Fostering communities within coworking spaces

In our workplace paper A new era of coworking, we touched on the benefits of coworking and the four core emerging models that can be applied by organizations seeking to maximize these benefits:

  • Internal collaboration
  • Coworking memberships
  • External coworking space
  • Internal coworking space

In our opinion, we believe that the third model, external coworking space — which involves creating a dedicated external collaboration area shared by employees and external organizations — provides the greatest value for companies looking to drive business growth through innovation.

How so? Well, access to a subject matter expert ecosystem and proximity to talent enables organizations to tap into knowledge and innovation pools — especially useful if your organization has been exhausted from the inside.

However, one question remains — if coworking provides such amazing benefits, why do coworking spaces still fail? Although many reasons have been attributed to the failure of these spaces, Alex Hillman of Indy Hall accredits the failure to the lack of a strong community.

A sense of community is key to successful coworking

Why is community so important? It’s simple — humans are social beings. It has been established since the 1940s that humans are motivated to achieve certain needs. Maslow’s theory of needs, which most people have probably seen, proposes that our five motivational needs are — starting from the most fundamental — physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

With social needs being the third most fundamental need for humans, it is no surprise why workspaces (coworking or not) that do not provide sufficient social interactions for individuals are likely to fail.

A strong community also translates into connections between “coworkers” happening organically. Instead of just sitting next to each other within the same workspace, coworkers could explore the endless possibilities of starting businesses together, contracting within the community, sharing experiences and knowledge that help them to develop their enterprise, and being able to draw on the collective intelligence of the network for brainstorming and strategizing — many of the benefits of coworking we shared previously.

Fostering a community within a coworking space

Now, on to the difficult part — how do we ensure and foster community within a workspace? As discussed earlier, coworking operators often expect to create a space, have people come in, and assume that a community will just be built on its own. However, rarely does this ever happen spontaneously.

Achieving community within a coworking space is an intentional process; thorough working sessions will have to be done to identify the best ways to activate and nurture the community — whether it be by networking events, mentoring, amenities, “matchmaking” between users, or even communications and technology platforms. It is also essential that robust implementation processes are in place to ensure that a sense of community within the space is achieved.

Applying this to your workplace

Your workspace is not too different from a coworking space. By creating a culture of community collectively within the firm (not just within respective teams), your organization can, too, enjoy the same benefits that coworking brings.

Alternatively, one way could also be to consider coworking memberships for selective teams to explore the benefits that it brings.

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