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Cup of Black Coffee

How to Offer Coffee at Your Coworking Space

Coffee is a workplace staple.  

There is something about that first sip of hot cup of coffee in the morning – the warmth, the rich aroma, the bitter flavor, the caffeine that helps wake us up. Drinking coffee is a ritual that goes beyond part of a morning routine, which helps explain why it is such a huge industry.

There is some solid science behind our obsession, actually. 

First, how does it work?

Caffeine Molecule

The simple explanation is that the caffeine molecules trick your brain. Caffeine blocks sleepy adenosine by binding to its receptors and allowing happy dopamine to work better.

 

Why do we like it? 

Mainly conditioning. We are conditioned to expect the positive buzz from caffeine when we detect the bitterness in the coffee, even though we are otherwise wired to avoid bitter tastes. This is a good thing as it can help us avoid ingesting icky things like poisonous foods. 

Drinking coffee has also become a social behavior. We get together over a hot cup of coffee with friends, clients, or by ourselves next to a fire in the wintertime. The ritual of taking a break for something like coffee is a healthy one that can help boost productivity and social connection, caffeine or not. 

Coffee & Coworking Spaces

In a coworking space, having coffee available for members is a table stakes amenity ranked as highly as a good internet connection. 

Just as important as having it at all is HOW you provide it. 

We at Jellyswitch believe deeply that the future of work is about flexibility more than anything else. Flexibility should always be put first in any decision making process. 

And – if coworking spaces can demonstrate how well they are able to provide flexibility to their members, in as many ways as possible, it can be a huge competitive advantage. 

Why is it so important for us to have such a range of options? One of the best ways to start off the day with your favorite type of coffee or tea, without having to leave the office to get it. 

You don’t have to start off with a ton of different options. At Cowork Tahoe, I started with just one and expanded from there. By listening to your members and observing their coffee or tea preferences and habits, you can start to add in the options that best suit your community. 

 

What options should you consider?

First, make sure you are providing really high quality coffee beans – this is also a great way to support your members’ favorite local roasters. 

The classics:

The classic pot of coffee – drip

A classic 12-14 cup pot of coffee, just like you might have at home. Because it is so familiar, many members are drawn to it. A pot of coffee can be shared by multiple people, creating opportunity for interaction. It can be made ahead of time and set to brew first thing in the morning. When members walk into the lobby in the morning, they are greeted with music and the smell of freshly brewed pot. It sets the stage for a productive work day. 

As a manager, you can make sure there is always hot coffee ready when someone walks into the kitchen. Because it is still a small pot, it doesn’t feel like you at a corporate event or a hotel – it is not a giant catering carafe, its more like the pot at the neighborhood diner. Many of our members enjoy preparing the next pot, it provides them the opportunity to contribute and share. This is one tiny piece of building a strong community, one pot of coffee at a time. 

 

The single cup pot 

Options that allow for a single cup to be brewed on demand are great for the person who doesn’t want to waste extra if they aren’t sure more members will be coming out for drip. Or, for the member that really appreciates a super fresh cup and isn’t sure how long that pot of coffee has been sitting there.  While it doesn’t lend itself to creating interactions between members in the same way that a full pot can, its effective at getting what you need, when you need it.  

One recommendation – as attractive as the Keurig types of single serve coffee makers can be, don’t do it. The pods are wasteful. You can still have quick & easy options without resorting to pods.

 

More time intensive coffee preparation:

French Press

The french press is definitely for the more particular coffee drinker. On demand, but enough to be shared if the press has a larger carafe, there is something satisfying in the process of using a french press – slowing pushing down the plunger and watching the water filter through the layer of grounds, leaving a thin creme on top.

 

Pour Over

These take time, and often that time is a welcome break. A pour over coffee feels almost like art. Using a beautiful stainless steel goose neck kettle with water heated to just the right temperature, you can control the flow of water through your grounds and make a perfect and strong cup of fresh coffee – taking anywhere from 2-5 minutes in the process. For the member that likes a moment of solitude from their busy schedule, this is for them.

 

Aeropress

For the french press enthusiast with less time, the aeropress is a futuristic option for making a single cup of incredibly strong coffee. 

