Why community is more important than ever for coworking spaces (and how to get it right)
Providing tangible value to members without physical space
The biggest challenge many coworking spaces faced during this pandemic was keeping their existing members happy, connected, and, of course paying. Even with the most creative social distancing tactics, the number of members actually able to utilize the space that they pay for each month was cut dramatically. So, how can a coworking space retain members under those conditions? Discounts? Delayed renewals? Pausing memberships? While they are all viable and useful options, they don’t get to the heart of the problem. Without being able to offer physical space — coworking space operators around the world had to start asking themselves:
“How do I provide value to my members beyond these 4 walls?”
The question is best answered by looking at the reasons why people joined your coworking space, to begin with.
Don’t hold your breath — most of the time it’s not because they needed a desk. Most of your members are probably looking for one of the following:
- Meet other interesting people to network with
- New business opportunities
- Find a sense of meaning
- Feel like they are part of a coworking community
- And yes, all your desks, meeting rooms and free coffee
Researchers like Bilandzic and Foth (2013) who look into the motivations for members to join coworking space found that finding collaboration, and personal growth are 2 out of the 3 major motivations. So, when coming up with ways to retain as many members as possible, the most successful coworking space operators strategically focus on continuing to provide as much value as possible to those members.
Why is a sense of community so valuable for members?
Coworking spaces offer various opportunities for the increasingly non-standardized workforce to collaborate and network. Such a diverse professional community all together in a flexible workspace fosters innovation through unique forms of knowledge transfer between members. Recent findings refer to this unique phenomenon that initiates both cooperation and competition as ‘coopetition’, suggesting that coopetition has great potential to improve entrepreneurship and innovation. With that in mind, it’s a no brainer that one of the main reasons people want to join coworking spaces is for new business opportunities.
Coworking in practice: Dreamplex
Vietnam was one of the first countries to completely lockdown during the COVID-19, leading to an astonishingly low infection rate. For Daan van Rossum, Chief Experience Officer at Dreamplex, this meant pivoting from daily in-person events, fireside chats and meetups to fully online community programming — practically overnight.
Daan and the community management team at Dreamplex took this challenge head-on by focusing on two key aspects:
- Continuing to facilitate connections between members
- Doubling down on community programming & content
The team quickly moved to individually engage members through various social platforms and began the implementation of their own private community platform through Knowork.
Spread across 5 locations in Vietnam, the Community Experience team also saw a unique opportunity to connect members in different cities who would normally never bump into each other. Daan focused on keeping social channels active by doubling down on webinars, panels, discussions, and whitepapers. The content often directly addressed the issues and challenges that business leaders in the Dreamplex community were facing — such as their whitepaper on 10 Ways to Win after COVID-19 by focusing on your Employee Experience.
By focusing on creating connections and active community engagement through content and programming — Dreamplex became a source of knowledge and support for many members stuck at home, who might seek to network digitally, during these difficult times
Coworking in practice: Hashtag Workmode
To keep members engaged with remote coworking during COVID-19 lockdown, Emilie and the community management team regularly scheduled online courses and events that would support members’ professional and personal development.
Moreover, through such practices Hashtag Workmode also supported their members’ wellness during a challenging pandemic. Despite already being active on a variety of social platforms, Hashtag Workmode doubled down on its online coworking space community portal. Through Knowork, the Hashtag Workmode community team has been able to deliver a huge amount of unique digital experiences that range from interesting webinars, Friday digital drinks to just sharing a Spotify playlist to work to.
Community engagement at coworking spaces is now more important than ever because it can — if managed actively and coupled with the right technology — directly improve member retention by providing real, tangible value to members beyond the 4 walls of the coworking space.
Thanks to Maria Alexandra Rosales.