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Should coworking spaces give discounts?

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At every coworking space, there are teams who ask for discounts on their membership fees when they are interested in a team room. In some cases, I’ve fulfilled this wish at St. Oberholz, but almost every time it didn’t feel right afterwards. Discounts are a more sensitive topic than you might think.

I understand that every team has to keep an eye on its budget and of course, is trying to save money. And not every coworking space’s prices are justified to these teams. It may seem that the coworking space only wants to profit from low office vacancies. However, for coworking to continue to be characterised by values such as accessibility, it must also be affordable.

Fair and comprehensible prices are also important for the perception of coworking spaces. But you have to understand that for a coworking space, discounts are not directly about the money, but also about an evaluation for what you pay for. And this can have an impact on the mood within a community.

I have deliberately formulated the title of this article as a question. I’m not sure how to deal with discounts. For me personally, I have developed a position, but each coworking space works differently, so I want to discuss the topic first and foremost, offer up some answers, and hopefully make you think more about the topic.

In Focus: Relationship Instead of Space

A coworking space is, of course, a place where there are tables, chairs, Wi-Fi, coffee, sockets and much more. These are all the features of a coworking space, but they do not define it. Coworking spaces are defined by their culture, which determines the character of the space. Coworking is about people being together.

This interaction, the relationships of coworking space members to their team, and also between the members themselves, is influenced by community management and represents the actual added value. The space and the features mentioned exist in many other places, but never an identical community.

When a team asks for discounts, they only think of the room they apparently want to rent. However, the relationship to a coworking space is not a tenancy, but a membership. It’s about belonging to a community and having access to it or its various spaces, i.e. possibly a room in which the team wants to work.

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So if you give a team a discount, you make a price tag on your dealings with other people. This never really feels good. That’s because human togetherness is such a great asset in our society, and in a coworking space it seems you can actually pay for it. We should actually emphasise this point much more on a regular basis, not only against the background of discounts.

Harmony in the Community

I try to explain our philosophy on discounts to potential members. The work of our coworking space focuses on how to deliver value to our members. This commitment should not be called into question by discussing discounts. Value-oriented coworking spaces are there for the benefit of the people who are members of them and the spaces deserve to be paid fairly for it.

Besides values in coworking such as openness, collaboration, sustainability and accessibility, coworking is also about community. If you give team discounts, but not other members who may not have asked for them, you risk losing a sense of harmonious cooperation. Some members might feel disadvantaged.

Members should also understand that a coworking space is a business that must operate sensibly and sustainably. This awareness, among the members and also among the operating team, also shapes said cooperation. The interaction within a community must be characterized by mutual respect among each other.

So here’s how I see it. Aside from the economic aspect, even though I always want to be helpful to those in my community, I would also avoid discounts so as not to devalue my work for the community. Good work should be fairly rewarded, and it must also be shaped by values, not only numbers.

It is a difficult balance to strike. On one hand, there is a need for openness and helpfulness, and yet there is a necessity and obligation to operate with economic sustainability. Discounts can bring this balance into an oblique position, which in turn simply destroys everything you have built up. Nobody should proceed thoughtlessly on the topic of discounts. We must think before we make a decision on whether or not to offer them. And we must be able to explain our position on discount and why we’ve taken it. So long as you can explain it, it’s likely a good decision.


About Author

Tobias Kremkau (f.k.a. Tobias Schwarz) is Coworking Manager at St. Oberholz in Berlin. Before that, he was Project Head of the blog, for whom he still works as an Editor-at-Large and as an advisor to the management. He studied political science in Munich, Venice, and Berlin. Tobias Kremkau is co-founder of the German Coworking Federation (GCF). You may follow him on Twitter at @isarmatrose.

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