The Future of Jellyswitch

When we set out to create Jellyswitch, it was with the idea that amazing coworking spaces deserved amazing technology to help them provide the best possible experience for their members. 

Coworking is more than just a business model for commercial office space. It is a movement. It is about community. It is about collaboration. It is about showing the world that how and where we work can be part of living a better life. 

This year’s pandemic has challenged us all. For the coworking world, it has shuttered many of our physical spaces, some permanently. We have all been drastically affected, personally and professionally, as we have sheltered in place, homeschooled children, struggled with a health and mental health crisis, and watched as this storm continues to change what our day to day normal is. 

What it hasn’t shut down is our communities. Many coworking spaces have worked tirelessly to continue supporting their members virtually, true to the heart of the coworking movement.

Serving coworking spaces has changed. The financial hit due to physical space closures has hurt so many in this industry. And while the future of coworking as a result of a rapid shift to remote work looks bright, it will still take time for the shift to be fully realized in our physical spaces. 

To stay true to our why of helping coworking space operators provide the best possible experience for their members and communities in their physical spaces, we too are shifting. 

So here’s the big news…


Specifically, effective immediately, the entire Jellyswitch platform will be open sourced under the AGPLv3 license. You can find it here:

What does this mean for our current customers?

Service will continue uninterrupted. We have a trusted hosting partner who will continue to operate their Jellyswitch mobile app and infrastructure. More information will be emailed directly to customers in the coming weeks.

What is this AGPLv3 license?

Its an open source license that allows for modification and commercial use, but that requires all modifications to also remain licensed under the same license. Read more about AGPLv3 here.

What does this mean for the coworking community?

It means that any space operator will have free access to Jellyswitch. It means that our community can help improve it, modify it, and use it for our spaces as we need it to best serve our members. It means that Jellyswitch can evolve with the industry, for the industry. It means it can get even more secure, even faster, and if you so desire, you can even modify it to your heart’s content. Releasing the Jellyswitch code under an open source license is a proven path to truly collaborative development and technological innovation. 

We are so thankful for the support and feedback that has gotten Jellyswitch to this point, and excited to see how it grows.


For the love of coworking, 

Dave Paola & Jamie Orr, Jellyswitch co-founders


Announcing Jellyswitch Childcare

The coworking world is growing like crazy. We’re thrilled to be leading the charge on providing a superior member experience – making operator’s lives easier and their members’ experience fast, simple, and delightful.

Recently we’ve seen a trend – many coworking spaces are offering on-site childcare for their members, while their members are working in the space. We love this movement! It helps new parents to ease back into the workforce, it provides a safety net for parents that can’t / don’t want to leave kids while they work, and it allows them to still escape the cabin fever of working from home.

However, to provide this service, these spaces must still use general purpose tools & services glued to whatever other system they happen to be using (the proverbial “duct tape and popsicle sticks”). This results in a poor member experience and it makes managing this aspect of the business needlessly complex and error-prone. (And it makes it extraordinarily difficult to get at the data in any fast, useful way.)

So, what are we doing about this?

Announcing Jellyswitch Childcare

Jellyswitch Childcare completely integrates your childcare services into the branded mobile app your members have in their pockets. And it lets you manage everything behind the scenes in an intuitive manner.

Does Jellyswitch Childcare fit my space?

Jellyswitch Childcare is specifically designed for spaces that require the parents to be on-site while their children are in childcare. We have big plans in the pipe for fully licensed spaces – stay tuned!

Feature Highlights

Members can create child profiles once, and re-use them whenever they make reservations:

And speaking of reservations, it’s of course fast and easy to do so directly from their home screen:

As an operator, you can see how many reservations you have today at a glance, right from your home screen:

And you’re able to browse child profiles and set your weekly availability however you’d like:

Jellyswitch Childcare also allows you to specify a number of reservations included in membership plans on a per-billing-cycle basis. For example, your part time membership may include 5 childcare reservations per month, while your full time membership may include 10 per month.

And, of course you can add more reservations to your heart’s content on any of your member’s profiles:

And your members can purchase more at whatever price you’ve indicated:

Push notifications, feed items, and email confirmations keep you and the parents informed on what’s happening, and when. And there’s so much more coming.

How do I try this?

If you’re interested in trying out Jellyswitch Childcare in your space, we’d love to talk to you. Email us at or schedule a demo. We want to hear from you!

How much does it cost?

Jellyswitch Childcare is an optional add-on that costs a flat $49 / mo in addition to your regular Jellyswitch subscription.

Everything Coworking podcast episode #134 with Jamie Russo

One of our co-founders, Jamie Orr, was recently a guest on the Everything Coworking podcast with Jamie Russo to talk all about Jellyswitch.

