How to balance building great community with managing the facility

By Tony Bacigalupo of New Work Cities.


What follows is an excerpt of an email conversation I recently had with a coworking space manager who is struggling with an unfortunately common issue in the coworking world:

We are running into a consistent issue where we have all these great ideas but not enough time or resources to really execute them well. (I realize this is everyone’s problem all the time, too)

I and my board are all working on being more strategic about choosing what we do, and who is doing it, but for now, we are still pushing ourselves out of a bit of a rut and I haven’t quite found the traction I need.

Here’s my main difficulties time-wise. Running this place and having a consistent voice on social media (ie: giving our programs the best marketing we can) is a FT effort.

But, getting out into the community to meet people would also be at least a 1/2 time effort, and we also need to look for funding which that in and of itself could easily be a FT job.

I don’t know how to begin to tackle all of our needs, and stay engaged with the coworkers we do currently have.

It’s no surprise that anyone getting into managing a space would come up against these sorts of issues, but it doesn’t make the situation any more acceptable.

So how do you tackle a situation where everything seems important, yet there just aren’t enough resources to go around?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest you look at each component and identify all the ways you can go about it in a more clever way.

After having had some time to reflect on these sorts of challenges, I have developed a few core approaches that I know work. Here are two:
 

Focus on human interactions over social media.

Social media can consume an unlimited amount of time and attention, competing with countless others all over earth in an arms race for who can be noisiest. I’m not a fan.

Don’t play a game you can’t win. Change the game. The beauty of coworking resides in the fact that it happens in real life, face-to-face.

So take a social media holiday for a day, or two days, or a week, and instead dedicate that time to just talking to real humans in your space or in other communities.

I remember distinctly one day I was mucking around for hours with MailChimp for a newsletter that was several days overdue, lamenting to myself, “how do I connect with the members and get them to actually show up and care?”… and as I was doing this, I was repelling members who wanted to come up and have a conversation with me. Because I was too busy trying to figure out how to connect with the members. DUH!

So I started practicing getting away from the screen and hanging out in the kitchen. Almost immediately I ended up having conversations with people, learning more about them, and doing a lot of good. One member wanted to organize a new group and had no idea she was empowered to do so within our space. That group was an awesome part of our community for a long time, but it only happened because I talked to her.

Integrate participation into the onboarding process.

When people join the space simply to rent workspace, you immediately have an uphill battle trying to get past their “I’m too busy” wall. Instead, shift the reason someone joins away from space and towards a more transformative program.

Talk to your members. Identify their interests and look for opportunities to encourage and empower them wherever possible. When those members start organizing activities in the space, do whatever you can to invite potential new members to participate.

When people start developing a relationship with your community first through a shared activity, like a happy hour, show and tell, work sprint, arts and crafts session, hackathon, or any of a number of other things, they’ll understand right from the onset that what you’re managing is something more than just a workspace.

Set aside time for admin things.

Everyone needs focus time to do the non-social things that make a business run. Wherever possible, set aside blocks of time to work on these sorts of things, and communicate that to your team and members, so they know to leave you alone during those times.

For an added bonus, invite others to join you! You can do group sessions where everyone who participates resolves to use the same block of time for focus work. This helps keep everyone in line and makes it easier to block out distractions.

If you have a team, you can rotate who’s on Focus Time so others can cover any questions or issues that come up.

Balancing community building against operations is a constant effort, but with some basic healthy best practices, you should be able to make it work!

A new design for the Coworking Blog, and plans to overhaul the wiki!

We’re proud to announce a new, fresh design for the Coworking Blog!

After many years of faithful service, the Woothemes Mainstream theme was thrown a respectful retirement party. Colleagues gathered around and shared stories of their fond memories of the old theme, and just how darn yellow it really used to be.

Now, as the old theme takes its cheap gold watch and rides off into the digital sunset, we make way for the new. This theme, based on the Twenty Sixteen WordPress theme, is designed to be super clean and leave lots of room to feature the content without the clutter.

In pursuit of the ultimate coworking resource

The redesign comes as an early step in a larger effort to make the Coworking Blog a more robust resource for all things coworking.

We’re now testing just how far we can go to use the blog platform as a way of tackling one of our biggest challenges: figuring out what to do with the blog’s sister site, the Coworking Wiki.

Could the Blog replace the wiki? I believe it can. WordPress is a far more powerful, easy to use, and better supported platform than the PBWorks platform the Wiki is based on.

The biggest challenge, of course, is in porting over the data. To address this, We’re looking at a phased approach that allows passionate organizers claim access to their region’a new page, hosted on the Coworking Blog, and seeing where people’s interest takes us from there.

Let us help you build better portals for your city and region!

Head over to the Coworking Wiki directory, find the corresponding wiki pages for your area, and see how accurate what you find turns out to be. If you find it to be mess or out-of-date and are interested in helping with a upgrade and an update, let us know! Email us at info [at] opencoworking.org.

With your help, we can re-create these pages in cleaner, easier to maintain formats. See the example page I created here.

Support us! It would really mean a lot.

A lot of you on this list are already supporters (Thank you! You rock!), but for those of you who aren’t, we just opened up a new supporter level at $9/mo. Every single person who supports us makes a huge difference in helping us dedicate the resources we need to be able to make this movement work. Learn more or register now!

Cheers,
Tony Bacigalupo and the Open Coworking team

5 Reasons You Should Start Coworking Online

Post Author: Wendy Chen.

For small businesses, joining a coworking space can bring some game-changing benefits. Working in the same environment as like minded businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs, networking, finding potential clients and partners could be just what your small business needs. While coworking spaces are an exciting development in the business world, we can’t forget that the world as a whole is rapidly going digital and work 2.0 is taking over the coworking market.

In this post, I look at five important features of virtual coworkingtake a look at an introduction to virtual coworking here! i.e. coworking in an online environment, that can make your business even more successful.

