The coworking industry is currently booming with opportunities, from large-scale expansions to better technology offerings to highly specified community growth for individual spaces.
Since the beginning of the concept just over a decade ago, there has never been so much innovation and potential for independent coworking spaces to experience massive social and financial success.
However, as with any industry, there is always the risk of falling behind the times, particularly when it relies so heavily on a shifting work economy and technological innovation. Coworking has the added pressure of being right in the middle of the (sometimes volatile) real estate industry and the extremely competitive hospitality sector.
In this article, we’ll cover some ways to future-proof your coworking space, and make sure that your business is agile and flexible enough to fight the mounting pressures that a scaling business typically fights.
Use Technology That Scales
Many coworking spaces experience the need to scale when they reach a capacity of dedicated desks and private offices, but memberships continue to increase at a healthy rate. While this may stall some people, a resourceful coworking operator will know that a lack of desks doesn’t equate to the end of the growth of the space.
At this point in the business, a savvy operator can easily implement new technology and seek out new partnerships that increase the value of the space beyond the square footage available at any given moment.
For example, technology that makes virtual memberships possible could help your space weather many unforeseen challenges related to its physical location. The ability to apply different membership and visitor scenarios to whatever software you use to manage the space will also be extremely valuable in the long run.
Technology makes your space and service smarter and it also positively impacts your revenue as it helps you keep up with the demand and attract new customers.
Design Your Space Always with New Members in Mind
As your space grows, it’s important to focus on where you’re going, not where you are. This means staying in touch with your members and making close connections with people who are new to the community. In a coworking space that’s experiencing healthy sell-through, it’s easy to become complacent with your community relations.
Constructive criticism and regular member reviews can help shape your space into a streamlined, highly productive work environment. For example, if you hear members complaining about noise in the shared areas or around the hot desks, consider using modern privacy stalls or dividers, which encourage lower noise levels without ruining the aesthetic of an area.
Another heavy consideration should be the percentage ratios of your various spaces. The allotment of space by specific functions will keep you thinking about the needs of your members. In general, most coworking consultants recommend dedicating at least:
- 50% to office space (individual and team offices)
- 20% to coworking (open floor plan with desks and communal work areas)
- 15-20% for meeting rooms
- 15-20% for various other functions (i.e. hallways, kitchen, storage, bathrooms, reception area, etc…)
Attract Members That Appreciate Innovation
While freelancers and remote workers may be your bread and butter in the beginning, startups and any company with forward-thinking culture can be a huge draw for your coworking space.
Not only do they enrich the community, they attract other young businesses that are looking for affordable office space and are the most likely to give positive recommendations to others when they inevitably outgrow the space. Startups are also perfect opportunities to foster close partnerships with the coworking space itself.
These members need to be supported by an innovative environment. This usually translates to a minimal, well-designed space, a highly optimized visitor management system, a proper coworking CRM system, and technology/privacy measures that cater to their needs. The more mundane processes you can automate for them, the better, and these factors will also keep you on-trend with other fast-growing spaces.
Diversify Your Services
A diverse array of services can help you explore new strengths that you may not have included in the original business plan. Virtual office services, childcare, health insurance options for freelancers, and more could be the difference between your space and one of your peers.
Perhaps you have the perfect amount of space and capability for a small daycare in your space. This amounts to extra revenue and greater loyalty from members who have children.
Or perhaps your receptionist or community manager is a wiz at technology but isn’t really being challenged by the everyday management of the space. Being in charge of virtual services might be the tipping point they need to maximize their potential while helping the business thrive.
About the author
Ashley Davis is the Managing Editor of CoworkingResources, a publication dedicated to helping coworking space owners, operators, and professionals navigate the flexible workspace industry. She’s passionate about writing inspiring content, promoting diversity, and Chinese food.