 

Automatic Espresso machines

There are a number of really good simple and easy to use automatic espresso machines on the market. The one that we have at Cowork Tahoe allows you to make a shot of espresso or Americano with the touch of a button. There is an attached frother to take it one step further and make yourself a quick latte. 

 

Espresso machines

Unless you can have a full time barista on staff, or are a hybrid coffee and coworking space, its best to avoid having a huge espresso machine in your space. As gorgeous as they are, and as good as a really well made shot of espresso can be, these are a costly and complicated option.

 

Non-coffee options:

 

Tea

Although I am a passionate coffee drinker, sometimes there is nothing more that I want than a nice cup of tea. Many days I will start with coffee in the morning, but then only drink non-caffeinated herbal tea in the afternoon. Or if you are recovering from a cold, a nice cup of lemon ginger tea with some honey really hits the spot and help you keep working away. 

Offer a selection of both caffeinated and caffeine free options, black, green, and herbal teas. For a nice touch, have individual honey sticks right there for those that like things a little sweeter.

 

Iced Tea

If summers are hot, having a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator is a welcome sight. 

 

Hot chocolate & Cider

Whether a kid or kid at heart, having instant cider or hot chocolate options (with marshmellows!) warms the heart. When we have a big snowstorm come through, I like to take a few laps on the mountain and then come back to the office for a nice cup of hot chocolate while I settle in to check my emails. 

 

Trendy options:

Cold Brew

Nitro Cold brew – the most exciting addition we made to Cowork Tahoe in the past year was offering nitro cold brew coffee on tap. We purchased a dual keg (the other tap will occasionally have home brewed beer or beer from one of our awesome local breweries, but as a special treat or for events). During the summer months, our space was going through kegs of cold brew faster than the local restaurants. We contracted with one of our favorite local roasters to keep us filled up, and it’s been a huge hit. 

A word of advice – provide small glasses for the cold brew. It packs a punch and no one should be pouring themselves a pint of it at a time. You can purchase really cute tasting glasses and leave them on a tray next to the keg to encourage moderate serving sizes. Otherwise, I’m not sure any of our members would ever sleep!

 

Kombucha

This fermented tea, with a slight fizz and a taste that balances somewhere between sweet & sour, much like apple cider, has hit the trendy workplace by storm. It can be offered by the bottle, but can also be served on tap next to your cold brew. 

 

The alternative to on-site coffee:

The coffee shop next door

Even if you have every coffee preparation option on this list, there is hopefully an amazing coffee shop (or several!) within walking distance of your space. Sometimes, there is nothing better than taking a break, a walk, getting a change of scenery and ordering a custom coffee from the local coffee shop. Maybe a member has a craving for a lavender vanilla latte or a really well done macchiato with a custom foam picture of a bear created by the barista. If you can encourage members to become patrons of the nearby shops and restaurants, that’s good for everyone’s business.

Latte with bear design in foam

 

Finally, the cups. Have fun with your coffee cups! While a minimalist design and uniform cups is appealing, we have found that people have strong preferences for what type of mug they like their coffee in. Keep a variety available, both in size and design. Periodically get your members “gifts” by adding in some new cups. See how much more fun the coffee experience can be. 

Coffee cups

The coffee cup drawer at Cowork Tahoe

In summary, every way that you can signal to your members that you not only listen, but also are working to make your space as amazing as possible for them, the better their experience will be. Coffee is an easy way to do this, and a great way to help your members start the work day off on the right foot.

 

Funny coffee cup

Examples of different workplaces within the lobby of Cowork Tahoe

Activity-Based Workplace Design for Coworking Spaces

Creating the right spaces for your workplace

Is your office floor plan helping or hurting your business goals? If it’s too open or too private, too quiet or too noisy, it’s possible that the effect is actually detrimental. 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. 

Examples of different workplaces within the lobby of Cowork Tahoe

Lobby of Cowork Tahoe.

When designing a space, it is important to consider not only how people will use individual spaces, but how they move between them & throughout their space. Providing flexibility in how and where people work within a space is a key concept in Activity-Based Workspace (ABW) design, and it can make or break your member experience.

