Turning People Away from Your Space Can Strengthen the Coworking Movement



I spent my first year coworking in the wrong space.

The long-story-short is that it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I didn’t really participate in the space or community because it never felt like home.

After a year, I left and found my longtime home coworking space, NextSpace Santa Cruz.

At NextSpace, I do all the things. I’m a nerdy power member whose enthusiasm for coworking grows daily. It is, in every way, my home away from home.

In hindsight, if I would have spent time in each of the local spaces before purchasing a membership, I would have realized that NextSpace had the community vibe I was looking for.

Playing the Field

This is the thinking behind the new Coworking Disloyalty Card in Cleveland, Ohio.

An initiative of Start in Cleveland, a “collection of founders, executives, investors, and freelancers” who are “driving awareness of area startups and their needs while building and educating a community of like-minded people,” the Disloyalty Card encourages people to get out of their house and work in several local coworking spaces.

Once people have visited five or more spaces, they get a “special prize.”

Coworking Alliances and the Rising Tide

This approach is not new to coworking. Coworking Alliances, going all the way back to the very first one, the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance, have long encouraged potential members of coworking spaces to visit several, if not all, of the member spaces before choosing one.

It may seem counterintuitive to turn people away from your space, but the reality is, any coworking space that aims to be healthy, vibrant and sustainable needs members who are engaged, comfortable and active in the community.

If you’re trying to attract someone to your space without considering whether they’re a good fit for the community, you’re doing coworking wrong.

The best thing you can do, as a coworking space operator or community manager, is to help people get into the best space for them.

When you do, you’ll save yourself the headache of having ill-fitting members. And, as you refer ill-fitting potential members to local spaces that are a better fit for them, your fellow space operators send potential members who are a good fit for your community to you.

This happens regularly in healthy coworking alliances.

That’s where things get nice and coworky. And, if space operators prioritize getting members into the right space, the coworking movement grows stronger.

What do you think? Does this approach to coworking and community seem spot-on or crazy to you? Let me know in the comments.

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