Something very interesting is happening in coworking right now.
People who have built a business around shared workspace now have no workspace.
It forces the question: What are you left with when your workspace disappears?
I see three clear segments surfacing:
1. Little or Nothing
Some space operators are left with little or nothing because their focus was on renting space, not holding space for connection and collaboration.
Operators in this category are at a complete loss what to do. Many (or most) of their members—being nothing more than rental tenants—have cancelled their memberships.
The members may or may not come back, but their decision will be largely transactional: a place to work in exchange for payment.
2. The Middle-Ground
Middle-ground operators who focused a bit more on community than the little or nothing folks have taken a significant hit as peripheral members cancel their memberships.
But these operators have a core group of people who contribute to the community, benefit from the community, and appreciate the vision, purpose and potential for the workspace.
Core members are invested in their space and community being around when things normalize, so they’ve retained their memberships even though the space is closed.
Some operators of these middle-ground spaces have created virtual coworking offerings and have found ways to keep their core community connected and supported. They’re engaged with members, have made on-the-fly changes to programming and events, and have leaned into the strength of the community.
3. All-in On Community
Then we have the spaces that have always prioritized community. The story I’m hearing from these operators is that the vast majority of their members have retained their memberships. These community-first operators are finding ways to keep people close to the community—when they need it most—by any means necessary.
I’ve seen them offer to freeze membership payment for struggling members; offer low-cost virtual coworking options; and offer membership trades and exchanges.
These all-in operators are leaning all the way into their communities and finding ways to serve, serve, serve.
These all-in communities may benefit from fantastic spaces and amenities, but they understand that they are a community, regardless of the space.
The Community Spectrum
Where do you and your space fall on this community spectrum?
How is your community looking these days?
It’s never too late to lean into your community and find new ways to support and connect them.
You Can’t Buy Community
Authentic community building is not easy, and it can’t be rushed.
It’s about one-to-one connection that scales throughout your space and culture.
You can’t fake community, and you can’t buy it.
You can pay for a cool building, you can fill it with expensive furniture, you can hire a fabulous interior designer, you can buy an espresso bar and a pro podcast booth, and put in wow-inducing meeting rooms and event space.
But you can’t buy community.
Top quality amenities are great! I love a fabulous space. I love chairs that don’t make my back hurt. I love a pro podcast booth. Having an in-house espresso bar is on my coworking space wishlist.
But, when the space disappears, these things do too.
And then what are you left with?
The COVID Litmus Test
This COVID-19 era is a community litmus test, and the community-focused spaces are shining.
If you’re rocking community coworking right now, we see you.
Rock on. Keep doing you, sharing what you’re working on, and moving the coworking movement forward.
If you’re not rocking community coworking, now is the time to start.
Make sure you’re part of your community. Be real, be transparent, be creative, move quickly, ask for help, and course-correct as you go.
This scrappy, figure-it-out, collaborative spirit has always powered the coworking movement.
Community-focused operators are now reigniting coworking because, it turns out, running a successful space isn’t as easy as fabulous design and real estate arbitrage.
The Good News
Humans are collaborative by nature and we want to be connected.
If your members disappeared when your space did, consider this a wake-up-call to reevaluate your approach to coworking and find ways to better serve your community.
It’s the best thing you can do for your workspace business, now and moving forward.
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