For example, at Cowork Tahoe, our lobby/lounge space is on the opposite end of the building from our focused open desk area. We designed the building this way for several reasons: 

  • The lobby serves as the first entry point, so when potential members or clients walk in, we want them to experience a wow moment seeing modern design, comfortable seating, the smell of coffee, local art, and music playing. It also doubles as a great gathering space for member lunches and evening events. The lobby is filled with natural light & because it is also our lounge seating and adjacent to the kitchen, there are always people there – working, chatting, drinking coffee, etc – the energy is palpable. That is the stage we want to set when beginning any tour.
  • The desk area, on the other hand, is meant for productivity. It is a focus zone, so we strive to minimize distractions there. We do not play music throughout the space, lights can be controlled in each area, including individual task lighting, and we try and limit foot traffic. The design is more clean & muted. Since we do have dedicated desks, members can have their personal belongings and while the area is generally tidy, there is more visual clutter which is not the first impression we would like to set. 
  • Because these spaces are on opposite sides of the building, any noise or foot traffic through the lobby does not impact those working in the desk area. It also encourages social interaction as everyone must walk through the hallways to the lobby to get coffee, snacks, or their lunch. Having that distance be more than a few feet means members are more willing to take a few minutes to catch up with someone and not just dash right back to their desk.

Buildings may be static, but people are dynamic, so the physical design must account for the motion of people through the static space. I know very few people that are able to be productive sitting in one position for hours on end. 

On any given day, I work from half a dozen spaces within the coworking space. I might start my day at my desk in a private office with the door closed to get a little focused work done. Then, I’ll take a video call in a small meeting room down the hall. Next, it is time for coffee and some time standing up, so I’ll set up at the counter in the kitchen. When I’m writing, I like sitting in a comfy chair or on a couch with my feet up. If there is a team meeting, that means we need a white board and a larger meeting space with a door. A quick phone call? I’ll either walk outside to get some fresh air, or jump into a phone booth. Having all of these spaces easily accessible throughout the day means I am encouraged to take advantage of them and can be more productive as a result. 

 

Types of Work to Consider

  • Focus/Creative Work – needs distraction free setting. This could be an open desk area, private offices, or isolated seating that makes it easy to put on headphones and get to work.
  • Task Work – can be in a more general setting, distractions don’t matter as much. Also good for opening desk areas, but also for a coffee-shop like setting with music playing and comfortable seating.
  • Collaboration – needs space for several people to talk to one another, whiteboard space, can be private or in an area where conversation won’t be distracting to others
  • Social – think the kitchen or coffee bar, lunch tables, somewhere that encourages chit chat
  • Audio & Video Calls – needs small, private spaces like phone booths or small meeting rooms for 1-2 people. 
  • Presentations – this is best for larger conference rooms of 8 people and up to full classroom or even larger event size

Other considerations – there should be plenty of options for people to sit down at a desk, stand up, or otherwise change their position throughout the day, and each of these options needs to be available for all types of work. Think sit/stand desks, counter height tables, clusters of comfy chairs, etc.

 

More Benefits of Activity-Based Design

  • Increased work productivity. When people have the flexibility to work the way they need to, and to do so easily with support from the space they are in, productivity is much easier to achieve.
  • More interactions between members = more opportunity for social connection. People moving throughout a building increases the number of interactions between them. This can lead to more conversations and more social connection than if everyone stayed in the same place the entire day.
  • More movement. Its just not healthy, on a variety of levels, to be stationary for too long. Moving around is good for our physical well being. Changes of scenery can be beneficial to our mental health, as well as help to break up the work day.
  • Happier community. By designing spaces well for the types of work that can be done in each, it can minimize frictions between members (ie no more loud sales call next to you while you are trying to do focused writing or coding). 

Implementing Activity-Based Workplace Design

There is no definitive rule of thumb for how many & what types of spaces you need for an ideal office environment. I’ve seen ratios such as 1 meeting room for every 10 workers in a space, but there are so many more nuances to it than that. Partially because everyone is different, and as members come into or leave your space, the needs of the community overall may change. So, how can you implement activity-based workplace design? 

