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Our Community is What Really Matters to Us

4 min read

Building community is the top priority for the operators of the Workspace of the Future – a.k.a. Coworking 2.0.

Following is a guest post from Miryana Stancheva, the Community Manager at Work & Share.

The end of November was a big one for Work & Share! We went on a mission at the Coworking Europe Conference in Brussels which brings together more than 400 people from more than 50 countries each year – founders, community managers, researchers, entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and thinkers. For 3 days this event creates a community of like-minded people who all together work on shaping the future of work.

During the conference, we met old and new friends from all over Europe and beyond. We heard many stories about the directions the coworking concept is moving, so now we are doing our best to integrate our impressions from the conference in the future development of Work & Share.

As a newly-formed core team, we are very cautious about what kind of influence we would have on our future community. Our wish is to be their “role model”. What does that mean exactly? you would ask.

Here is our explanation

Starting building a community from scratch means you have nothing but yourself and your colleagues. Your team is the heart of the coworking and you are the ones who are setting up the values, the culture and the types of interactions you would like to develop in your coworking community. The team dynamics you sustain in your team will influence the dynamics you’d observe in the community in the future. If there are unsolved or unspoken problems, conflicts and discrepancies in your team it is most likely the community to resonate with your team and to result in an unsustainable, defensive and mistrustful bunch of people who don’t feel interconnected.

Being conscious about those potential risks in the world of coworking we decided to address them to more experienced coworking professionals and to hear their opinion according to their, already existing, communities. So, during the second day of the Coworking Europe Conference, called an “unconference day”, we initiated and moderated a group discussion about the role which the coworking core team plays in the process of building and developing a community. Around 20 people (coworking founders and community managers) joined us and shared their first-hand experience.

2016-12-19 13.17.11
Smiles on the faces of our amazing attendees after the fruitful discussion, moderated by the community manager of Work & Share – Miryana Stancheva.
We raised a couple of questions to our panel attendees and the answers resulted in two directions – difficulties they’ve faced within their teams, on one hand, and on the other – difficulties that have occurred between their team and their community.

Panel discussion wrap up

We can summarize that in a core coworking team it is important to have at least a simple flat structure with clearly divided roles, where trust, acceptance and transparent communication are main values, integrated by each and every team member. That would ease the working process and reduce the misunderstandings within the team.

When it’s up to interactions between the team and the community, many of the attendees pointed out they feel constantly interrupted by members’ requests and questions which cause a slowdown in their everyday routines and becomes a potential factor for developing a burnout syndrome in the future. As the main reason for that, they highlighted the role confusion (lack of information about, for example, who is the event master or who is the social media person) so they proposed a couple of solutions:

  • firstly, to make it clear to the community who is doing what – what the core team structure is;
  • secondly, to involve some of the community members in the operational processes of the space and make them feel engaged;
  • thirdly, to keep the members informed about what is going on in the core team;
  • fourthly, to clarify the expectations which the new members have since the very beginning;
  • and last but not least, to keep and sustain the honesty, transparency, and openness between all the parties of the coworking process.

Since we already have all these insights, it will definitely make us more prepared for the upcoming challenges, will help us being more sensitive about potential concussions in our team and community and will aid us to cope with the difficulties in a constructive way.

By sharing with you the process that we are going through while becoming a coworking space and building a community, we would like to affirm once again how vital the openness and transparency are not only for us but also for every other coworking space.
Photo credits: Coworking Europe; Miryana Stancheva

Coworking 2.0 – the Workspace Evolution

6 min read

The Coworking movement has come a long way for the past several years. It all started as these small hubs and hacker spaces for freelancers and small, low-budget startups. Until recently when it started to evolve into something much, much bigger. Coworking will become the way of working for most if not all small and mid-sized businesses.

In order to attract such a big mass of different members and companies, the coworking spaces are going through a natural evolution. Coworking 2.0 offers a wide variety of services, has a good location, high-end facilities, well-designed brand, solid infrastructure and amazing members of staff. It’s fully automated and has great, well connected offline, online and mobile community.