If you aren’t familiar with the podcast or with Jamie Russo, you should be. We are huge fans ourselves. Jamie Russo is a force in the coworking & flexible workspace world. From startups to operating her own space to leading the Global Workspace Association, her experience runs deep and she shares it plus that of dozens of other in the field through Everything Coworking. You can read more about her here:

In the dual Jamie episode, after chatting about some exciting updates at Cowork Tahoe in the past year, they discuss why Jellyswitch is needed for coworking members and how we are helping spaces meet the needs of their members & deliver an amazing membership experience, all from your mobile phone.

You can also find the podcast on your favorite platform here

We hope you enjoy the episode. Reach out if you’d like to see how Jellyswitch can help your space!


Jellyswitch January Update

activation energyg graph

Strive for excellence – its worth the energy.

What can we do to ensure that we are running the best possible business for our customers?

Building a business is a process. It is not something that is ever finished. Building a successful business requires constant time, attention, innovation, and maintenance.

We can get so busy working in the business that sometimes it feels like there is little time left to work on the business.

A major part of this can be from accepting mediocrity in how we operate. The problem with mediocrity is that its bad for business, but we can’t always see it. Mediocre procedures take more time than they should, they are often “hacks”, and don’t result in the best customer experience possible. But because it works “well enough” we accept the pain points rather than putting in extra effort to fix the pain points completely.

Why don’t we immediately put in the extra effort to make our business better?

In physics & chemistry, there is a great concept pertaining to how much energy is needed in order for a reaction to occur. The activation energy is that extra little oomf needed to get a desired result when all the other ingredients are there. It’s the boost that must be added to get things going.

Operational change is very similar. We allow ourselves to continue to do things that are not ideal, or painful, or annoying, because we are afraid of the extra time & effort it will take in order to substantially improve them. We are afraid of the energy required to get over that hump.

However, if we do put in that effort, the result is less pain, less annoyance, less time, and most important, a much better business.

To find that extra energy you need a catalyst.

What should the catalyst be for making improvements to how your coworking space is run? It all goes back to your members.

What quality of experience is being provided to your members if you are accepting operational pain points instead of fixing them? If you are spending time battling with your technology stack, or pulling together all of your data from multiple sources, how much time and attention do you really have left to focus on your members? And as your customers, spending time focusing on them should be your top priority.

Sometimes the catalyst is things getting too awful to put up with anymore. But it should not get to the point that your business is suffering as a result of not fixing things.

The catalyst should be your near obsessive attention to what your customers need and committing to do whatever it takes to make sure that you are providing them the best possible experience.

Strive for an amazing member experience over anything else. Make every decision, including a decision to fix any pain point in your operation, about improving that experience.

Strive for excellence – its worth the energy.

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 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.

Social network analysis visualization

What coworking space operators need to know about pass networks

Participating in a pass network should not devalue your product – it should highlight your worth.

One of the newest offerings on the coworking block is a growing list of companies offering a pass for access to multiple coworking spaces. 

My coworking space recently got an email from one of these companies pitching us on signing up to be a host space for their new pass. Participation would require that we allow their members day access up to a set number of days per month. 

Now, Cowork Tahoe gets a significant number of day pass visitors during peak tourism season and charges $30 per day. This is exactly who we offer day passes for. The vast majority of these customers do not become permanent members of our space.

The pass company offered us a payout of $7.50 per visit from members with their pass. That is a 75% discount compared to our standard rate.

What’s the incentive to say yes to that? There isn’t one. 

After paying as little as $50/month for their pass membership to access my coworking space, would they ever be willing to pay $30? Probably not. Our day pass now has the perception of being disproportionately expensive in comparison. Our product has a lower perceived value and there’s no going back from that.

There is also the loss of trust in our company if we are providing such a steep discount through a pass, but charging full rate to everyone else. It is a bad precedent to set with a potential member and can do harm to your business in the long run.

We previously wrote about why we discourage flexible workspaces from offering blanket free day passes to attract new members. This is the same. 

Pass networks like this are not good for coworking businesses. 

Is this type of pass network for coworking really that common? Unfortunately, yes, and increasingly common. 

Coworking pass memberships offer use of coworking spaces directly to the end users, whether they have a “home” coworking space or not. People pay for membership to the network, not a specific coworking space, so the customer relationship, including pricing, belongs to them. They are not your members.

Why are these companies popping up? What problem are they trying to solve?

Simply put: Easy access to a place to work, whenever, wherever.

On a recent business trip, I needed a coworking space for the day. I was staying with friends, so needed a professional office space to work from for a few hours in between meetings. 

As the owner of a coworking space, this should have been easy. 