Track everything – tracking how often your meeting spaces are being used, which ones, and also how often there are none available, is critical to understanding how to optimize the use of your space. Also important is tracking your memberships – is most of your demand for private offices, and if so, is that only because you are not offering enough flexible workspaces to meet their needs without having dedicated private space? Are most of your members part time? Is your large conference room sitting empty, or worse, is there often 1 person in there squatting because they can’t focus in the desk space? These are all data points that can be used to adjust the physical space to meet the dynamic needs of your members, and provide a much better experience for them as a result. 

If you don’t have a customer base to track, start with your target customer. Who are they and what will they need? How many members can your space serve? That should give a good starting point for how many of each type of workspace you should aim for.

Whether you are in the early stages of designing a new office space, or looking to improve your member experience by re-designing the space you have, activity-based workplace design should be on your radar as a way to ensure you are meeting the needs of your members. 

Image for blog post Booking meeting rooms at coworking spaces

Booking meeting rooms at coworking spaces

The ability to book a private meeting room on demand is a critical component in any coworking space. Ensuring that members can do this quickly, easily, and when they need it is as important as having the rooms at all. 

For too long at Cowork Tahoe, we used paper sign-up sheets outside our meeting rooms for our members to reserve them. Yes, paper. It worked well enough, a member could walk up to the room they wanted and block out a time slot for a meeting later in the day, or even for right then if it wasn’t already being used. That is, if they remembered to have a pen in their hand.

However, it would cause problems when we inevitably forgot to post the new sheets up on time each week or if someone needed to book a room before they came into the office. It was a terrible member experience and our team spent far too much time helping members make reservations, printing out new sheets, and handling squatters

Sure, there are lots of technology solutions available to digitize room bookings, and we even tried one or two. We’ve since learned that technology isn’t automatically a better solution than an analog approach. 

For example, having an online calendar that members can book doesn’t help someone running late if they have to go to their desktop or laptop first, log in, find a room, book the room, then go to the room. 

Having tablets mounted outside each room with the ability to sign up can be powerful if they sync well with personal calendars, but are no better than paper and pencil if they don’t. And if the calendars they sync with still requires logging in through a website, you may as well not have the technology solution at all.

The ability to book a room with a few taps on a mobile phone has worked wonders at Cowork Tahoe. With our Jellyswitch app, members book their meeting rooms for the day or for the week while they are drinking coffee in the morning, or while they are walking up to the building. They book what they need when they need it & when they think of it. Not when they can get back to their desks. 

My members get what they need without having to ask me. When they talk to me or someone else on my team, it can be about more than something they can’t get quickly on their own.  We talk about their day, about their children, how their work in going. The conversations can be about human relationships rather than transactions because the transactions are easy to take care of on their own. That is meaningful. 

That level of convenience and flexibility contributes to a much better experience. It means that the coworking space is supporting, not hindering their productivity. It is one more way to add value to their membership by removing a small friction. 

It is also one more way for them to actively engage with our Cowork Tahoe brand. The frequency of engagement is multiple times a day. That builds brand recognition, trust, and through that, customer loyalty. 

If coworking is about one thing, its flexibility. That applies to how meeting rooms are used as much as anything else. A mobile first approach is the best way to achieve the level of flexibility needed to provide a seamless meeting room experience.   

Image for blog post Self service coworking doesn't exist

Self-service coworking doesn’t exist.

These things don’t run themselves.

  • Coworking spaces are high touch businesses, so cannot be expected to run without a high level of attention to the customer experience.
  • Technology does not exist to replace human involvement, it exists to support it and better leverage how time is spent on human involvement.
  • To create a premier customer experience, great technology & personal interactions are both required.

About a year ago, I had a number of conversations with a building owner as they were preparing to open a new coworking space.

Many of the discussions centered on basics like what furniture to buy, what memberships to offer, and what brand of coffee maker to get.

But the rest were tough – this owner wanted to be completely disconnected from the space. He wanted the place to run itself and was assuming that electronic door access and independent members would make that happen. He had a true “build it and they will come” attitude, with no intention of investing in actually running the space. Nice ergonomic desk chairs, yes. Human time? No.

One year later and I happen to have connected with several of the people in his community that I’d spoken to because they had wanted a new coworking space. None of them work there. They all tried it out and quickly left. Why? The place feels dead, there is no sense of place, no experience, nothing to keep them there. They did not feel valued as customers.