It allows you to work from anywhere, anytime

If you’re the kind of person that likes working at times that are convenient to you, virtual coworking is definitely up your street. Be a part of the most recent developments in your company, your clients’ businesses and partner enterprises from the comfort of your own home, your favorite coffee house or even your parents’ country home. Staying connected and keeping on top of developments is a key factor for sustainable growth, and virtual coworking is an excellent tool to achieve just that. Just connect and join the show. It has never been easier.

It expands your talent pool and network

The biggest advantage of virtual communication is the ability to work from home. The broad spectrum of online communication platforms that are now available mean you no longer need to have all of your employees in house, as they can report to you online. However, that is not always efficient. The choice of channels through which employees work from home is so large that it’s often hard to track all actions and developments and that could potentially discourage you as an entrepreneur from hiring people who can’t be in the office every day. This is where you stand to gain a huge advantage from virtual coworking. There is now a universal tool for literally all communication between you and your employees.

Not only that, they will have a complete and transparent overview of all developments in other departments and will be in close contact with their coworkers, clients, and partners. Your talent pool will be extended far beyond the city in which your business is located – and we all know that a business is only as strong as its staff. For employees, this also opens up a much broader and more efficient employment network. Yet another win for virtual coworking!

 

It’s in the cloud

Digital times are upon us, that is no secret. So don’t hesitate to use digital developments to your advantage when running a business. Having all of your company’s documents, notes, tasks, schedules, deadlines, and even conversations online and in one place will save you valuable time and the trouble of browsing through stacks of paper. Keeping your files online also means you no longer have to worry about losing or breaking your laptop. What used to be stored in the hardware can now be stored in the cloud. You can access these files from anywhere and at any time. This really is a no-brainer.

It comes at no extra cost

Cost-effectiveness is crucial for a small business. Let’s not ignore the fact that more often than not, capital is what dictates what you can and cannot achieve, and sometimes this can be a question of life or death for a business. So while you can manage your affairs from your office or coworking space, there is also a strong need to be able to continue working on the same things, with the same benefits but for no extra cost . Here is the kicker: virtual coworking will cost you less than you spend on toothpaste. If you are a risk-averse business person, this provides a very low-risk, high-reward opportunity that is not to be missed out on.

It promotes transparency in your business

Working with your team is important. What is even more important is working efficiently. There is nothing more frustrating than writing a blog post and finding out afterwards that your colleague is working on the same idea. You know it can happen: emails get lost or overseen all the time. With virtual coworking, you will be able to track all relevant tasks, deadlines, and ideas that your coworkers are working on. Not only that, you can post new ideas in a note for the rest of the team to see. Virtual coworking will enable you to manage your business more efficiently than ever before, and sometimes that is really what a business lacks to make that big leap.

Although I could go on all day about how beneficial virtual coworking could be for your small business, the gist of it is that virtual coworking spaces are amazingly efficient. In a tough business world, small businesses must catch every break possible, and virtual coworking can be a HUGE break.

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation for you to enjoy! Milano, november 2015: Coworking becoming a company platform, by Ivan Botta of Coworking Cowo Milano/Login. . Related content: Ivan Botta’s interview (in Italian). Coworking becoming a company platform

L’articolo Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation sembra essere il primo su Coworking Project by Cowo®.

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation for you to enjoy!

Milano, november 2015:Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login Presentation
Coworking becoming a company platform, by Ivan Botta
of Coworking Cowo Milano/Login.

.
Related content:

Ivan Botta’s interview (in Italian).

L’articolo Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation sembra essere il primo su Coworking Project by Cowo®.

The Big Coworking Question – Why Do Spaces Develop Regionally?

Post Author: Connor Provines.

coworking space

Over the past year I’ve gone from an outsider, to someone who is well versed in the world of coworking and some of its finer inner workings. It’s a large part of my job; however the more I study certain elements of the movement the more questions arise. Recently, I was having a conversation with some of my European coworkers about the status of coworking abroad, namely in France. They explained to me that the movement was still growing, coworking spaces were somewhat evenly distributed across the regions of the country.

In that moment, it occurred to me – this is almost the opposite of the current U.S reality; as it stands, coworking centers are incredibly dense, regional, and seemingly randomly distributed. Why is this? Can we figure anything deeper out about these problems on closer examination?

Identifying the variables that distinguish regional coworking – coworking by State

One of the first areas I was interested in looking into is coworking within a singular state across multiple cities – namely a city within a state where coworking has flourished, compared to a similar city where coworking is vastly different.

Granted, it is difficult to get a truly scientific breakdown when comparing cities – as no two are the same, however for the purposes of exploring the cause of regional coworking, it is certainly worth looking into.

San Francisco (The Greater Bay Area) v. Los Angeles

coworking space

While not the most direct of comparison’s (I’ve lived in both) it is prudent to compare these two large cities and how / why the coworking scene has developed so differently between the two centers. Both cities are very unique, however for comparison sake, I’m going to address the fact that they’re both Californian, highly developed cities, that cater heavily to small businesses and startups – each with dense city centers focused on the promotion of work.

Los Angeles, as well, is a geographically larger region, with a much higher population, a greater reliance on public transportation, with a incredibly dense center.

These two areas share a lot, yet San Francisco has nearly Four Times as many coworking spaces as the greater Los Angeles area, with spaces on average being larger, and with more spaces opening annually. That isn’t to say coworking in Los Angeles isn’t amazing (BlankSpacesHUB LABizHaus etc you know who you are) it’s that there is a stark difference in the acceptance and application of wide-spread coworking in the region. What’s even more interesting (Or perhaps to undermine a potentially good argument) is the part of the Bay Area that is considered the heart of the Silicon Valley – the Palo Alto area, has next to zero coworking spaces. It is clear to an observer that it is something more than the presence of business and a high population that generates the desire for coworking spaces. To bring the point home, let’s look at another similar situation.

