Work.Life 5.0: Lessons In Coworking

Business advice
Estimated read time: 4 mins
Published: 17/05/2017

May has been a particularly exciting month for us here at Work.Life. In just two weeks, we’ve opened spaces in both Reading and Clerkenwell, bringing our little family to a total of 5!

With all of that going on, now seems like a good time to take a step back from the craziness, reflect on some of our coworking experiences over the last couple of years, and think forward to where we’re heading in the future.

1) Bigger is not better

From the beginning, we made a conscious decision to keep all of our spaces on the small side, offering locations that are big enough to build a community, but small enough so that we can remain personal and add real value to our members.

Just look at some of the huge, impersonal spaces our competitors are building across the country, and it’s clear why this approach is important.

We’ve seen that there’s a definite optimal space size that maximises value add in the community:

You start with a community of nobody. Clearly, the community has no value, as there’s no-one there to create any.

The community gets bigger. The potential for networking, connection, and collaboration increases quickly. People can learn from each other, directly and indirectly. The number of physical interactions increases, as does the chance of developing new relationships.

But what’s interesting, is that there’s an inflection point somewhere, where value add starts to go down again.

Building a coworking space which resembles a small town within a building may seem attractive in terms of pure commercials, but let’s face it, with 2,000 neighbours, the chances of actually getting to truly know anyone diminishes. Sub-communities start to develop, and eventually you end up part of a huge community, but actually speak to, or collaborate with, very few people.

As we’ve grown, we’ve decided to stick to what we believe is the perfect sized community. Apart from maximising value, staying ‘small enough’ also creates a great dynamic and intimate feel across all our spaces.

2. It’s all about people

There’s a lot of talk in our industry about the virtues of virtual connections and having a fancy app. And hey, let’s not rubbish the value that digital can add.

But it’s important to always remember the main reason that people are actually turning to coworking: to be around other people. If our main focus was on digital, we’d still be sitting at the kitchen table 12 hours a day, not really speaking to anybody!

So how does this impact how we run our spaces?

We try to get to know our members on both a personal and professional level. We always aim to speak more and email less. And with our smaller spaces, it’s easier to speak to people in person using our vocal cords, rather than keyboards!

3. Hiring a great team

We’ve been lucky (and, of course, entirely strategic) in hiring a fantastic team. We’re now a talented, passionate, and driven team of 25, all rowing in the same direction.

Every member of our team is happy to muck in wherever’s needed, and to graft to get things done. The last 2 weeks opening both Reading and Clerkenwell at the same time wasn’t always fun, but we’re all in this little coworking thing together, and that’s a great feeling!

We can usually tell whether someone is going to fit into the team pretty quickly, especially if they ooze positivity and authenticity.

Authenticity is really key for us. After all, we should be able to have the same persona at work as in life.

Getting our team right has been central to delivering a great service for our members, and setting out our brand values on which we can grow.

4. Reacting right

Stuff goes wrong all the time. It’s inevitable in a model like this, which puts people front and centre of everything we do.

People are the best and the worst type of commodity, as it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen or what they might need.

What’s key in the coworking context is to react to issues in the right way and with the right attitude.

This goes back to getting the team right. By dealing with an issue with positivity and empathy, we’re able to go a long way towards immediately addressing a situation.

And thanks to the personal connection we take the time to build with our members, we’re constantly listening and developing to ensure we create spaces that makes sure everyone is as happy as possible.

5. Productivity and happiness.

It sounds a bit cliché, right? But there’s a lot of truth in this.

Rather than focussing on how to maximise productivity, our ethos has been to ensure that our members are happy.

We believe that our members have enough challenges, especially since there’s a fair chunk of negativity that goes along with running a business. It’s our job to do everything we can to make sure they enjoy every day they spend at the office.

This seems to work, and we’re constantly working on getting this right for each of our spaces. And this goes a long way to help keep our members both happy and productive at work.

6. Coworking is more relevant than ever

Coworking is still in its infancy, and the market has changed a huge amount in the last few years.

It’s gone from a marginalised sector for start-ups and hipsters, to a mainstream way of working for businesses of all sizes. We’re now starting to see more and more bigger businesses embrace this model.

At Work.Life, we’ve always believed in the benefits of having smaller and bigger businesses working together under one roof. This is the premise for our new cobrand with Verizon in Clerkenwell.

The diversity of having early stage businesses and corporates working together creates not only tons of networking and educational potential for both parties, but most importantly, it creates a nice environment with diversity at its core where everybody feels welcome.

We’d like to save a massive ‘thank you’ to all our wonderful members who have come along on this little coworking journey with us. If you’d like to find out what makes us different, pop into your nearest space or click on the button in the top righthand side of the screen to book a tour today!

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