Person using keyboard and mouse

Coworking members – who are they?

Flexible workspaces are for more than just freelancers & startups. Here are 12 types of workers using these spaces today.

*Originally published on Allwork.Space:

Millions of workers across the globe are already participating in the distributed workforce, driving explosive growth in the coworking and flexible office industries. But who are they? Are they the same people that were using coworking spaces a decade ago? Who will they be a decade from now?

Flexible workspace is for more than freelancers and startup teams. The range of who is utilizing coworking & flexible offices has grown as the industry continues to mature.

Here are 12 common types or workers you can find in a flexible workspace:

1. The Remote-from-Headquarters Employee

This remote worker works for a company that has a headquarters somewhere out of commuting range. Since they live far from HQ, they may have to travel to meet with their teams in person, but otherwise are fully remote. What the full time remote worker needs is access to quiet or private space to take frequent video calls. They may not need a private office if they are traveling a lot. They will gravitate towards small meeting rooms that they can book several times a day, but will otherwise be found at their dedicated desk complete with family photos.

2. The Distributed Company Employee

Their entire company is distributed across multiple states or even countries. Similar to other remote workers, they still need private space for those video calls, but they may be more accustomed to cafe seating and phone booths. Since their company is setup to handle a distributed team, they leverage communication tools more efficiently than a company with only a few remote employees.

3. The Partially-Remote Worker

These workers may be within commuting distance to a company HQ, but have the ability to work away from that office a few days per week. They may also serve multiple markets, so need professional space in each.

They are more likely to want the consistency of a private office, despite only using it a few days per week. While they could setup a home office, they may have client meetings or prefer work-home separation.

4. The Digital Nomad

The wanderers, the jet setters, the van-lifers. Digital nomads may stay in one place for a few days or a few months, but ultimately will continue on their way with their laptops to a new destination.

They can work from anywhere & stay focused in a noisy cafe as easily as a quiet office. They have their system down – laptop, noise canceling headphones, a journal – all packed nicely in a single backpack. You’ll see them post pictures from the space on their Instagram accounts, so photo worthy spaces & branded coffee cups are a must.

5. The Solopreneur & Freelancer

The classic user of coworking spaces. They work for themselves as part of the Gig Economy, with clients that may be local or remote. Their schedules may be erratic, working through the middle of the night or taking off mid-week for a quick vacation.

If the majority of their clients are local, they need a professional space to take meetings that isn’t a coffee shop. Otherwise they need somewhere for client calls, but phone booths are probably fine. They also like having 24/7 access to meet their deadlines and work the hours they are most productive, whether that’s because they are a night owl or an early bird.

6. Startups

Another classic from the earliest days of coworking. The early stage startup that doesn’t know if it’s going to survive for 6 months or 6 years. When they sign up for flexible office space, open desks are a great fit for their budget. However, as the startup grows, they will need more space and will opt for team suites. If their growth is explosive and the workspace cannot accommodate what they need, they will graduate to their own company office elsewhere.

7. Small Teams

Many traditional small businesses are moving to flexible offices. These are the small accounting firms, legal teams, architectural & engineering firms. They may have 2 employees, or 10, but have typical office needs: coffee, a conference room, private office space, access to a printer, and a nice spot to eat lunch nearby.

8. Enterprise Clients

The increasing number of large corporations signing membership and service agreements is one of the biggest sources of growth for the flexible workspace industry. Larger private offices suites with custom branding is one way that these corporations are integrating with the flexible workspace industry. Having the ability to provide premier workspace from anywhere is a serious advantage in the ever increasing competition for top talent.

9. Traveling Corporate Employees

Those same big corporations frequently have teams & employees on the road. These workers need a nice office space for a day or two at a time while they make the regional rounds. Perhaps they are on a family vacation when something critical happens and need to get some work done while the family is off playing. If these workers are traveling through the same community enough, a private office is ideal, although open desk space with abundant private meeting rooms and phone booths can usually meet their needs as well.