Austin v. Houston

I’ve outlined the basics of the conversation previously, so we’re going to dive right into this one. Austin and Houston provide two stark contrasts to the state of coworking within a given region. Both are highly populated, rapidly growing cities dedicated to technology and new industry. The two cities are located roughly 160 miles apart (Under a 3 hour drive) and share a similar culture and atmosphere. Why then, are there nearly Five Times (and rising) more coworking spaces in the city of Austin, when compared to Houston. What’s even more surprising is the fact that Houston has over two times the population of Austin. While no two cities are identical, it is interesting when we notice trends like this; closely located cities, with similar cultures; however the presence of coworking is drastically different.

Interstate Coworking – differences between regional cities (With similar cultures), separated by state lines

coworking space

Portland Oregon v. Seattle Washington

The reason I’ve picked this example instead of comparing another set of two cities within a given state is because of the uniqueness of the region and the shared culture between the two cities. Whereas with the Californian and Texas examples, we largely looked at variables such as population, job diversity, and proximity; the cities of Portland and Seattle offer another interesting factor – culture.

Like Houston and Austin, Seattle and Portland are roughly 170 miles apart. The two cities, while drastically different in size, share a strong North Western culture unique to the region. Speaking as someone who has lived in both these cities for extended periods of time (I’m a bit of a West Coast traveler), it is easy to argue that many ideals are commonly shared between these two cities that are important for the development of coworking spaces – the desire for efficiency, sustainability, community, and collaboration. To add to this, sometimes to a fault, Portland is one of the most progressive leaning cities in the United States, and yet the city of Seattle has nearly Four Times (perhaps more) as many coworking spaces as the City of Portland. Why is this relevant? The City of Portland proper is a young, enterprising, densely located city center, with one of the best public transportation systems in the country – yet coworking is almost non-existent. What is it that causes coworking to be so popular among one city, but not another, where both share so many similar factors?

Questions of Culture, Industry, Price, and Proximity

coworking culture

This brings us to the inevitable end of our question, what is it then that causes coworking to take root in one city, but not another? I believe it to be a factor of four central things, Culture, Industry, Economy, and Proximity.

Unfortunately, this is the juncture where our question goes from a data driven approach, to one of speculation. A city has too many variables to quantify and eliminate one by one, so at a point individual thought and speculation have to play a role. It is my belief that coworking develops regionally due to unique cultural aspects of a city. The population, density, type of labor, and economy of said city are all relevant aspects that go into creating the proper culture for coworking. It makes sense to an extent, why a crowded city filled with startups would be more inclined to adopt coworking than say, a largely industrial city – but that isn’t to say that forms of coworking still wouldn’t have their place.

Ultimately, I don’t have an answer to why coworking develops regionally; however the point of this wasn’t so much to answer that question, but to propose it to the community and develop a conversation. For those of us involved with coworking, who are interested in seeing it grow and develop, figuring out how and why it is so prevalent in some areas but not others will be crucial in the growth and development of the movement.

Of course, if you have some insight to this question, don’t be afraid to share it with us! Tweet us @shareyouroffice, or send us an email, expect a part 2 to this in the future!

Written By Connor Provines of www.shareyouroffice.com



Yay: #CoworkingMonday is here!

coworkingmonday-yay

This post is by Doris Schuppe of Rayaworx Coworking.

At the Coworking Europe Conference in Milan, Rainer from Rayaworx introduced the idea of CoworkingMonday in his session. The feedback was very positive. So we would like to spread the word and invite every coworking space out there to combine our forces to get more visibility for coworking.

One thing all of us learned in Milan: knowledge about coworking did not spread that fast and consistently one might think. There is a huge potential of freelancers, knowledge workers, commuters, etc. lacking any experience or familiarity with the new work’s concept.

Seeing is believing: We need to attract people to our spaces, and let them feel our community spirits as openness, collaboration, networking, cooperation, knowledge-sharing.

The #CoworkingMonday vision

Every coworking space around the world uses CoworkingMonday events to promote coworking and to let people experience how coworking is more than just a space to work.

The CoworkingMonday is an informal, community-driven event that aims to connect people who are shaping the future of work.

Anyone involved in coworking or neighboring fields who is interested in learning and sharing with others is most welcome to join. Whether you are a thinker, builder, designer, trainer, founder or funder – CoworkingMonday is your platform to share your knowledge, to help others with business-relevant advice, or to share your next big idea to a growing audience of coworking aficionados.

The CoworkingMonday is organized by coworkers and coworking hosts with speakers / sessions / workshops / networking / … about everything that is related to coworking and the future of work.

The CoworkingMonday takes place in a coworking space once a month on a Monday. In a bigger city with lots of coworking spaces it might be a good idea to have a monthly CoworkingMonday each in another of the town’s spaces.

In a region like e.g. Southern Bavaria or Mallorca the hosts may think of an additional CoworkingMonday regional event: 6 or 4 times a year the coworking spaces coordinate a CoworkingMonday visiting each other.

The organizers feel free to choose the timeframe for their CoworkingMonday: the event might be a breakfast, a morning workshop, a lunch break event (like a lunch & learn meeting or open salad networking), an afternoon session or an evening function – it’s up to you!

Some buzzwords may help to find relevant topics and speaker/s for your next CoworkingMonday: Blogs, Collaboration, Collaboration Tools, Coworking, Creativity, Design, Financing, Future of Work, Photography, Gadgets for Work, Get Things Done GTD, Knowledge-Sharing, Marketing, Mobile Apps for Work, Nerd Culture, Networking, Online Design, Online Relations, PR, Security, Social Media, Social Networks, Startups, Sustainability, Usability, Voice over IP, Webdesign, Workspace Design…

A global directory will list all CoworkingMonday activities worldwide.

