In this article I propose that the best way to improve your coworking community is to look at and reinforce what is already working.
A coworking space is considered a place of connection, filled with a multitude of shared resources and spaces where people interact, have chance encounters, and exchange ideas.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s call these things connection points.
Connection points are sometimes deliberate, but sometimes not. In fact, I think as the coworking movement grew we discovered connection points completely by accident. The kitchen, the coffee pot, the water cooler, the printer, the balcony where members get some sunshine or light up a cigarette. All of these were unintentional, but all became connection points.
Now, many brands entering the coworking scene attempt to intentionally create connection points, often ignoring those that have emerged naturally. I can think of a lot of bad examples, from a coworking desk section in the shape of a ring with all the seats facing inward (so awkward) to cafes that feel more like a hospital cafeteria than a place of connection.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, it’s better to reinforce what already works. Here are some suggestions.
Currently, I work out of Impact Hub Budapest. Upon entering, immediately to the right, is the kitchen and dining area. It is separated from the main coworking area by a wall and two sets of double doors.
People always connect in the kitchen here. Why? Because it feels 100% safe to say something like, “hey, you’re eating food? I’m about to eat food too. Do you want to eat food together?”
The same goes for coffee. “You drink coffee? No way, me too. How’s your day going? I’m Ryan.”
This is evolutionary; it’s biological. For tens of thousands of years humans and their ancestors have been sharing stories and ideas around the table. It feels natural because it is.
So put the kitchen front and center with bright and warm lights, tall ceilings, nice finishes, a big communal eating area, and all the creature comforts you can imagine. Make the kitchen like home because that’s what humans want it to be. This will enhance the amount of connection happening there.
I once had to send a very direct email to a member that included the line, “If people have headphones in, it’s an indication that they do not want to be bothered.”
If you’re wondering why people don’t connect in your shared work area, the answer is that they are working. When somebody talks to another person in the coworking area they aren’t connecting; they are interrupting.
So don’t design your work areas for connection. Design them for work.
Casual conversations may happen between people who already know each other in your workspaces, but it’s usually frustrating to have a total stranger start chatting with you when you’re in the middle of a…
Sorry about that, just got connected to somebody.
… sentence. Point made.
Okay, I call every dog a puppy because they deserve to be remembered as the cute little creatures they once were, for all time and eternity.
But in all seriousness, is your space dog-friendly?
Apart from those allergic to dogs, the moment a cuddly canine comes through the door every single person will want to scratch its tummy and speak to it in their baby voices. Then, they start talking to one another, preferably no longer in their baby voices.
Yes, dogs can be disruptive, but often, especially if they are a common occurrence, they bring people together who would otherwise never connect.
You should, of course, follow all the normal rules of dogs in the workplace. Make sure they are house trained and are friendly with people, children, and other dogs. Ensure you don’t have any severely allergic people working in the space. It’s best to have a dog-friendly policy before you open, to avoid the allergy issue.
Then get some dogs in there. You won’t regret it.
Marketing Director, founder at Coworking Insights, coworking maven, digital nomad, lover of wine & tacos.