10. The College Student

Sometimes the local coffee shop just doesn’t cut it when you need to study for that calculus test. What is needed is a giant whiteboard, a change of scenery, and lots of coffee. They could also be an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to get a taste for startup life, so sign on for an internship with the workspace itself or a member company. Students bring incredible energy to a flexible workspace, but typically need discounted or sponsored membership rates.

11. Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations have tight budgets, and a need to build a base of support to help them focus on their mission. Flexible workspace, that can be expanded or contracted depending on this year’s grant cycle is a huge benefit that lets the organization focus on making the most impact with what they have. These groups are heavy users of larger meeting space, which they need for board meetings, volunteer training, or events.

12. Event Hosts

Coworking spaces are often more affordable & more trendy than the traditional conference center. Event hosts that are looking for a smaller venue, or one that is more aligned with their audience are drawn to the unique characteristics of flexible workspaces in addition to their accessible pricing & friendly staff.


Understanding who is utilizing flex space is critical to drive the growth & sustainability of the flexible workspace industry. These are customers that not only exist today, but will exist in the near future as more and more companies realize the benefits of remote teams & flexible work. Meeting the needs of these customers by understanding who they are is key to the success of every coworking space, serviced office, & flexspace provider.


Further Reading:

Image for blog post Let's focus on customers

Press on: let’s focus on customers, not WeWork.

For the past few months, WeWork has dominated the coworking world: newsletters, list serves, articles, opinions, commentary about their valuation, the shelved IPO, and now the news about SoftBank taking over.

The noise around WeWork has been drowning out the rest of the coworking industry for years. Of the top 20 stories in my inbox from a leading industry website, every single link was a story about WeWork. WeWork made coworking and flexible workspaces a nearly household phrase. Now it’s time to press on and take advantage of their momentum.

What’s completely absent from this conversation? Customers. It’s imperative that we stay focused on what matters – our members.

Let’s stop talking about WeWork and turn the conversation back to our customers. I want to read articles about how we all listened to our members and delivered an incredible experience to them. I want to read about how our businesses are thriving!

We all know that proactively gathering feedback from our customers is the quickest, most effective way to rapidly improve our business. Here are some key questions that every coworking space operator should be asking their members, and regularly.

If you were us, what would you do differently?

It is not enough to setup a few Instagram worthy desks or put a happy hour on the events calendar. If your members predominantly have children at home, it is possible that after hours events are never going to appeal to them, or be attainable for them. Perhaps your members would really like a toaster oven in the kitchen, or they would invest in more standing desks.

If you don’t provide your members the opportunity to help you improve, they might not be your members for much longer.

How do you use the space?

How someone physically interacts with a coworking space can be very revealing in terms of their satisfaction. Do they have a favorite armchair in the common space? Do they spend most of their time at a dedicated desk, but feel comfortable shifting to a couch in the lounge for a change of scenery? Are they not coming in as much as they thought they would because they actually don’t have what they are looking for?

As the numbers and types of people that are able to take advantage of flexible workspace grows, so will the need for additional flexibility in the physical space that is available to them. It’s important to know how your members use and would like to use the space so you can design it well.

What is it about us that makes you stay?

For many communities, there are multiple coworking spaces & flexible workspaces to choose from. Additionally, working from home, a coffee shop, or another more casual setting is always an option. So what is it about your product that is keeping your members around? What value are you providing to your members? Find out, and double down.

Along these lines is another great question:

What would you do if we shut down?

What do we do that you love and that you share with your friends?

Every company needs its advocates. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful ways to grow a company. Consumers widely trust recommendations from friends & family over any other form of advertising. What are your members saying about you to their friends?

You need to understand how to best engage your most powerful influencer base. If a member loves something about working from your space, you can help them articulate why they love it so they can better discuss it with friends. Provide them with ways to further engage by creating social media content that aligns with what they love, so they can share it more quickly. If it is something that your current customers love, your future customers likely will too.