The global hashtag #CoworkingMonday combines all activities and will provide visibility to our efforts.

Does it work? Some background from WebMontag

In Germany we have a long-standing tradition of “WebMontag” (WebMonday) since 2005. Whenever it was possible, I attended those events in Munich, where I lived before moving to Mallorca. Maybe you went to a WebMonday in your city, too. If this is not the case, please read their explanation:

Web Monday is an informal, non-commercial, and completely community-driven event that aims to connect the people who are shaping the future of the internet. Inspired by the culture of Silicon Valley, it started out in Cologne, Germany in late 2005 in an effort to help spread those sunny California vibes.

Since its inception, Web Monday has spread fast: meetings are now being held on a regular basis in 40+ cities all across Germany, Austria, in Switzerland, Sweden as well as in the Silicon Valley. Nurturing the local web 2.0 and internet startup scenes, Web Monday’s 100+ meetings have attracted 1,000+ repeat participants so far, and good things have come out of it.

(quoted from Web Montag)

So I thought, we should learn form the WebMontag’s tradition by adopting it with relevant topics of our coworking community. I think at least sometimes a CoworkingMonday may cooperate with a local WebMonday initiative.*

CoworkingMonday – when do you start?

Are you in? Give us a shoutout via comment or even better by sharing this blog post with the hashtag #CoworkingMonday. Or plan the first CoworkingMonday event in your space? Let us know!

The Best Coworking Space For You!

Post Author: Wendy Chen.

Let’s say you decided to try coworking. Now it’s the right time to choose a shared office and jump straight into business. Yet, there are different types of coworking spaces, so how do you know that you’ve chosen the one that fits you (and your business) best?

Modern cities provide vast opportunities for coworking. The more coworking offices that are out there, the harder it is to choose a place that suits you. The first thing to consider would inevitably be the subscription costs. Skipping the money talks, we give you an overview of shared office specifications like design, location and other perks that might influence your decision.

 

Comfort.

You are looking for a substitute to your home office, so the new location has to be at least just as much comfortable for business as your cabinet. Assess the size of rooms, the degree of privacy and noisiness, quality of furniture and kitchen facilities, and bathroom cleanliness. 

Be picky: if anything bothers you now, then it will distract you even more when working on projects.

Tip: Don’t forget to check lighting and ventilation. Everybody has their own preferences, so maybe you will have to bring an extra desk lamp.

Design.

While you must like the place and feel comfortable to be productive, also consider whether the coworking office has an interior that serves your business needs. 

In case your job involves a lot of meetings and you need to invite clients, we suggest a high-end office. This kind of office design will impress the visitor and  you will appear professional. Take note that usually this type of offices are open at normal business hours and are occupied with freelancers and entrepreneurs in their 30’s. 

On the other hand, if your tasks and responsibilities don’t require meetings, an artistic or comfortable environment would suit you best. People working in such relaxed offices are notably younger and are occupied in creative industries and IT. The communication between members is more casual and it resembles a shared home-office.

Tip:  To get the feel of the place, book a visit for several coworking spaces in your town. Approach its people and consider whether this environment appeals to your personality and business.

Location.

Research says that people with shorter commuting time to work are the happiest. Nevertheless, don’t get carried away and choose solely by the distance from home. It is also useful to consider whether your location will be convenient for the clients. Proximity to certain amenities like day care or fitness centres, shops and restaurants should also be considered.

Tip: You might want to avoid the coworking space next door. It’s hard to switch to and from the office mood in just a couple of minutes and it might be tempting to leave for home sooner.

Community

Apart from the age of the general crowd in your future coworking space, you should check the culture of the place. It is important that you feel confident and trust the people you will be sharing the office with. Investigate whether the shared offices have a community manager who facilitates the socializing. 

The coming together and collaborating is one of the main reasons to get out of the home office, so don’t miss the opportunity!

Tip: In case you are short in time and cannot visit all the offices of your choice, check their pages on social media. Instagram and Facebook often give a great insight into events of the place and introduce some members.

Special facilities.

Make a list of office supplies and facilities you need and try to go beyond “printer, coffee machine, wifi”. In case you need to call your clients quite often, seek for a shared office with special call-zones or separate meeting rooms. There are also shared offices with resting areas or terraces equipped with table games and yoga rooms.

Tip: Make sure you come to the office not only to have a good time, but also to get things done. And don’t forget that perks might come with extra costs.

Choosing a coworking space is a time-consuming activity, but it is worth investing your time. Carefully chosen, a shared office might become a new home for your business while not burdening you financially and mentally.  Keep our advice in mind, yet follow your heart when subscribing for a shared office!

Is Bigger Better in the New York Coworking Scene?

Post Author: Michael Gasiorek.

As a startup business owner, have you ever asked yourself how your company can overcome a much larger funded competitor? You may be imagining your competitors using all their capital to hire developers, an aggressive sales team, building out a savvy Mad Men-level marketing department, and getting involved in the next three largest global markets. Can you go up against this Goliath? Yes – and more ably than you’d expect. Our big tip here: using the community and personal attention found at coworking spaces, you can compete with larger businesses by using resources available on-demand at arm’s length from your hot desk.

Aiming to work at the level of a large funded startup? Take advantage of the new corporate office rental model: coworking spaces. Heating up in New York City, the Bay Area, and even in Shanghai, Budapest, and around the world, coworking space allows multiple companies and agencies to share a fully outfitted office. Currently, the largest companies in this space are Wework, a startup with a $5 billion valuation, and Regus, the biggest public competitor.

While there are several competitors in the space, there are only a few with multiple locations. A new privately funded firm is carving out its market share in the rapidly growing business of providing shared office space to startups, entrepreneurs and creative companies in New York City. Coworkrs, a much smaller shared office space community, has locations in Gowanus, Brooklyn, the Flatiron District, and they just recently signed a 13 year 30,000 square foot lease in NYC’s Financial District (Fidi) at 55 Broadway.

