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You Can’t Force Community



I was recently chatting with a fellow Peers Conference attendee in Austin, Texas. We were at a post-event happy hour swapping stories about working alone, freelancing and the benefits (and pitfalls) of working for an agency.

The conversation turned, as it often does with me, to coworking. I asked my new friend if he had considered working out of a coworking space. He told me it just wasn’t his thing.

When I asked why, he said his only experience with coworking had been at one of the big, shiny spaces and it didn’t feel authentic.

It wasn’t necessarily the space he didn’t like, it was the way in which the idea of community was hoisted onto him like a sack of potatoes. As soon as he walked in, he was met with talk of how they really focused on community.

That’s good, right? I love community. I imagine you do too.

Except it wasn’t good.

He was told how he was already a member of the community, even though he had just walked in the door.

The barrage of community jargon continued. This poor guy was bombarded with how great things were in the community, how he was already a great fit, how all the days, and all the events and even the keg were all about community.

At this point, my friend hadn’t met a single person in the space besides the dude giving him the tour. The way he tells it, every second that passed he was less and less interesting in joining that “community.”

He left quickly and never went back—to the space, or to coworking.

He felt manipulated and bullshitted by something forced and inauthentic.

I strongly encouraged him to check out other coworking spaces in his hometown, and referred him to a space run by a friend of mine. I hope he visits and gives coworking another try.

Community can’t be forced, it can’t be bought, and it can’t be hoisted onto someone.

Community is a web of interactions, connections that strengthen over time, and humans who genuinely care about each other.

Sounds a lot like coworking…when it’s done right.

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