What are your challenges? How can we help?

This may be purely professional in nature, but could also pertain to a member’s personal life to some degree. And that’s okay. A strength of coworking is the communities that develop within each space.

Professionally – are they working towards a promotion? Do they have a big project underway that means they need a quieter space to focus? Is their startup trying to fundraise? Would they benefit from a warm introduction to someone else in the space?

Personally – are they new to town and need help finding their new favorite restaurants? Would they like more opportunities to network to make more friends? Do they need a babysitter/contractor/CPA recommendation?

Talking to customers and learning from their answers to questions like these is the most important tool for building an amazing product.

The only thing that matters in the coworking industry is its members. Let’s focus on them.

Image for blog post The coworking value proposition part 4

A Reflection on Cowork Tahoe – Before & After Jellyswitch

Our mission at Jellyswitch is to make coworking better – for members as well as for space owners and managers. We want to see the coworking industry grow & thrive. Coworking spaces are vital to supply the distributed workforce with the flexible workspace it needs now & in the future.

This week, I saw with clarity that mission being achieved in my own life as a coworking space owner.

The Tour

I love giving tours, it is one of my favorite parts of the business. I’ve given them hundreds of times. Tours serve as a way to highlight the space, but also to get to know my future community members.

All coworking space managers know this drill. The tour lasted less than 30 minutes. As we walked around the building, I gave my pitch about the benefits of joining, I asked questions about what kind of work they did, what they were looking for in a workspace, how their move to town was going, etc.

By the time we had circled back to the lobby, I had his timeline for joining, he had the Cowork Tahoe mobile app downloaded & created an account. I made sure he knew how to contact me, we shook hands & they left.

Then it hit me! The tour itself was nothing out of the ordinary, but I had this awestruck feeling as I realized that Jellyswitch really and truly has changed my business for the better. I had given a very different, remarkably better tour than I would have a year ago.

Walking through the building, I now pointed out different aspects of the meeting & workspace than I used to. I honed in on what it is like to walk in to the building for work each day, where to grab your coffee and the options available to get to work, and to get to work. I asked new questions directed at how he likes to work instead of just pointing at all the different seating options. I began guiding the discussion to find out whether he preferred a coffee shop vibe or needed to be distraction free and made sure to spend more time in the parts of the building he would like. The conversation was about the type of flexibility he needed to be productive day to day.

Why was this a change?

This tour was a much deeper dive into my customer’s needs. Zero fluff. I don’t think I gave bad tours before, but I know what I did this time is much, much better.

Jellyswitch lets me know exactly how my members use the space (at a level I could only guess at before). I know which meeting rooms are the favorites, when people are in the building, and even what their favorite snacks are. My members now quickly notify me of issues, often anonymously. I hear the good and the bad and respond immediately after seeing the push notification on my phone.

Jellyswitch illuminates the data behind my business. I have a deeper understanding of what my members need and I know what to highlight to a potential member. Now they can see how their needs will be met when they join my coworking space. They can picture themselves as members before they even sign up! And, having them download our app & sign up before the tour is finished means there are less steps remaining to close the deal.

This is not an incremental improvement – it’s a completely new experience. I never anticipated how much Jellyswitch would improve my day-to-day behavior. I expected my business to improve, but because of better tracking of memberships & invoicing, an easier sign up process, and by streamlining our operations. But, surprisingly, I am a much better operator now. The tech enables this.

This is the true power of great technology, when the tech supports you in such a way that you can leverage it to make improvements on the human side of the business, without even realizing it. It doesn’t replace the human side, it enhances it. This is what Jellyswitch has done for me. My coworking business, my community, and myself, are all stronger for it.


Image for blog post with people in a coworking space

People & Portfolios

How the commercial real estate and coworking worlds differ in the words they use for the occupiers of flexible office space.

Often referred to as a total disruption of the office leasing model, the coworking movement is an evolution of the use & leasing of physical space for work. Part of this comes from the coworking world speaking a completely different language than the world of traditional commercial real estate (CRE).

