Bringing together coworking space owners, advocates, community managers, and a digital nomad from around the world, the Cowork University meetup has proven to be a wonderful brain trust to share ideas and improve coworking.

Did you check out June’s Cowork University Meetup summary?

This month, we discussed:

Communication Hubs, WIFI, Managing Memberships, Regus Spaces & WeWork

Communication Hubs

One of the benefits of working in a shared space is the serendipitous nature of conversation and opportunity. However, sometimes it is helpful to have these conversations on a platform with the entire community.

One coworking manager mentioned they displayed and sold artwork in the space, but that they weren’t getting much interest from the community.

Instead of asking members individually, she reached out to the community via Slack about what she could do to help engage them. Did they like the art? What type of art would they like to see? How often should it be changed? The members provided valuable insight in to what they wanted to see and would be more likely to buy.

What is Slack and how do coworking spaces use it? For those of you who don’t know, Slack is a wonderful tool to facilitate communication within an organization. Many coworking spaces use Slack as a communication hub to have open conversations around various topics. Whether they are general discussions about problems, ideas, content sharing, business opportunities, etc., Slack has proven to be invaluable.

The main challenge with Slack is getting people to use it. It is sometimes a challenge, and it requires consistent upkeep to keep members engaged. It is not a set it and forget it type of system. Neither is coworking, so this is something to consider when deciding to use a platform such as Slack.

Over time, it is up to the owner / community manager to continue to facilitate communication channels with the membership. I like the idea of having daily topics that are discussed each week. People aren’t always available, but if topics can be posted and responses made a few days a week, the channel will solidify as a hub for discussion and community support.

WIFI and Managing Memberships

The main challenges with WIFI have been to get enough total bandwidth, active connections, and how to manage overall usage for guests and members.

There are new services being released that promise to fix these issues, however, it is clear that many spaces are still having challenges.

Most spaces have opted to go with less complicated internet and WIFI setups — such as one password for everyone — so they are easier to manage.

When you have more complicated setups, it means managing hourly memberships and getting guests on the network in a secure manner can be challenging.

For hourly memberships or members that have limited access to a space, I like the idea of using the honor system instead of tracking time. The only tracking the honor system uses is a sign in sheet at the front desk where a member records when they arrive and depart. This system ties in well to the core of coworking with trust and building relationships. Is it really worth tracking if someone stayed an extra hour? It’s likely that most people who have these shorter or limited memberships aren’t going to use the entire time, or they will average way less than what they paid for.

If the WIFI system is simple, then how does a coworking space add guests to the network while maintaining a secure network for its members. I really like the idea of short-term passwords that last 1 hour, 12 hours, 24 hours, etc on the network. I actually used a short-term password at IgnitedSpaces in Los Angeles, CA and it was incredibly easy to use.

There are a number of options out there for solving these problems, however, I urge space managers to make sure they always have WIFI up and limit any downtime to basically never. Most of us that work in coworking spaces can’t work without internet. If it is down, people will come knocking.

Regus Spaces and WeWork

I always find it interesting when these more-corporate open workspace-focused companies are discussed. They have helped bring a tremendous amount of exposure and investment to coworking and shared workspaces in the past decade.

The question is whether these spaces are able to build the community and culture that we love. After all, when the majority of the people working in individual offices (as with Regus Spaces and WeWork), they have there own circles of colleagues they spend their time with. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it is just different.

When a space is more focused on open coworking rather than offices, there is a natural connection that forms between members who see, pass, and chat with each other daily. If a member goes to their office and closes the door behind them, there is a natural barrier (door) that blocks interaction and the development of camaraderie. However, open coworking does not typically pay most of the bills. Offices do.

So, what is the right way to combine these two layouts?

What can coworking spaces learn from Regus Spaces and WeWork to help create longer-lasting and more-profitable organizations? And, what can Regus Spaces and WeWork learn from coworking spaces to improve their communities?

Thanks again everyone for a wonderful discussion! Looking forward to next month.

What is Cowork University?

We are a supportive, inclusive, and inspiring community that achieves a level of collaboration designed to elevate the coworking conversation. The virtual meetup is an invitational gathering of international cowork creators and managers who got into coworking because they understand and align with the concept of “community first”. We connect on a monthly Zoom video chat and a 24/7 private Slack channel.

The only requirement to join us is that you must apply to become a member of Cowork University and be ready to fully participate.

You can also follow us on Twitter @coworkuniv