As with many things in life, there is not just one perfect formula to coworking, but rather, a variety of combinations that can be made to establish the same desired outcome.
If you’re running a workspace you want people to feel a certain way when they come to your space, but each space will have their own method for achieving that outcome.
For certain spaces its inspiring people to dive deeper into their work by surrounding them with other people from the same industry, community, tribe, or purpose.
For select spaces, it’s recreating the appearance of the professional, corporate environment but without the dryness or stuffiness of an actual professional, corporate environment.
And for other spaces its simply providing a convenient, affordable workspace without the distraction of amenities that are nice-to-say-you-have but people will hardly ever use.
Ironically, as I write this I am on a late night flight with *sigh* Spirit Airlines. I asked for a glass of water and was told by the flight attendant “We can’t serve water. We can only sell bottled water” and he shrugged an embarrassed defeated shrug that seemed to say “I know it’s a dumb policy, and awful, but I have no choice.”
Three days earlier I was on a *yay* United Airlines flight and although both airlines will achieve the outcome of ‘getting us there,’ people will walk away having vastly different experiences that will not only influence their own choice when purchasing a future flight, but will cause a ripple effect of good or bad stories that they’ll jump at the opportunity to share with their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience with that particular airline.
In my visits to more than 200+ workspaces around the world, (about 150 of them via Deskpass), I’ve certainly noticed an unfortunate amount of Spirit Airlines – spaces that think a table and WiFi is enough to deliver the outcome of “coworking.” Technically, it could. But no one is leaving feeling great, or proud, or excited to tell someone about that space.
Personally (I own a coworking space) and professionally (I run Deskpass, a multi-city coworking membership service), and I’m on a mission to promote the concept of coworking and to help people find and try all the great workspaces already in existence.
There is no perfect formula for running a great workspace, but I can share my tips for How To Make Your Space Memorable:
A Place To Check In
This is so simple, and something that can make or break the visitor’s experience from the beginning.
If you have an actual reception desk, great! A physical symbol that helps people to know they have arrived and are in the right place is comforting.
Ask yourself: does the person at the front desk greet people warmly and with an offer to help? Something simply, helpful, and welcoming can create a positive experience from the second someone walks in the door. Its mind-blowing but I don’t see this often, even at places that have reception desks. Too often I walk in and feel like an alien – the person will just stare at you and wait for you to do the talking. #Awkward
For example: “Hi there, welcome to _______! Thanks for coming in. How can I help you get your workday started?”
If you do not have a reception desk, how about a simple table, sign, or other that clearly welcomes someone in, provides helpful information (a 1-page handout is easy to make!), and lets them know how to get in touch with a manager if needed.
You could also ‘prime’ the visitor by sending this information in advance of their visit so they are ready to go when they arrive.
With Deskpass, we ask spaces to provide instructions on how to find, access, and use their workspace, so they have it in advance of their arrival, OR if space prefers, they can only get that information once they arrive and check in. Either way, the person is prepared, feels welcomed in from the start, and knows how to get in touch with a manager if needed.
Tell Your Story
What are you about? Who are the people in your member community? Are you trying to achieve a specific purpose? What successes have you had so far? What makes you different from the other spaces? What are your plans for the future? How can people or companies work with you, partner with you, promote you, etc?
Make It Easy To Share On Social Media
Think what you want about social media, but its still free advertising. Take advantage and encourage people to check in on social media, tag you, or just mention you. If they’re having a great experience they likely will.
Are your social media handles clearly displayed?
Add them to your WiFi sign
Or better yet, give people a piece of paper when they arrive with your WiFi codes, social media handles, and a quick blurb about who you are (Tell Your Story!) and what you can offer them.
Does your workspace have its own hashtag? Create a hashtag that is a fun play on your name, refers to something specific about your community, or is a whole new word in itself! Or, if you want to keep it simple make a hashtag with your name and your location.
My first workspace was called The Shift so our hashtag was #GetShiftDone – it was fun, clever, and let people know we were a playful bunch.
My second workspace is called Second Shift and our motto is “All Are Welcome” because we value diversity, inclusion, and community. Our hashtag is #WeAreSecondShift and we highlight stories about people in our community as well as our local efforts to drive positive impact in the neighborhood.
All of these things are indirect ways to get someone to post about you online – for free! And we all know the power of SEO and ‘organic reach’ so why not make it easy for them to promote you?
Guide People Through The Experience
Most people don’t want to be a jerk. They want to work nice and follow your rules. But if they don’t know what those are, they’ll be left with the dilemma of having to awkwardly poke around or sheepishly ask someone. Make it easy for them to know how to interact with and benefit from your wonderful workspace.
Offer a tour when someone arrives for the first time.
Check in with them when you see them later in the day. Ask them if they have any questions about how to find things or how to use the space
Ask if they need recommendations for lunch spots in the area
Ask if they are looking to meet people from a certain industry and introduce them to a member of your community
Signs can be helpful (fun, friendly ones are always best IMO)
Where can they find a coffee cup?
Do you offer silverware they can use for their lunch, if so, where can they find it?
Are those snacks on the kitchen table free?
Should people put their cup in the sink, or straight into the dishwasher?
Where can they find the printer or any office supplies?
How do they connect to the printer?
Where are the heck the bathrooms?
The Essentials: Productive, Convenient, and Comfortable
Ask both your members, and your visitors what you can do to provide a more productive, convenient, and comfortable workspace. It doesn’t matter if you have beer on tap or an ultra-modern look. If your space is not conducive to long hours of work, people won’t stick around.
For example, I still can’t believe the number of workspaces I go to that don’t have enough outlets, or worse, they have furniture in the middle of the room and no outlets around. What do they expect us to do? Drape an extension cord (do they also assume we brought one with us)?
Or, another frustration is when there is no place to get drinking water. Please don’t make your visitors drink from the tap or worse, a drinking fountain. We’re not in a gym, or in high school.
The Golden Rule: It’s About People
No space is perfect. But you can try really hard to make it the best place a person could possibly get their work done at and come pretty darn close to productivity perfection.
There’s no doubt that furniture, design, and amenities are important in a workspace – but what will truly make a memorable experience is just following the simple rule of hospitality: kindness, comfort, and consideration. When your workspace puts human needs at the forefront, you’ll always get better results.