Coworking 2.0 is the next generation of office space, codenamed Spaas (Space As A Service – pronounced SPACE).

Space as a Service

Coming from the software industry, I’ve been part of a similar change many years ago. The transition from traditional software model to SaaS (Software as a Service) model in the cloud had a massive impact on the software industry. The SaaS solutions have so many benefits. Companies were able to:

  • Purchase better software quicker and easier;
  • Choose from bigger variety of online solutions;
  • Have an easy entrance, onboarding and cancellation options;
  • Reduce the upfront cost and investment;
  • Pay for what they use and only if and when they use it;
  • Have less to no maintenance;
  • Have better support, always use the latest version and so much more.

As a result, businesses using SaaS products became more agile, adaptive and capable of providing better services.

The software industry, on the other hand, exploded. The SaaS model quickly became the software standard. The quality of the available solutions improved significantly too. The software companies started to have faster release cycles, better reach, easier access to customers and feedback which of course, resulted in much better products and happier customers. It’s a win-win situation for both software vendors and software users.

A similar change is already happening in the Office industry.

Small and mid-size companies are realizing that coworking / flexible workspaces are much better option for their office. The same reasons apply here too:

  • Find better office space quicker and easier;
  • Have easy entrance, onboarding, cancellation policy – a.k.a flexible terms;
  • Have no to less upfront cost and investment;
  • Pay for what they use and when they use it;
  • Less to no maintenance;
  • Choose from a variety of spaces, communities and locations.

This is what I call Space as a Service (SpaaS) or Workspace as a Service (WaaS).

Coworking 2.0 will become the standard in the office industry and traditional offices will be the exception.

Benefits of SpaaS

There are so many additional services and benefits of OaaS that come along with the physical office space. Let me name a few:

  • Use of shared amenities – meeting rooms, cafes, lounges and other resources;
  • Choose the right community for your type of business;
  • Choose the right location, change easily if doesn’t work well;
  • Choose the right atmosphere, design, look and feel.

The Evolution of Coworking

The Coworking of 2017 is different from the Coworking of 2010. The end-user is different and the spaces are different.

Location

Coworking spaces often used to be in dodgy, underdeveloped areas and buildings. This is changing faster than you can imagine. The new wave of Coworking spaces chooses prime, first-class locations and buildings. They have great transport and parking options, great infrastructure and most importantly they are based in the best parts of the city.

Let’s have a look at the building of Us&Co, one of the latest spaces in central London. They are based in one of the best areas in the City – 7 Harp Lane EC3R 6DP – with perfect transport links. It’s a great, bright building with amazing views of the river Themes and the City of London.

Us&Co 9th Floor

Us&Co cafe on the rooftop.

Facilities

New coworking spaces invest a lot in fit-out, design, and great facilities. If you want to attract a certain type of customers, i.e. grown ups and mid-size companies, you need good facilities. Things like proper air-cond, high-end chairs and desks, nice lounge and common areas and professional maintenance are becoming a norm.

Let’s have another look at Us&Co fit-out. The picture speaks for itself:

Us&Co Hotdesk Area

Brand

Good branding is not something new. But it’s something that is more and more important. Strong competition means that strong brands win and weak brands not. You should invest in good branding, design, web & mobile presence and the overall experience of the space. Everything should connect and should be up to the highest standards in Branding and Marketing. Here’s a good article on best Marketing techniques for coworking spaces.

Automation

The Coworking 2.0 has to be automated. You need to connect the dots and save money and time from staff so they can focus on building real community instead of dealing with invoices, keys, and spreadsheets.

  1. Onboarding – let your members purchase membership online
    1. Welcome email and the door access information is sent
    2. Invoice, Billing, and the Payments are connected
    3. They end up in your beautiful Members portal where they can follow the next steps to becoming a member
  2. Door accessWiFiPrintingBillingAccountingCalendarsSales – it all should be well integrated.

This is our strongest part and OfficeR&D can surely help you fully automate your Coworking 2.0 space.