The input they gave about what they needed to be productive was ignored.

I have seen this so many times – a building owner that wants to monetize their space hears about coworking & thinks its an easy way to drop their vacancy rate. That 1200 sq ft office space on the 2nd floor that you’ve used for storage for the past 10 years? Of course it could be a coworking space! Slap on some paint, add a few desks & some motivational posters and open up the doors. People will show up in no time and you’ll be rolling in the extra revenue coworking can bring. Because its hip, its cool, and it look super easy. It’s just office space, right? Not true.

The thing is, these places don’t run themselves.

Coworking is not just office space. It never has been.

The key to building and running a thriving coworking community? The experience. Coworking is about providing the right flexibility to help members be supported & productive in their professional lives. That requires a heavy dose of customer service – heavy.

Small coworking spaces in particular are competing not just with other commercial office space, they are competing with non-consumption. Why would a remote worker pay for office space outside of their home if it provides no added value? They won’t. They have a desk and chair at home. Coworking spaces must provide more than a place to put a laptop.

Too many people believe that technology can be a substitute for that human touch. It can’t. What it can do is support, streamline, and improve the experience for both sides. But it absolutely does not serve as a replacement for human interaction. What it can do is free up time and remove inefficiencies that are preventing us from connecting to one another in the right ways.

My members use our mobile app to save them time & to interact with the physical space. Technology in this case makes it easy to get things done quickly. They can do things like see what meeting rooms are available and book one while walking down the hallway or waiting for their espresso.

What does that give them in return? Time to do things technology cannot – talk to another member at the coffee pot, take a moment to pet the office dog, focus on their next call, the things that we need to continue to feel connected to other humans and to be productive.

What can technology help me with as a manager? Keeping track of all the human things. Great technology does more than just enable payments and room scheduling. It helps me keep tabs on what my members are doing, what they need, what they don’t like, and what I can do with all of that information to help provide an even better customer experience and grow my business.

If you’re going to run a business, focus on that business, because it’s not going to run itself.

Image for blog post The coworking value proposition part 4

The Coworking Value Proposition – Part 4 (Employers)

The flexible workspace industry has seen explosive growth year over year that will continue to grow. What started as spaces for freelancers & digital nomads have become mainstays for the workforce, including the largest global companies.

Part 4 of this series delves into why larger companies should leverage the flexible workspace movement. If you haven’t read the previous entries, here are links to each:

  • Part 1 provided an overview of the coworking industry and its potential in the future.
  • Part 2 focused on the benefits for individual members & the ecosystem of workspaces that exist today, including coworking spaces.
  • Part 3 was all about the opportunity for commercial real estate to grow the flexible workspace industry.

Large companies & corporations are driving a major portion of the growth in the flexible workspace industry, expected to create 40% of the demand for flexible workspace in the coming years. Flexible work policies & distributed teams are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Professional office space is still needed wherever those employees are, whether its full teams or single remote employees.

Employers & HR managers can leverage the growing coworking industry as part of a competitive strategy to attract, retain, and support talent. The value proposition of coworking for employers is just as strong as it is for individual workers.

What are some of the benefits of coworking for a large business?

Flexibility, not only in schedules, but in how & where work is done, is key for developing & maintaining a competitive & productive workforce. Coworking spaces can play a significant role in helping companies achieve that flexibility for their employees.

For employees that are not on-site at a corporate headquarters, coworking spaces are fully amenitized workplaces ready to go when and where they are needed, in more and more communities across the globe. With flexible membership options and workspaces, coworking spaces are great alternatives to home offices or coffee shops for working remotely.

Additionally, companies can also benefit from the flexibility provided by coworking spaces. The amount of space occupied can be scaled up or down, without the need for a company to manage a complicated and expensive build out. Many coworking spaces can accommodate everything from a single desk user to a large team suite. Companies can lease out only the space they need, even if those needs change quickly.

Why are these benefits valuable to a business?

Office space is a big expense for companies, both in regards to capital & operational expenditures, and is not typically the primary focus of the business. Coworking spaces can help companies not only reduce expenses, but also get more value out of the space that is being used, while helping companies focus more time on what they need to, their business.