I did a google search and checked the map results for spaces closest to where my meeting & lodging was, then cross checked those against reviews on Google & Yelp. Then, I had to go to the websites of the top results one by one to determine if I could just walk in, if I had to schedule a tour, if they even allowed drop-ins, etc. 

It was not a frictionless process. So, as a customer, I understand the idea of a pass network. If I belonged to PassX, I could quickly see spaces that were included, reducing the number of steps it takes for me just to get to work.

Are Pass Networks the best solution for this problem?

It is important for coworking space operators to understand that these passes are attempting to solve a problem for traveling workers, not necessarily for coworking spaces. The problem that many coworking spaces have is customer acquisition – getting more members.

It is easy to conflate the two. The problem pass networks are addressing is a person’s ability to quickly access coworking space for a day across multiple cities. However, that is not directly increasing the overall membership of participating coworking spaces.

The value proposition that these network companies pitch to coworking spaces is better exposure, more members filling empty seats, and revenue as a result of more deal flow. Having access to your beautiful workspace through a pass is providing more value to their company than it is to yours, however. 

Should you use a pass network? It depends. 

There are a lot of companies out there doing this, so it is important to do due diligence to determine if there is one that is the right fit for your coworking business. 

Here are some things to consider when deciding:

  • If you choose to be affiliated with them, will it be a positive reflection on your brand and your product? What is their reputation as a company?
  • What payout are they offering? If they require you to discount your day rate to bargain bin prices, think twice about if the company is really acting in your best interest or using you as a means to benefit their own customer base & their bottom line.
  • What are the expectations on your staff time when hosting a member of the pass network? Does it vary significantly from your typical onboarding or check-in process? If so, is that additional time or effort worthwhile?
  • Who are their customers? Are these customers the same as your target customers? Are there any expectations or guidelines for their behavior as a guest in your space? How do they handle bad actors?
  • What, if any, are the criteria they have for your participation in the network? Is there an expectation of high quality, convenient experience, with beautiful workspace that supports the productivity of their members or are they aiming for volume by signing up as many spaces as possible without regard for the reputation of the coworking space?
  • What are they offering for your participation besides a payout? Does participation in their network elevate your brand or does it bury it?

Finally, does the company recognize the needs of your coworking space as much as their members? Are the incentives of the company aligned with your own? They need to be.

Without a good supply of profitable coworking spaces, pass networks can’t exist.  And if they do not align their incentives with those of the coworking spaces they need as hosts, they shouldn’t.

Image for blog post Facility management

Coworking through the lens of Facility Management

Coworking space management is maturing as the industry grows and expands. Although viewed by many as a disruption to the traditional commercial real estate industry, many of the same core principles that enable traditional corporate offices to run smoothly also apply to flexible workspace. Rather than ignore those principles, the coworking industry should go further to embrace and learn from the foundations of commercial real estate (CRE). 

One of these foundational areas is Facility Management (FM). 

What is Facility Management?

The best definition of Facility Management comes directly from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the world’s largest industry association for facility management professionals: 

“Facility Management (FM) is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.”

Facility Management professionals are directly responsible for an organization’s bottom line through direct maintenance of organizational assets such as property and equipment used in buildings within that portfolio. Through this work, FMs are protecting an organization’s most valuable asset, the productivity of its workforce.

While many FM Professionals do not have the same job title, particularly those working in large organizations, IFMA does have defined core competencies for the industry. These include:

  1. Operations and maintenance
  2. Occupancy and human factors
  3. Finance and business
  4. Sustainability
  5. Facility information & technology management
  6. Risk management
  7. Communication
  8. Performance and quality
  9. Leadership and strategy
  10. Real estate
  11. Project management

If you run a coworking business, this skill set should sound familiar. You are a Facility Management professional. To be successful in that role, these are the competencies you need.  

What does each competency entail and how can it apply to coworking?

1. Operations and maintenance: FMs are most commonly known for being responsible for the management of the physical buildings & grounds. This entails overseeing building systems for proper function, safety, and reliability, but also includes furniture, fixtures, & equipment within the buildings. 

Coworking space owners should have a working knowledge of all of the building systems from IT infrastructure to HVAC to plumbing, how to ensure they are all working properly, and how to schedule maintenance, upgrades, & installations as required. This must be done not only for efficiency of those systems, but also for the safety and security of the members working from the space.

2. Occupancy and human factors: FMs must consider how the physical environment of the workplace affects its occupants. This pertains especially to the health & well-being of occupants and how the built environment can impact them. 

For example, Harvard University published research relating improved cognitive function to lower CO2 levels where cognitive scores were, on average, 61% higher in buildings with lower CO2 levels compared to conventional building conditions. 