Hardware & IT

The next generation coworking space needs to be fully equipped with the highest standard IT infrastructure or management software. You can’t afford poor connectivity even for a moment. The coworking members are so dependent on the internet that even a 5 min disruption may have a really bad effect on them. It’s easy to lose customers because of poor Internet or WiFi connectivity.

Community

Building vibrant community is probably the hardest part of making a great Coworking space. It’s a long path from zero to good to a great community but you have to take it. Building it requires a lot of effort, great team, and energy. You need to build it, curate it, stimulate it and grow it. You have to be likable so that people want to work with you in your space. You need a good brand – either personal or the brand of the company. You also need good evangelists. Your first members need to be pitching the space all around the town and selling space for you.

Last but not least, you need great members of staff. Your community manager(s) has to love their job. You need the right people in the right seats on the bus. Your members’ first, second and the third impression will come from the community manager. Coworking 2.0 spaces invest in the right staff and they will make a great first impression.

Community 2.0 is Connected. You need to provide the means for your members to find easily each other, learn more about each other, get in touch with each other. It has to be social. It has to be mobile.  Most of all, it has to be collaborative.


Coworking 2.0 is Space as a Service built on prime location and comes with high-end facilities, good infrastructure, fully automated processes, awesome members of staff and of course, vibrant, connected community.

Coworking, Community and Collaboration.

2 min read

I really like people and I really like building community. I didn’t know this would put me on the path to my dream job, but, it did. In a way that I never expected.

After working as an Executive Assistant for seven years I was looking for a change but I didn’t know how to break out of the kind of work I was doing. I also had no clue what I would do next…until I interviewed for a position as a Community Manager at a coworking space in Los Angeles. I didn’t even really understand the concept of coworking, but, walking into the space for the first time was kind of like falling down the rabbit hole. What was this place? What were all these people doing? Is that a kitchen stocked with snacks and coffee? Why is everyone so happy? I didn’t really understand what this place was but I wanted in. Big time.

Long story short, I got the job and my journey into Coworking began…

It became clear early on that the community were going to become my colleagues, friends, and mentors. These relationships began to shape the way I thought about my work and my life. I was collaborating on projects that I was passionate about and working with people who had left the stable and mundane for the unknown. It was infectious and inspiring. A lightbulb went off; collaboration within a community is one of the building blocks of coworking, and it was awesome! I was hooked. Still am. 

Now, you don’t get coworking, community, and collaboration without a lot of work behind the scenes. There is a lot to think about  – payment processing, community management, space layout, location, community events, promotions, sales, partnerships. This list goes on…and on and on. It’s kinda messy but it’s also kinda awesome. I spent a lot of time putting really solid systems in place so I could streamline my work and keep it as simple as possible. This was imperative because if that was in place, then I could get back to the part of the job I loved; hangin’ with my community and focussing on the bigger picture.  

There are a lot of components in building a coworking space and worrying about the back-end should be the least of your worries. My advice to anyone managing a space or anyone starting out – get solid systems in place and get feedback from your trusted community members about what they think is working, they will be your best (and most honest) allies. 

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
– Henry Ford

OfficeR&D and Included – making coworking more awesome

2 min read

I’m very excited to announce our partnership with included.co, the ‘secret weapon’ service for members of coworking spaces and shared offices. Together, will merge new revenue streams with better space management for the whole coworking market.

New revenue streams for coworking spaces

Included.co links up their network of connected coworking and shared spaces (a.k.a collectives) to businesses that offer great discounts exclusively for members of included collectives. This creates new opportunities for all the 3 sides of the equation:

  • Collective members unlock great savings on useful products and services.
  • These businesses reach passionate businesses in these collectives.
  • Collective operators make more money by connecting with the service.
  • Collectives attract more members as the value of their desk space increases.

Their platform creates an amazing opportunity for every coworking and shared workspace out there to add even more value for their communities (and improve their bottom line too).

inlcluded.co

Better coworking space management

On the other hand we have OfficeR&D, the coworking management platform. Our partnership means we can offer our clients deep included.co integration. This will result in great revenue opportunities through the ‘included Agora widget’. It will be fully integrated into our Community Portal so that all coworking members will be able to access the great discounts available through included.co directly from within OfficeR&D.

