Imagine that you’re sitting five feet away from the person who can solve your latest business conundrum. Or, perhaps, you’re across the hall from your perfect partner. These are the kinds of benefits espoused by the founders of co-working spaces as they become increasingly popular places to get work done.
And it’s true, opportunities abound as these shared skill communities continue to influence the way we work. With co-working spaces, entrepreneurs and professionals in any industry can rent space on either a short-term or ongoing basis, giving them the flexibility they need as they’re starting a business.
But to live up to all the hype, the shared skill community revolution needs to stay sharp. Everyone understands the networking opportunities. But how do co-working spaces evolve into something more substantial to stay ahead of the game once the novelty wears off?
Here are some of the challenges these organizations face and some of the ways they can overcome them.
Meetings and mixers build community.
It’s no longer enough for a co-working space to simply rent a desk to members. The best co-working space hosts encourage people to meet and even start working relationships with one another. This starts by helping to ensure that every member knows what other members do. A graphic designer may be located only a couple of seats away from a professional who needs a new logo, for instance, but if neither of them realizes it, an opportunity to connect will be missed.
WeWork is one of the better-known organizations that does this. It often appoints a community management team that dedicates itself to ensuring members have the tools they need. With locations across the country, the company embraces events as part of its co-working experience. These include happy hours, “lunch and learns,” and visits from local leaders. It’s all part of an effort to boost interaction during an otherwise busy workday.
Event hosting will be one of the primary ways co-working organizations will continue to generate revenue in the years to come.
Offering more services.
Gatherings are just one of the ways co-working companies will be serving their members. One promising service is on-site childcare, which didn’t succeed in San Francisco but has since caught on in other areas of the world.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is offering this much-demanded service at an affordable rate. Paying for childcare providers and liability insurance can bring additional expense for an already struggling business model. However, offering these services could give co-working spaces an edge over other similar spaces in the same market.
For many of these organizations, the extra income comes from amenities. Some spaces offer dedicated receptionists and administrative help for a fee. In some cases, those services are offered through virtual assistants. This is a win for both the member and the co-working space, giving the host a way to earn a fee while also providing small-business owners and freelancers a much-needed service.
Some members also pay extra money to co-working spaces for the privilege of having mail delivered there, giving them the physical address that’s essential for an early-stage business to establish itself. In the future, members can expect to see each of these services offered at a growing number of locations rather than just being available in a select few places.
Catering to niche communities.
In the coming years, co-working spaces will boost their revenue streams by catering to niche markets. Some locations will cater only to women, while others will seek out people in a certain profession.
The idea is that when a co-working space is filled with a combination of people from a wide range of industries and professions, they may be less likely to connect than they would at a space filled with professionals who share a common interest. For example, a space designed for startup founders can create programs and amenities specific to the needs of that demographic, as opposed to a space that caters to freelance graphic designers and programmers, who might have a different set of needs.
By choosing niches, a co-working organization can also possibly strengthen loyalty among its members. When professionals feel a strong sense of community, they are likely to continue to come back for that alone. A co-working space no longer needs to be solely about a desk and conference room. As these spaces evolve, members will work with other members to share insights, provide support, and exchange services. As a result, more entrepreneurs and independent contractors may be drawn to join, further strengthening these communities.
Co-working spaces give professionals the opportunity to work and meet in a comfortable space for a daily or monthly fee. However, to remain viable well into the future, these spaces will need to evolve and find ways to foster a deeper sense of community. Events and workshops are one of the key ways for making that happen, as well as helping members learn and grow. When members feel engaged, they’ll regularly occupy space, keeping desks filled and amenities in use.