Community, not service, is fuelling the rise of coworking

No man is an island. Indeed, the pursuit of happiness is arguably a search for connection – and when it comes to business, an isolationist approach would signal the beginning of the end for any company, big or small.

Those who opt to cowork largely know this to be true but research suggests that the community aspect of coworking is the main driver for its growth, trumping both service and flexibility in terms of what members prioritise.

When it comes to business success, free coffee and access to meeting rooms is nice, but connection with people is a necessity.

Anyone who has started a business will know that it is a lonely endeavour, technically and emotionally. The entrepreneur is, inherently, all things to all people and their business: manager, salesman, tech support – the list is endless, the day-to-day problem solving relentless, and the lack of support takes its toll.

Coworking offers more than just support, however. It provides entrepreneurs and start-ups with access to resources that they might otherwise not be able to find or afford, and it surrounds them with a ready-made network of people who share the same mentality and daily challenges, even if they don’t share the same industry.

Exchanging knowledge and experience can be enriching both personally and professionally, opening up new methods and insights that the entrepreneur, in their bubble of long hours and mandated focus, may not have otherwise countenanced. This could be anything from the way a deal is closed to the way marketing impact is tracked, and in coworking environments, where everyone is in the same boat, most people are only too happy to share.

It is not just coworking members who shore up the sense of community, but the coworking facilitators themselves – whether this be the office or building managers or, increasingly, landlords.

They have the power to enhance a sense of community on a macro and micro scale. It begins with the office’s underlying ethos. What the coworking community represents and stands for, its values and aspirations, should be clearly defined and communicated to attract members with a similar mindset. This is what underpins bond and empathy.

From here, thoughtful branding will unify members behind a common identity. Done well, members will feel proud to be affiliated with their coworking space; they will buy into it with both heart and head and feel closer to other who share their beliefs.

Good coworking offices take a proactive approach to connecting members. Events, formal introductions and areas where workers can meet and chat informally are all vital. Consistent rituals – beers at 5pm on Friday, say, or the provision of treats on high days and holidays – are cementing and reliable, offering members shared anticipation followed by reward. People look forward to them and enjoy the experience of being at work as a result.

The best coworking offices go further to promote trust amongst their members, becoming a benign but reliable enforcer of the rules. Members know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in a space with no defined hierarchy and are free to focus on their work in the assurance that fellow members will respect the rules, too.

Most coworking offices offer all or some of these features to their members already – from here, coworkers will naturally gravitate towards one another. It is highly satisfying for members to transcend their office relationships and initiate real, intimate friendships. It makes for a happier, more vibrant work space.

And, as, society grows increasingly polarised, and the nature of work evolves to allow us to work ever more remotely, there couldn’t be a more important time for coworking to bring people together.

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