They are balance sheet friendly – Utilizing shorter term agreements for coworking and flexible office space instead of managing real estate leases in house reduces risk & complications for a business’ financial statements. With the implementation of new FASB lease accounting standard (ASC 842 & IFRS16), organizations are required to recognize leases as assets & liabilities on their balance sheets for any lease that is over 12 months. This standard went into effect on January 1, 2019 for public companies, and will apply to private and non-profit organizations as well starting in December of 2020.

They are a better use of resources – Many of us have either seen or experienced a large corporate office floor with almost no one using it. The ability to more accurately match real estate needs with headcount needs can result in a direct reduction of real estate expenses. Why pay for the space if your employees aren’t using it? A better use of resources is to pay for the space that is actually needed and where it will actually be used.

What are some of the problems being faced by HR Managers?

Talent attraction – Competition for talent is fierce. Finding & attracting high quality employees requires increasingly enticing offers. Only a portion of that comes down to salary. Many in today’s workforce are looking for flexibility, remote work opportunities, and good perks in addition to competitive financial incentives.

Productivity & Retention – Once a company has the talent, the next challenge is retaining them and supporting a work environment that contributes to high levels of productivity. For example, a workplace that requires a long commute can reduce job satisfaction in a similar way as a pay cut. That’s before an employee even makes it to the office for the day.

How does coworking solve these problems?

Distributed employees, distributed space –  Recruiting can benefit from a broader geographic pool. Coworking provides office space for a company without the need to set up satellite office operations or requiring employees to relocate. Resources can be redirected from maintaining a large scale headquarters to coworking memberships & digital tools that can support remote & distributed teams.

Use of coworking spaces can be leveraged as a competitive edge for recruiting by illustrating a company’s support for flexibility in how & where an employee chooses to work. Flexible work is no longer a generous perk, but required for companies to maintain a talent advantage.

Improved employee experience, improved productivity – The statistics gathered over the last several years make a clear case for the benefits of working from an alternate work environment like a coworking space, such as:

  • 84% of people who use coworking spaces are more engaged and motivated &
  • 89% of people who cowork reported being happier.

Coworking spaces can help make people happier, which correlates to improved productivity, as discussed in our previous article on the 3/30/300 Rule of Thumb.

Why is coworking the best solution to these problems?

The demand for flexible work arrangements from the workforce will continue to grow. Flexibility and autonomy are what workers want. Companies that can provide that are rewarded with more productive, more satisfied, more loyal employees, ultimately saving money by avoiding lost productivity and employee churn.

If shifting away from the traditional corporate office to alternate work environments is the goal, why not have all their employees work from home and skip the office completely?

It’s not possible to implement effective remote or flexible work policies without providing your employees with the appropriate resources to be successful. Coworking is one of those resources – a professional work environment, others to work around, division between work and home life, and lots of coffee. Not everyone is productive or happy working from home. When workers can work at least part-time from an office environment, like a coworking space, they are more productive.

The flexibility that coworking spaces provide is a benefit to both the employees utilizing the space as well as the companies they work for.

The bottom line – coworking space for business is good for the bottom line.

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: https://allwork.space/2019/10/12-types-of-coworking-members-and-what-they-need-from-their-workspace/

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 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 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.”

IFMA.org

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. 

The lobby of Cowork Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe, California

Coworking & the 3/30/300 Rule of Thumb

The lobby of Cowork Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Photo credit: Erin Ebright.

Coworking & flexible office spaces are quickly becoming a permanent fixture in the global office space landscape. As more and more employees utilize these spaces, the gap between coworking & the traditional corporate office will continue to narrow. It is important for both corporations and for the owners & operators of these flexible workspaces to understand how this type of office environment fits into their operational model, and how it provides value.

As remote work increases, it will become vital for companies to track & measure the impact their distributed workforce has on their bottom line. Coworking space community managers are becoming corporate productivity officers. This role serves as part of the value proposition for coworking businesses, but also as a critical tool for companies when determining their operating costs.

When opening a new office, there is an overwhelming list of expenses to consider. These expenses go beyond the lease price for the physical square footage and are vital to track in order to drive costs down. Commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), has a simple rule that can be used to estimate the order of magnitude of real estate occupancy costs for an organization. Its called the 3/30/300 rule and is as important for coworking space owners to understand as it is to traditional commercial real estate facility managers.