The coworking world & CRE have more in common than not, with both contributing to a modern ecosystem of workplaces. The flexible space movement is about providing people a better place & a better way to work. The way that CRE & coworking talk about people is one of the biggest separators between the two camps right now.

The customer:

Members – In the majority of coworking spaces, the customer is called a member, just like a member of a gym or social club. A membership to something implies belonging. This is a critical component of the community-focus of coworking spaces. Embedded in the term “member” is an expectation of the community experience that is more than just being inside physical walls.

Tenants – CRE, on the other hand, traditionally refers to their customers as tenants. This term implies occupancy, but nothing beyond that. The trend in coworking has been to stay away from calling customers tenants. “Tenant” doesn’t include anything beyond a transaction with a landlord. There is no relationship, no expectation of community.

The office owners & managers:

Landlords – These are people that lease space to a tenant. There isn’t an assumption of involvement beyond a responsibility to make repairs, or whatever maintenance is dictated in the lease contract. Again, its a transaction relationship, nothing more.

Operators – Coworking space owners aren’t called landlords. While they do rent space to members, it is assumed that they are deeply involved with the business & their members. Operators run both the space and the business, they cannot be separated.

Property/Facility managers In CRE, particularly for larger buildings or portfolios of buildings, there will be a person or team of property managers and facility managers. These managers are in charge of the maintenance & operation of the physical space, including everything from custodial services to landscaping to ensuring the heat and cooling are keeping everyone inside the building as happy as possible (and this one is a tough task).

Receptionists/Office managers – These roles are more common on the traditional CRE side of the office space industry. These are the cheerful faces that greet everyone walking through the front door, help check-in guests, manage the office supplies, coordinate with the landlord or maintenance, and generally help people in the space with small tasks as they arise.

Community managers – This is much more of the norm in the coworking industry. Community managers are responsible primarily for the people in the space, whether that’s showing a new member how to make coffee, to setting up and running community events, to providing tours for potential new coworking members. The community manager role is diverse, but very people focused.

Traditionally, CRE has focused upon the physical space first, who occupies it second. The driver is transactional. Coworking is the opposite. The focus is on humans first. The physical space is second and in the service of their needs. Rather than transactions, the emphasis is on experiences.

Both approaches have their benefits and place in making the coworking industry strong and sustainable. That can only happen if the same language is being spoken first.


*While we’re on the topic of terminology – a reminder that it’s coworking, not co-working. Coworking is recognized as the correct usage, sans hyphen, by the AP Stylebook as of 2018. Much like a secret handshake, coworking industry aficionados know you are not an insider if you let that hyphen sneak in there. Why does this matter? Check out Cat Johnson’s article on the subject.

Image explaining the meaning of the noun "flexibility"

The Future of Work is About One Thing: Flexibility

This week, my first article was published to Allwork.Space, an online news publication that delivers a broad range of news, trends, tips and insights from the flexible workspace industry.

If the future of work is about one thing, it’s flexibility.

The growing multitude of discussions around the modern workforce are centered not on the drivers of the movement, but rather their consequences. Yet, these discussions have omitted the most crucial movement that is driving everything: flexibility.

You can’t hope to achieve the fruits of flexibility — community, talent retention, productivity, & wellness — without understanding what makes them possible.

As a result, many well intentioned strategies aiming to appeal to the modern workforce and to leverage the future of work fail. Bringing flexibility to the forefront of the discussion is the key to achieving the sought after outcomes for the modern workforce.

The following stands true now and in the future: organizations that don’t use a “flexible first” mindset will be left behind.

The future of work is a consequence of flexibility. “Flexible first” must not be the exception, but the rule.

What does flexibility mean?

Professional flexibility pertains to everything that can impact & potentially improve productivity at work.