As a startup cofounder myself, I was curious about the best coworking spaces from which to work. I got a chance to try a community membership in Wework’s Fulton Center location, and then I tried a community membership at Coworkrs’ Flatiron space.  Here is what I learned from the experiences.

What was the Same

Both of these coworking spaces offer more than just space, with options of shared desks or private offices. Expect networking event mixers, arcade video games, high speed internet, free micro-brew beer on tap. The perks and people form a cohesive community that makes these environments more than just workspaces. When you compare either of these companies to the boring corporate office space provider Regus, they are both building and providing an atmosphere that merges work and life. Their cultures are ones that celebrate who we are as people and attracts those who seek to find a sense of purpose in their work. They are bringing several dozen professionals together to build a community where you belong and contribute.

The largest social shifts can happen when an infectious new kind of culture is developed and adopted, where a new set of values change and advance society in a more positive way. By removing the whole corporate office cubicle structure and building a true, interwoven community, I believe they are heading towards a better and more collaborative way to work and live.

What was Different

When I worked at either of the two different Wework locations I felt lost inside their sprawling campus. The community managers did not go out of their way to find out my name, and people were more focused on their work or on interactions with those they already knew. In meeting the Ben Kessler, Wework’s Director of Marketing, I learned about their marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Their employees “sell the why,” targeting mostly startup companies. Despite the fact that they are scaling so quickly, they feel the need to tell their employees to be humble so they can continue to empathize with the small startup customer instead of appearing to be a mega corporation. Wework’s founder Adam Neuberg has publicly said “We are not competing with other co-working spaces.”

When I visited Coworkrs’ flagship Flatiron location, I immediately felt that people were really friendly, especially the community managers. I was greeted by Eric Steiner, the COO, who showed me around and even introduced me to a number of the other members – by name, no less. As I rode the elevator into the space during my trial month, a member invited me to stay for an “Internet of Things” happy hour meetup. Despite being a much smaller coworking space, I got a sense of a family-like community environment. I asked Eric about their marketing strategies. Differing from Wework, Coworks’ staff is vigilant about shared office space competitors like the Grind, Impact Hub, AlleyNYC, The Yard, and others. They admitted to having done intense market research, even speaking with a number of Wework’s former community managers to crystallize strategies to differentiate the space and make it an attractive place to get work done. They even discovered an opportunity in Wework’s Boston location, where the member tenant turnover rate is quite high there because people from Boston have a sense of pride and like to support smaller local coworking spaces over non-local corporate expansions. Coworkrs currently has 4 NYC office locations and they have not taken any outside venture capital investment – all of the funding has come from the cofounders and their immediate networks.     

Conclusion    

Bigger may not always appeal to your customer base. Does the company that raises the most money or has the largest valuation mean they are the best?  Every startup wants to grow, gain more customers and eventually increase revenue, but if you are growing so fast that you are losing sight of the customer experience, this may not be the best strategy for your business. If your business is in an industry that has much larger competitors – which is true in almost every vertical – focus on what makes your company unique and different, focus on your niche product or experience, and your company will compete just fine. Listen to your users and customers and stay authentic to what your brand stands for, and your people will be loyal to you.

 

This piece was originally published on Startup Grind, the global entrepreneurship community, by AndrewBroadbent.

Andrew covers topics like entrepreneurship, conversion optimization, digital marketing and strategies for the startup and investor community. He co-founded Vab Media, a digital marketing startup agency in New York, with a specialty in the latest SEO tactics. A known growth specialist, he aids companies with branding, visibility, and customer experiences online through a variety of strategies. He builds and optimizes profitable websites, some of which hold first page rankings for major keywords in Google.



Why Coworking Is The Future of Work

This post is by Marc Howard of When You Live in the Now


There was something distinctly different about the one-hundred and sixty or so aspiring coders that surrounded me last weekend at the We/Code event hosted at one of the most thriving coworking spaces in Barcelona–and it wasn’t just the free-flowing mojitos after a long day of learning to code.

Unlike many training events these people actually wanted to be there and stick it out all day long learning HTML and CSS, two web markup languages that are greek to most of us.  This wasn’t your typical mandatory training event that your job or school requires you to attend rather this was a purely voluntary event, the first in Barcelona’s history.

In fact many of the attendees have never been to a coworking space–where mainly freelancers and other self-employed workers go to work and collaborate–let alone have ever learned new skills with random people from many different backgrounds, occupations and ages.

In case you didn’t get the memo, coworking is style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity.  Individuals are usually not employed by the same person.

This event was a glimpse into the future of work, where people of various backgrounds go where they are not tied to the traditional 9-5 kind of work, uninspired assignments and even a boss.

With Spain’s unemployment rate hovering between 22-26% the new generation of workers will not only need to get creative with seeking new job opportunities they will have to create their own opportunities–and  without relying on an HR manager to decide their fate.

Many young Spaniards like Irene Giró Paradell, an aspiring coder recently out of college, despite being well-educated are still seeking work and see their future as being a bit blurry.  When asked why she decided to come to the event to learn to code Irene puts this in plain language:

“I graduated last year with a BSc. in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and took a year off to travel and explore new options for the future since I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do next. I’ve been interested in programming for a while now so I’m considering changing my career in that direction. I thought attending this event would be a good opportunity to learn more about front-end programming and would motivate me to keep teaching myself how to code.”

The We/Code event was presented by the coding bootcamp provider Iron Hack and was one of many regular events held at Makers of Barcelona (MOB), one of the largest and most bustling coworking spaces in Barcelona where a growing number of aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers and digital nomads are coming every month to get work done, make connections and learn valuable digital skills.