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In a nutshell, being included and using OfficeR&D means:

  • Workspace management? included!
  • Exclusive deal sourcing? Also included!
  • Additional revenue source? included too!

Now you can focus on keeping your community happier, healthier and more productive. Having the right tools in place means for you, the coworking manager, more time for your members and more revenue streams for your business.

Sign up now for OfficeR&D through included.co and get the big discount offered to all included collectives.

Coworking Europe 2015 – Day 1

4 min read

Yesterday, 11.11.2015, was the first day of the Coworking Europe 2015 conference in Milan. It is a massive conference with more than 400 attendants, plenty of supporters and guests from all around the world. This is the de-facto Coworking conference held in Europe. The first day was a day full of interesting conversations and discussions on trendy topics.

We are approaching a world where the question will not be ‘Where do you work?’ but ‘Do you cowork?’

#Coworking, #Community, #Coliving, #Cohabitation, #Coherence

These fancy words and tags were used in almost every presentation and discussion panel. It was funny to see how the speakers try to convince the crowd of the importance of these words and that the future belongs to Co-*. I guess everyone in the conference agree on that. This is the main reason we are here – because we all believe in the future of the coworkings and the power of communities.

Of course, we all understand the value that a group of people can create if put together in a nice environment that stimulates creativity and collaboration. When you scale this pattern, you may create huge value and implication on the whole world. No question here.

My question is though, how you do this in a more practical way?

Coworking and Coliving is not an easy thing. For example, I am software engineer and we are a tech startup. It sounds cool and fancy, I know. I love to cowork, collaborate and coexist and I do it everyday. But I also work and I work a lot and I work on very complex tasks that require high concentration and many hours sitting on my desks. I expect that the coworking space also stimulates the working environment without the Co. This means my chair should be good, air-cond, layout, noise, etc.

The question remains – how you make sure both worlds are present in the office – working & coworking?

Coworking Brands

Another interesting topic was about the importance of the coworking brand. It was interesting discussion that I believe highlighed the most important bits in branding for coworking spaces:

  • Unconventional Marketing – forget about traditional marketing and advertisement and find a creative way to reach out for your target communities and members.
  • User Experience – UX is not a fancy techy term used by startup and software guys only. If you want to make a good coworking brand – you have to provide nice, consistent UX that spans across all your sites and locations. Members should feel the same way in all your spaces.
  • Community Managers – when building coworking brand the most important part turns out to be the people. This is not a surprise but the human factor is really important. The community manager is the one that can make or brake the brand. The community managers are the face and the heart and the body of the coworking space. Your members should love them if you want them to love your space and brand.
  • Coworking Manifesto – it is also a good idea to write 5-10 points manifesto that highlight the values of your space. Make sure everyone in the team follows them.

Corporate Coworking

This is another trendy topic and it had good coverage on the Coworking Europe conference. Although it is very controversial topic, most people agree that Corporate coworking is something big and unexplored much. There are many examples from all around the world of corporations creating coworking spaces, incubators & accelerators, membership cafes, etc. Or from the other way around – teams from big companies work from coworking spaces. There are several reasons for doing that:

  • Stimulating teams’ creativity and productivity.
  • Cutting costs and real estate burden.
  • Access to talents and channel for hiring.
  • Access to customers and channel for selling.
  • Etc.

Coworking Europe 2015

Coworking and Gentrification

This was another interesting topic – how a coworking space can help develop a region. I strongly agree that this a big opportunity for the governments and councils from all around the world. It is quite obvious that a coworking space will stimulate a lot the local area.

Imagine you have and underdeveloped area. At some point new coworking space pop up and in several months hundreds of creative people, entrepreneurs and businesses gather together in one place. It is really about time they will change the whole ecosystem and local area.

These were the topics that grab my attention and now is time for the second day. Stay tuned for more updates.

Keep calm and cowork.