The Effort of Effortless Culture-Building
Envision the ideal coworking space.
Aside from some differing design ideals, you and I will probably be on the same page with what the ideal coworking space looks and feels like. There are members at every table (full but not overfilled), music is playing, collaboration is happening and the hustle is strong. If you’d like some more examples feel free to take a gander at my last article.
You know you’re doing culture right when it looks easy. It looks so easy, in fact, that you don’t even know what you’re looking at. Culture just is. People enjoy being at the space, they attend the events and they bring your coworking space up in conversations with friends or colleagues.
Here’s the thing: culture takes a hell of a lot of work to create, and copious amounts of tender love and care to maintain. So if you’re interested in a couple short how-to’s for an effortless culture, read on my friend.
Put your computer away.
Yep, I said it. Close it.
Take some time and be fully present in the space. What needs does the space have that go beyond your morning check list? Is one table fuller than the other, and might that be because the chairs are more comfortable? Maybe you’ll notice a wall that could use some extra artistic love or a member who has yet to connect with any other members and chooses a seat where they are always isolated.
Taking time away from your computer allows you to remind members of things that are coming up. A novel concept in the age of technology, but I’ve seen immense success since I started implementing this in my own routine.
CO+HOOTS (the space I manage) has member meetings once a month to fill members in on any changes, events coming up, member celebrations and to make time to just hang out and have fun. We noticed there was a significant drop in attendance, and people would actually just sit at their desk and watch us do the member meeting. We were stumped! There was a private event created in our membership portal, people got reminders through our shared calendar, we would post a day-of reminder, and they saw me walk into the room with beer and snacks.
I made a really tiny change, without consciously deciding this would be my plan of action: every time someone walked past the front desk or I ran into someone in the kitchen I would ask them if they were coming. Surprisingly, most of them didn’t understand the value of being there. They’d ask me about our discussion points, or what to expect when they came (or for tenured members, if there would be info they needed to know at the meeting). I’d answer their questions and encourage them to come. And sure enough, they started showing. The first time I did this, we had every member working out of the space attend the member meeting. They have been heavily attended ever since.
Engage on social media.
Have some fun with your members through an internal messaging platform! Post a poll for a type of lunch to have catered into the space next week. Or post an interesting article for members to discuss. Start those conversations and let members take it from there.
Having a great social media presence for the public is one thing, but remember to stay engaged internally as well. Let them be in the loop and feel like they have a new group of friends when they join!
It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. Unfortunately, I don’t have the secret sauce. I do, however, think that implementing some of the strategies from the previous section (e.g. actually talking to your members) is the basic foundation for making the social media piece work. If you don’t act like you care in person, why would they think you care on your social platform? If they have questions that the community could help with (where to get new tires, for example) encourage them to ask the group via the social platform. Some activity breeds more activity. And when they can get legitimate questions answered, it’s not a waste of their time but a useful resource.
Connect your members
Whether you’re touring someone or onboarding a new member, she should know at least one person by the end of their experience. Helping get those conversations started intentionally in turn grows the culture in your space. People come to work not only because they want to be more productive but they’re in an environment that they enjoy.
“Oh, you’re a designer? I’d love to introduce you to (insert name) who’s also a designer and a huge part of the design community here. I think you guys would get along really well!”
Those little connections seem easy and sometimes slip our minds, but are what set great coworking spaces apart.
Connect with your members
Sometimes it’s hard to have casual conversations with your members, especially with your inbox at 221 unread emails, 5 voicemails and a printer that has a personal vendetta. But the relationships you build in your space are the backbone to your success. And I don’t mean “what do you do” conversations. I mean getting to know them on a personal level. What are their hopes and dreams? What’s keeping them up at night? Owning a business is really freaking scary, and we want our space to be their safe zone where they get down to work.
Gaining their trust and befriending them leads to loyalty. Loyalty not only means they will likely stay with you longer, but they are more apt to recommend you to someone else.
From the outside, people might not even notice how much work this culture thing is. If that’s the case, you’re kind of nailing it. Just remember that when things get insane and you need to drop a priority, these things should never be cut.