Not all coworking spaces are created equal.  “Many of the members continue to come here to be a part of the community that we have built and to be inspired by the many other independent workers” says Olga Permanyer, Chief of Operations for MOB.  When asked about the diversity of the members Olga says “MOB is not only for independent workers–we actually have several small startups building companies out of here as well.”

The lure of working and collaborating in a coworking space can be similar to the buzz of a start-up environment and quite different from the uninspiring routine of the typical office cubicle.  Although the “coworking generation” is at the forefront of the future of work according to Google Trends it’s still only the beginning with a growing number of people searching for the term “coworking”:

coworking trends chart

Google Trends – Web Search interest: “coworking” – Worldwide, 2004 – present


The Rise of the Coworking Economy

The coworking phenomenon is happening around world and is breeding a new kind of workforce that is spanning the 30-40-something “Generation X”, the 20-30 something “Generation Y” and the latest, the new borns-to-teens known as “Generation Z”.

In other words it’s no longer about age or location, it’s about the changing landscape of  employment fueled by new remote working technology and the rise of a new generation of coworking spaces like MOB that is more than just a wi-fi connection and a seat.  Interactive environments like MOB are where multi-disciplinary professionals in the fields of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship share the same space and generate content.

According to MOB it’s about promoting the real-life experience of innovative ideas and coming up with new dynamics to implement them in a collaborative and always-learning atmosphere.

A growing amount of workers are now demanding an alternative to the typical corporate structure where intangible benefits like contributing to a community of like-minded people and being part of a meaningful purpose are the new priorities.  This attracts a different kind of personality–one who is more open to the excitement that comes with creating your own work.

makers of barcelona coworking space

Photo credit: Makers of Barcelona

This phenomena is certainly not limited to Spain and in fact there are now hundreds of coworking office spaces globally and many more on the way.  One of the most creative is one called CoBoat which is a 82ft. retrofitted, fully-wired catamaran where up to 20 digital nomads can travel around the world in “a sea-faring adventure combining life, work and play”.

Back across the ocean, in the United States the coworking movement is only at its infancy.  According to a recent Intuit study “contingent” workers (including freelancers, self-employed, and contractors) will make up 40 percent of the US economy by 2020–which is approximately 60 million Americans.

A recent Harvard Business Review report discusses the benefits of getting employees to “collide”.  According to their data, the idea is that creating collisions and chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization—improves performance.

If you have ever been to a coworking space before you may have noticed this first hand.  Unlike a typical office coworkers are generally individual entrepreneurs or freelancers from various backgrounds but when put together in a common space begin to form connections and relationships that otherwise may not have occurred.

For example if you are a programmer or graphic artist, connecting with a freelance digital marketer at the water-cooler could be the difference between a great product that the world will never hear about or a great product that gets in front of the eyes of thousands or millions of prospective customers.

If you are a bit too introverted for those chance encounters one of the other benefits of coworking is that many of these collaborative spaces provide regular workshops where you can learn anything from how to create a blog to social media marketing to digital design to entrepreneur fundamentals.

Instead of needing to find some random online course or outside expert like many companies do, you are on ground-zero among some of the most creative and entrepreneurial minds in an environment that sets you up for success.

Although there are tons of other ways to meet like-minded people and learn, being in an environment with people who you know, like and trust can make all the difference in the world.

map of coworking spaces around the world

Map of coworking spaces around the world (Courtesy of coworkingmap.org)

Out of Sight, Out of Sync

If you are a remote worker/telecommuter or digital nomad it may be no surprise to learn that there is a strong negative correlation between the physical distance of your coworkers and your frequency of communication.

Known as the “Allen Curve”, from Thomas Allen’s ground-breaking 1977 book, Managing the Flow of Technology, the study estimates that we are four times as likely to communicate regularly with someone sitting six feet away from where we are as with someone 60 feet away.

The study still holds based on recent follow-up research by Ben Waber, where in one study engineers who shared a physical office were 20% more likely to stay in touch digitally than those who worked elsewhere.  The study went on the report that co-located coworkers emailed each other four times as frequently as colleagues in different locations resulting in 32% faster project completion times.

This is all to say even though there are excellent distance-shrinking collaborative solutions like Slack and Asana and many others on the way, there is still no substitute for face-to-face and being in close proximity to like-minded individuals.  Although there is no easy way to measure, this the ultimate success factor that the best coworking spaces in the world will be measured against.

How To Choose a Coworking Space

There is no easy answer on how to find and choose a coworking space since it really depends on what’s most important to you and your style of work.  For example, some of the factors that many people use to choose are monthly cost, amenities, internet bandwidth, workshop availability, training seminars, networking events, printer access, weekend access, conference rooms, a mailing address, flexible plans, private keycode, etc.

How to Compare Coworking Cost

Cost will vary from city to city and according to what plan you choose (i.e. part-time/on-demand desk to full-time permanent workstation).  When considering costs think about what coworking features and amenities are most important to you and sort out the necessities from the nice-to-haves.

In most major cities there are dozens of coworking facilities to chose from so you need to map out your work day and align it to those that meet your workings needs.  For example, since I do everything from Skype video calls and Google Hangouts, to creating screen casts and trainings, and then save everything to the cloud, internet speed and reliability are critical to me as well as the occasional private meeting room to conduct calls/trainings.

Some aspects are hard to put a price on like run-ins with like-minded entrepreneurs which for me are priceless since I never know where the next amazing opportunity can come from.  With that said you also need to keep in mind the intangibles or the coworking benefits that are hard to measure.

Examples of these can be work-life balance, inspiration, happiness, even human contact which is a growing pain point with many digital nomads and solopreneurs.

Getting To Know What Amenities Coworking Spaces Have

Amenities will range from the basics like free filtered water, tea and coffee to more upscale options like free breakfast or lunch that gives that thrilling startup feeling.  Although the pricing will vary for what amenities you can expect most facilities have access to all the basics like printers, scanners/copiers, work desks, high-speed internet, meeting rooms and mailing addresses to accept your packages.