The 3/30/300 Rule

The rule of thumb is to estimate, on a per square foot annual basis, a total cost to the organization of:

  • $3 for utilities,
  • $30 for rent, and
  • $300 for employees (salaries & benefits).

The 3/30/300 Rule is a particularly important tool for facilities managers when making decisions to help reduce costs for an organization. Traditionally, the focus has been on developing strategies to either lower utilities costs or to reduce the total lease price.

Energy efficiency is a great area to focus on to lower the cost of utilities & is relatively easy to implement. Replacing fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, installing a smart thermostat to regulate the temperature, and using natural light as much as possible can all result in lower utility bills. An energy efficiency initiative that reduces consumption by 10% will impact overall costs by $0.30 per square foot.

Another area of consideration is to reduced rent. To achieve a 10% savings in the lease price, that could mean negotiating the price for a longer term or moving to an area that already has lower rents. Lower rent might also come in the form of an older or less updated building, with less amenities both in the building and in the surrounding neighborhood. That 10% savings, however, equates to a $3 per square foot reduction in overhead.

So even if utility costs are significantly reduced, which is very difficult to achieve without significant investment, a 10% savings in the rental price overshadows the entire cost of utilities to begin with.

But what about the 300 column? Can changes in the workspace impact the cost of keeping employees in their seats?

The answer is a resounding yes, and is in fact where the greatest potential for organizational savings can come from.

Based on the 3/30/300 rule, 90% of the costs for an organization staff salaries & benefits. Anything that results in savings in this area can make a big impact on the balance sheet. A 10% difference, for example, is a $30 per square foot savings. That completely covers the cost of rent for that space.

For a facility manager, reducing costs in this category by having fewer employees or lower salaries is not only not within their purview, but is also not the best way to optimize the potential for savings. Instead, the best strategy is to take into effect how the workspace can increase employee productivity. According to a study published in IZA’s World of Labor, employees that are “happy” are 10-12% percent more productive in their jobs.

Measuring for Productivity

Productivity is not straightforward quantity to measure. It is dependent upon a lot of different interlinked variables, many of which are beyond what a space manager can control. However, there are good indicators and concrete strategies that have been shown to positively impact productivity in the workplace.

The World Green Business Council released a report in 2015 that divides productivity metrics into three areas: financial, perceptual, & physical.

Financial

Financial metrics for an organization include, among others, tracking changes in employee absenteeism & turnover, both of which can have a clear and drastic negative impact on progress on organizational productivity and costs.

Perceptual

Assessing perception can be accomplished by regularly surveying employees and correlating their responses with the more quantitative data in the financial and physical categories. Questions covering things like general comfort in the workspace, rating design elements, the layout of the space, or location and amenities, can all provide valuable insight into the impact of the office space on its occupants.

Physical

Taking direct measurements of the physical space, especially when correlated with responses about comfort, can play an objective role in determining what factors are contributing to or diminishing productivity in the workplace. The more measurements that can be taken easily and by a manager (or even someone using the space) the better. This could include indoor air temperatures, relative humidity, light levels, CO2 levels, and background noise. Additionally, tracking the levels of workstation density, numbers of private spaces versus social spaces, use of plants and greenery, etc. can all contribute to an in depth understanding of how the workspace is used to boost productivity, and how to improve it.

Community Managers as Productivity Officers

Coworking space operators & corporate facilities managers have a lot in common, especially as the modern workplace trends more to a distributed flexible model. For both, “How can we increase productivity for our users?” is a question that should be top of mind. For coworking spaces, an increase in the productivity of members is good for business. If members are getting a lot out of working from the space and are happier, the coworking business will likely see lower member churn, a more engaged community, and more referrals (and thus more members). And for the companies those members work for, the value generated by that additional productivity can be immense, even more so if it comes without the cost of maintaining a large corporate office.

By actively working to improve the office environment to optimize for productivity, community managers in flexible office environments can bring real value to their members and the companies they work for understanding & acting on what increases productivity. Good coffee & green plants are just the beginning.