunities to forge a sense of community.
Membership-based workspaces are excellent ways for professionals to forge collaborative communities. Why is that?
1. Promoting Collaboration
Coworking and collaboration go hand-in-hand. For a shared workspace to thrive, the people using it have to learn to function in harmony. A coworking space consists of professionals from different fields, ranging from IT to marketing to sales. These members have varying skill sets, experiences and objectives. When they interact, they help to build a strong community. Coworking spaces allow collaboration in different manners, which, in turn, helps with community management. One approach is where the participants are members of one team working on the same project. Another option is when members focus on individual projects but come together to interact with each other. Coworking spaces favour collaboration over competition
2. Networking Opportunities
A majority of the members at coworking spaces are freelancers who prefer not to work from home. These workspaces are also becoming popular among startups and SMEs looking to save overhead costs. With these different participants in one place, people have many networking opportunities to exploit. These spaces connect individuals and businesses across various industries and hierarchies. If a professional chooses to work from home or a startup opened a small office, these crucial connections would be lost. Networking allows enterprises and people to build relationships that drive them forward. The open design of membership-based workplaces promotes random, uninhibited interactions among participa
3. Specially Curated Experiences
Coworking spaces set themselves apart from traditional offices by organising events and activities for members. Most of the users in these spaces sign up to avoid the isolation of working from home. Owners of membership-based workplaces plan off-hour events like potlucks, happy hour and team-building activities for lease-holders. These activities are meant to help people get to know each other outside of their individual projects. A coworking space can create a social network that gets different professionals out of their comfort zones. People who would ordinarily avoid socialising find themselves with the opportunity to engage with all kinds of individuals.
4. Promoting a Sharing Culture
Sharing is an integral part of community building, and coworking spaces prove that constantly. A membership-based workplace is created in a sharing culture. It’s not only the resources that members have to share, but knowledge and skills as well. Coworking spaces hold professional development skillshares, where coworkers get to provide their expertise. Members can share tips on anything from tax to app development. Space managers can also invite outside professionals to speak at these events. A sharing culture forges lasting relationships. How? Sharing has to be based on mutual respect, trust and understanding to work. The more coworkers build these principles, the stronger they become as a community.
5. Group Communication
Well-managed coworking spaces have some type of group communication. Some places have Facebook groups, blogs and email groups. These communication channels make it easy to keep up with workplace events. If coworkers have a team-building exercise coming up, they can find out in these groups. More importantly, these platforms provide ways for coworkers to connect online. They can serve as great opportunities to break the ice, especially for new members. Professionals who might be socially awkward can use these channels to interact. Some spaces have community boards where members can post questions and wait for answers. Group communication does wonders for community management.
6. Fostering Diversity
Coworking spaces are less about sameness and more about heterogeneity. Having different people from various fields or even industries creates a diverse culture. Even in spaces that target particular sectors like IT, you will find members with different backgrounds and skills like programmers, coders and data architects. The environment requires people to share a communal space. For that to work, members should be capable of accommodating different cultures. Coworking spaces allow for an unrestricted flow of information, which makes it easy for members to know more about one another. The exposure to the diverse culture in these workplaces contributes to strong community building
One company that has been successful in building a community through coworking is Microsoft. In 2016, it had over 300 employees relocated to coworking spaces to allow greater networking flexibility. Currently, Microsoft has memberships in WeWork and is looking at creating customised spaces for some of its staff.
The practice of building communities in coworking spaces is bound to continue years into the future. For professionals and businesses to take full advantage, they should understand what it takes. If a coworking space is to have any success in community engagement, it must provide the right opportunities for its members. Lease-holders should have an environment that promotes interaction. Building a great community takes work, and the first step is curating the right members. Space managers need to consider memberships carefully to ensure that they get the right people. Workspaces should have communication tools to facilitate collaboration between members.