The Pros and Cons of Coworking and How To Decide If It Is Right For You

Like any new way of working you need to find what works best for your needs.  There are many great benefits of coworking however there are also many concerns that you may wish to explore further before committing yourself.  Coworking spaces that offer free trials or no commitments to try first is a great way to see if the concept is a good fit.

Having traveled to dozens of coworking spaces around the world here is just a shortlist of pros and cons that I have complied based on my personal experience as a digital nomad in no particular order.

Pros:

-Dedicated/business-grade high-speed internet access and other standard office amenities

-Daily opportunities to mingle and rub elbows with other freelancers and entrepreneurs

-Constant learning environment based on the variety of workers from diverse professions and backgrounds (i.e. graphic artists, bloggers, copywriters, writers/journalists, digital marketers, independent real-estate agents, startup founders, business consultants, social media managers, accountants, etc.)

-Very short “commute” time as many are in neighborhoods or at least easily accessible by public transport or bike in the city-center

-Ongoing free workshops that are live and in-person

-In-house networking events and happy hours

-English is spoken at many even in countries where English is not the primary language

-Various ages (contrary to popular belief coworking spaces are not all “a bunch of creative kids”–its typical to see anyone from students/recent grads to mid-age career consultants to retirees who happen to running their secondary income/lifestyle business from the internet)

Cons:

-Some costs can be confusing so you need to read the fine print before signing-up (i.e. sometimes there may be “add-on” charges for printing/copying or coffee)

-Lack of weekend availability or 24/7 private key-code access

-Language barriers (just because the owner may speak English doesn’t mean that the workshops or events are in English)

-Some can be rather quiet where networking, sessions and general interaction are not the priority (think public library but with coffee).  Not necessarily a bad thing if you are there to work and not mingle but may be alienating to those just starting to strike out on their own.

-Can be initially lonely since you will basically be the “new guy” and workers can be quite transitory (for example a friend you meet one month may no longer be a member the following month)

Deciding If It’s For You

With that said, again my own personal opinion here based on experience at dozens of coworking spots around the world, I find that “good fits” for coworking tend to have the following profile:

-Ability to work independently and without close supervision

-Independent and self-sustaining types such as freelancers, consultants, early-stage start-ups, designers and most creatives

-People that enjoy what they do (this really goes for any kind of work environment but seems to be a bigger deal at coworking spaces since its hard to be productive or creative if you don’t like what you do compounded by the fact that you may not know anyone or have a structured work environment)

How to Work Successfully and Be Productive in a Coworking Space

Working from a coworking space does require a basic set of digital skills particularly if your work requires being online.  Unlike a typical office environment it would be incorrect to assume that there is an “onboarding” process or digital skills orientation. Don’t go there to learn how to turn on your Mac.

While there are workshops and training at some of the better ones, you may find that some skills and productivity tools will, while not mandatory, go along way to boost your success and productivity.

The following is a list based on the best practices and toolkits of many fellow coworking friends and colleagues:

-Skype/Google Hangouts:  these services allow free and inexpensive internet-based calling and video conferencing and screen sharing.  Great for online meetings and presentations.

-Evernote: this is a note-taking web-based app that also syncs with your smart phone or tablet.  Great for research notes, webclips/graphics, meeting notes and allows you to keep your individual notes grouped into larger notebooks.

-Workshops/Networking Events: Go to as many as you can as you never know where the next opportunity will come from.  It never hurts to learn something new either–surprise yourself.

-Time Management: it’s easy to lose track of time and get off-course in an environment where there is no set lunchtime, no dress-code, no regular hours, and no boss behind you breathing down your neck.  With that said self-discipline is probably going to be the most important soft-skill during your time at a coworking space.   Having a to-do list or better yet using the Pomodoro technique will help you divide and conquer your time and tasks.

common courtesies in a coworking space


12 Questions to Ask Before Signing Up For a Coworking Space

Consider asking the following questions before you decide to become a member.  All may not apply to your priorities however this is a good checklist to begin whether you are searching for a new facility or are at an existing one and want to make sure you are getting the best value for your money.

1. What are your plans and prices for part versus full-time coworking space?

2. What cost does this membership plan not include (i.e. locker space, coffee, training, after-hours access, reserved workspace, printing/scanning/copying, mailbox/concierge service, etc.)?

3. Do you publish a calendar of networking, training or workshop events?

4. Do you have any other locations and is the membership transferable (think your gym membership)?

5. Do you offer members any other community discounts such as reduced cafe pricing, gym membership or public transportation discounts?

6. Are you currently offering any promotions?

7. How do I cancel my membership (and do you prorate for the part of the month not used)?

8. Do you offer a free trial or reduced rate to try for a day or a week before I commit?

9. What is your internet speed (you’d be surprised by how many times the person you are speaking to either doesn’t know or those that are using a residental-grade service instead of a business-grade connection.  20Mb+ is usually a good start but it really depends on your location. For example 100MB would be a standard in Washington, DC while 10MB may be the “business-class” high-speed connection in Mexico City.  For a quick check on average internet speed and best places to live and work remotely check outNomadList.)?

10. Can I bring my dog? (Perhaps this is only a question that dog lovers would understand–you would be surprised at how many are open to it versus those that have a strict no-dog policy.  Just ask.)

11. How much conference room/meeting room time does my membership include every month?

12. Do you have a member-board where I can see what other members do and a way to contact them?  For example if you need some coding help it would be great to first reach out to someone in the same coworking space–this can be a convenient alternative to having to find a freelancer on Upwork to help you.)