This includes:

  1. Where we live: whether that is within commuting distance to a company headquarters or remotely from several time zones away.
  2. When we work: from rigid 40+ hour work weeks during traditional business hours to fully flexible schedules around children’s schedules or night owl tendencies.
  3. Where we work: across the growing ecosystem of physical workspaces are corporate offices, home offices, coffee shops, libraries, hotel lobbies, coworking spaces, and even the occasional hammock. Even within a given space, there are traditional desks in private offices behind four walls, open office plans, or comfortable couches in a common space.
  4. How much we work: our productivity is not constant or linear, so varying workloads, sabbaticals, personal leave, and vacations all play a role in how much we get done.
  5. Who we work with: coworkers, teams, managers, reports, and the frequency we are around or in direct contact with them.

In all of these, its providing flexibility that matters the most. The flexibility is what allows everything else to be achieved.

Flexible Workspaces & Community

For example, there is a huge focus in the coworking industry on community. Community has even been asserted to be the key reason for why the industry has grown so quickly. But community is not what makes the flexible workspace industry viable or sustainable. Flexibility does that.

Community is a healthy consequence of providing workers with an environment that focuses on the flexibility that they need. Focusing on community alone is not a sound business strategy and could potentially be harmful to the business if it creates exclusivity that hurt the financial sustainability of the business.

There is no denying that communities in thriving flexible workspaces are vital; they provide a valuable tool in combating the loneliness that can result from professional isolation in remote teams. A strong sense of community in a coworking space contributes significantly to the loyalty & productivity of its members.

Thinking flexible first provides the proper context for how to help foster & create a sense of community in your workspace.

Too many workspace operators leap too quickly to creating lots of events, or designing their entire floor plan without being clear on how those choices provide more flexibility for the users of the space.

So, what should you do instead?

It’s simple, put flexibility at the beginning of the decision making process.

Events are the primary driver of growth in the flexible workspace world. Ask yourself: are the majority of your members interested in happy hours? If many of them have small children at home or in school, are they able to attend or will that instead exclude them from the community? What if someone doesn’t drink alcohol? Are you providing a range of events that allow them to enjoy participating as well?

Does your floor plan provide enough private space for members to be productive or is it open to try and encourage interactions? If it’s too open, or too private, it’s possible that the effect is actually detrimental to your community. Including a wide variety of options, from spaces to focus to places to socialize, can help your members be more productive no matter what type of work they are doing.

Remote Work Policies & Competition for Talent

In an effort to retain a high performing employee, for example, a company may allow them to work remotely, thinking they are increasing flexibility for that employee. However, if the rest of the team is not remote and still works under the presumption of being face-to-face, that one remote employee will have a difficult time participating in the same way as their in-office colleagues.

They may become isolated, negatively impacting their productivity. Their ability to perform has been limited rather than expanded.

Flexibility is a competitive edge in acquiring great talent and retaining great people. Flexible work options are one of the most sought after perks by today’s professionals. But, flexibility needs to be more than a perk, it should be a core value of any company not wanting to be left behind by the talent pool.

Once again, however, there have been too many cases where jumping to tactics & strategies to attract talent have not taken into account what flexibility is actually needed to achieve the desired outcome.

In order to properly increase the available talent pool and retain top talent through a remote work policy, a company must first recognize what flexibility is needed to make that policy successful.

How do teams communicate and exchange information? Is it required to be synchronous and in person or is there the opportunity to introduce asynchronicity and still get the work done? What has been done to prepare non-remote employees to work with distributed colleagues? For remote employees, do they have access to workplaces that will enable them to be productive? This may be home offices for some people, coworking spaces for others.

Flexibility Removes Limitations

These examples only scratch the surface of the need for a “flexible first” mindset. Putting flexibility first facilitates decision making that not only provides more options for the modern workforce, but also considers whether or not those options can be fully utilized.

It’s not enough to plan events to build community in a coworking space or allow remote work to retain talent at a company if no one can actually leverage those options.

The only value in flexibility is in its ability to remove limitations.