Don’t know where to start? The WELL Building Standard was established in 2014 by the International Well Building Institute in order to advance human health & wellness in the built environment and serves as a guide for how to positively impact occupant health through the human aspects of design including natural light, use of plants, high levels of air quality, ergonomics, and even healthy food choices.  

3. Finance and business: These skills are as important for an FM as maintenance & operations. What used to mean spreadsheets of budgets and projections is quickly evolving to full scale business intelligence technology. This area also includes procurement with vendors for goods or services, contracting for projects, and all reporting of financial metrics related to the operations and management of the facility side of the organization.

4. Sustainability: Implementing strategies to reduce energy consumption or utilize renewable sources is just one part of how FMs must incorporate sustainability into building operations. The materials used for furnishings, fixtures that are water efficient, and waste management programs that encourage the minimization, collection, reduction, and disposal of waste in a sustainable manner are all choices within the purview of a Facility Management professional. 

Starting with decisions to use sustainable products for cleaning, the kitchen, and bathrooms is a great start to begin making a coworking business more sustainable. If in a leased property, just replacing incandescent or fluorescent bulbs with LED lighting with the right color temperature can make a positive impact. Discouraging members from using single-use plastics by providing reusable cutlery and choosing sustainably sourced furniture are also a great place to start if implementing large scale renewable energy generation is out of range for your size business.

5. Facility information and technology management: Fulfilling a responsibility to maintain & operate buildings, their systems, and impact on the people using them all requires collecting and tracking data in order to properly assess how well everything is running. Just collecting the data isn’t sufficient. That data must be collected, verified, synthesized into relevant information, communicated out, and then used to make data-driven decisions that will positively impact operations. Smart building systems, sensor technology, & artificial intelligence are enabling buildings to react and interact with the humans using them, and helping to improve the workplace experience beyond responding to calls about too cold or too hot offices.

How often do you hear about your members being too hot or too cold? Are you tracking those comments and the temperatures in their offices or near their desks when you receive them?

6. Risk management: What happens to the operation of a business in the case of a natural disaster, or even a short term power outage? Evacuation plans, back up power sources like generators and UPS systems, and identifying other risks to business continuity are all central to the role of an FM. FMs are also responsible for increasing resilience by developing and implementing procedures that enable an organization to recover in the face of changing environment.  

Coworking space owners can invest in backup power solutions, particularly if they are in regions with an unstable power grid, such as in more rural or mountainous regions. Developing and creating an evacuation plan for members that is updated and communicated out regularly is also vital. Additionally, a flexible office space may serve to help other workers or small businesses with their own resilience by providing a backup workplace in the case of nearby disasters or outages.

7. Communication: Effectively communicating to both stakeholders in the organization and to users of the built environment to keep them informed of important information is a key responsibility of any FM. This process includes developing a communications plan that includes collecting feedback, selecting the right audiences that need the information, choosing the best methods to deliver information and messages, and evaluating the effectiveness of the communication plan. 

For coworking, this may be primarily focused upon the channels and methods used for communicating important information to members and others associated with your space. Do all of your members answer your emails or do you need a method for delivering important announcements more directly?

8. Performance and quality: Facility managers strive to continually make improvements to the performance of the organization’s facilities, operations, and systems. To do so, they must be able to both measure and analyze that performance in relation to the expectations set by the organization. 

For coworking, this may mean measuring the costs of operation against membership revenue. If a growth goal has been set for revenue or expansion, how do facilities related aspects factor into achieving that goal?

9. Leadership and strategy: Especially in larger organizations, FMs must lead teams of staff and service providers in order to accomplish their facility goals for the organization. This leadership includes aligning with the broader goals of the organization’s mission.

Small & independent coworking business owners may have a limited staff, but still must interact with and manage vendors, maintenance professionals, landlords or building owners, as well as members. 

10. Real estate: Understanding real estate principles is an important skill for FMs and it is expected for FMs to lend their expertise and knowledge of the facility to help guide decisions related to real estate as a physical asset to an organization. This spans understanding real estate portfolios as part of a long-term business strategy to the effective use of space within a specific building to optimize for workforce productivity.

Similarly, having an understanding of the basics of commercial real estate is important for coworking, regardless of the size or scale of the business.

11. Project management: Given the complex and wide range of responsibilities of a facility manager, project management skills are absolutely critical to every aspect of the profession. 

Coworking space owners must also have a strong ability to plan, execute, and evaluate projects that can range from a few simple tasks for an event to complex and highly expensive construction build-outs.  

As more and more commercial real estate is occupied for flexible workspace, the skills of the traditional facility management professional are becoming more and more critical to the success of coworking businesses. To strengthen the coworking industry, these must evolve together and incorporate best practices in order to ensure the productivity of the distributed workforce.