Helping People To Learn Is The Future of Coworking

Keep in mind that coworking is not all rosy and that it can easily turn into just another unstructured remote office or Starbucks where you go, struggle to get work done, and there is no one to help you when you need a hand especially if you are new to the game and just now striking out on your own.

Professional development is the often neglected side of coworking and an aspect that many members are becoming more and more concerned about as coworking spaces become larger and run the risk of losing the community feeling and alienating its members.

This presents a major challenge and one that many independent workers and entrepreneurs are all too familiar with.  The challenge is how can an up-and-coming freelancer or one just starting a small business get access to not just the technology and location to get work done, but the business advice and coaching to excel at what you do?  Surrounding yourself with successful people is just one part of the formula–interacting and learning from them is the other part of the success formula.

At the end of the day its not just about having a great product or service but being able to get that product or service in front of the right people.  As many freelancers and entrepreneurs have a blog or website understanding digital marketing fundamentals will become a growing and more in-demand skill set.

The most accommodating coworking spaces will have on boarding sessions and trainings for these new digital skills such as social media marketing, customer development, content marketing, SEO and growth hacking.

The Essential List of Coworking Resources

If you’re still reading chances are you may want to continue discovering a bit more about the emerging world of coworking.  Here is a short list of interesting coworking resources

  • CoPass:  500+ unique coworking places around the world, one pass to access them all.
  • Coworking Space Directory Find a coworking space near you.
  • Coworking Visa – Review which spaces around the world that offer use to visiting from other participating spaces (normally just daily drop in).
  • CoWorkHoliday: Curated list of the most amazing coworking spaces at vacation and resort locations around the world.
  • Seats2Meet.com: Seats2meet is a platform for freelancers, independent professionals, and digital nomads to find each other as well as free places to cowork. New “knowmads” are asked to list their expertise so they can be matched up with those seeking help or partnership. The kicker is not only can you find free places to cowork, but also free help from other members.
  • Chairify: Charify lets you share your own living room, kitchen table, spare desk or whatever comes to mind as a free coworking space.
  • One Way Ticket:  An in-progress documentary project by @Youjindo who’s releasing early footage now on YouTube as she interviews digital nomads and location-independent startups from around the world–the good, the bad and the crazy.

The TL;DR (Conclusion)

The workplace of the future is quickly changing and those that are the most successful will not only find new creative ways to work but also meaningful work in environments that allow easy collaboration with like-minded people.

Working from a coworking space as a freelancer or entrepreneur is not for everyone and requires a certain kind of personality, comfort with uncertainly and a healthy growth-mindset.

If you are one of the millions that are trapped in an office cubical the good news is coworking can be a break from the office and an opportunity to try something new.  Sometimes the best advice comes from a good friend or coworker who has tried it before. Ask around–you never know where your next inspiration will come from.



Fun or Function: Does Coworking Need a Reality Check?

Post Author: Michael Gasiorek.

Millennials have begun reimagining the workplace to better fit their needs. One way this generation is bucking tradition is by coworking, a relatively recent phenomenon that allows freelancers and entrepreneurs to enjoy the benefits of working in a fully-stocked group office, without surrendering the benefits of being an independent worker.

It’s a wonderful, mutualistic relationship at first glance: coworking startups are finding success by offering their communities a fun, affordable, and collaborative space to work (and usually, a host of incredible amenities).

But there’s a problem brewing just under the surface of the coworking world, and it has to do with productivity and long-term sustainability.

At their best, these spaces are alive with synergy and the collaboration of strangers who become colleagues.

At their worst, coworking spaces can be well-meaning but distracting productivity killers.Countless perks (hello, bocce ball court), interesting people, and the constant bustle of creative minds at work can make it tough to stay on-task.

The New Workspace or The Latest Hangout?

These are exactly the kinds of problems that are having critics asking if coworking spaces are becoming more of a hangout destination than a space to actually get things done.

First, it’s important to consider that all spaces are not equal. Regus is known for primarily catering to executives, while WeWork focuses on creative individuals offering their services on a freelance basis, or on founders building companies. Jay Suites is an amalgamation of both, preferring to offer coworking spaces and meeting rooms to people across the board.

Differences aside, all coworking spaces are filled with customers who have tasks that need to be completed. So how do these distinctly different spaces ensure their customers a distraction-free, productivity-geared environment?

Many don’t, and if that doesn’t change, the long-term sustainability of the coworking industry could be bleak.

Amenities, Productivity, or Both?

If a freelancer finds a great coworking space with amazing amenities and a great group of people, it’s love at first sight. But look further down the road: if little distractions prevent this person from doing their best work each day, they’ll notice the drop in productivity and could become discouraged.

They might even point the finger at coworking: “You made me do this, with your limitless almond lattes and never-ending parade of interesting entrepreneurs! I knew I should’ve just stayed home!”

One way Michael Rutledge, VP of Business Development at a successful group of coworking spaces across New York City, addresses this problem is by offering private, soundproof suites to those who need to put their nose to the grindstone.

He notes, “a lot of coworking spaces focus on the thrill of amenities. But when it comes down to it, work still needs to be completed. We offer the same amenities as many other places, but we also place focus on productivity and helping make sure our customers succeed in their endeavors.”

It’s true that established companies like WeWork have forecasted growing, continued interest in coworking (and resulting boosts in their own profits), but not everyone is equally optimistic. Without a renewed focus on productivity and the work part of coworking, amenity-centered spaces face an uncertain future.

What are your thoughts on the future of coworking? How do you see the industry adapting to fit shifting consumer needs? Let us know in the discussion.

 

This piece was originally published on Startup Grind, the global entrepreneurship community, by Debra Carpenter. 

Debra is passionate about being creative. She create smart, compelling content for brands and offers content strategy consultation services. She writes about startups, small business, entrepreneurship, women in business, sales, and even motherhood. She makes her home near Nashville, TN with her husband, daughter, and 2 apathetic cats.