How to foster a sense of community in your workspace

How to foster a sense of community in your workspace

In the 1940s, Maslow established his famous “Hierarchy of Needs”. 

Depicted as a pyramid, the five categories – physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualisation – are thought to explain human motivation and behaviour.

Love and belonging sit in the middle of the pyramid, and relate to people’s need to be accepted as part of a group. Coworking spaces can help fulfil this need by creating thriving communities in which individuals can feel supported and respected. 

Many of us have a work setup at home, whether it's a whole home office or a desk space on the kitchen table. People tend to pick coworking for the social element; to build relationships, have face-to-face interactions throughout the day – and above all – to feel included. 

Anna Anderson is cofounder of the London-based coworking space Kindred. Speaking with Forbes, she explains that her intention was to create a space that makes people feel like they belong on both a professional and personal level. 

80% of people who apply for a Kindred membership mention “meeting new people” as their reason for applying, and more than 50% say they want to be part of a community. 

Coworking spaces that don’t focus on the community aspect are way more likely to fail. So how can you foster a sense of community in your space? 

Here are 10 things to try this year. 

1. Get to know your members

In July, coworking marketing expert Cat Johnson hosted an online discussion to explore how operators can forge a community, and why it’s so important to do so. 

During the convo, GCUC’s Liz Elam spoke about how knowing your members is the cornerstone of any inclusive coworking community. 

It might sound simple, but learning people’s names and introducing them to other members as soon as they join is a powerful way of making them feel included and validated. You can also make new members feel welcome by inviting them to your upcoming events. 

“We have a loneliness epidemic,” says Elam. “Community is the solution to help cure depression – it’s about people connecting with people in real life. Our world needs this.” 

2. Value inclusivity

Iris Kavanagh runs Women Who Cowork. In the convo, she explains that people’s sense of belonging is akin to the feeling of ‘coming home’. 

While the simple things – “the big smile, saying hello, and asking, ‘how are you?’” – are important, it’s also about noticing people’s energy, and “whether they feel they can be their full self in your space.” 

“Look around the room and ask yourself, who’s not here right now? Why aren’t they here? What is it that I can do to help people feel comfortable enough to come here, to feel accepted and welcomed? How can we make the spaces feel safer?” 

Identifying opportunities for improvement and growth means that you have to “get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.” 

Start by conducting an audit to find out how accessible your workspace is. The access audit will highlight any barriers to access and detail how you can overcome them. You can also use Nexudus Reports to identify where your gaps are.

3.  Run varied events

Events are a great way to bring your community together and get them to share experiences. But people have different interests, so be sure to diversify your events calendar. Consider workshops as well as beer socials, hackathons as well as live entertainment. 

Humans are creatures of habit: structure and traditions can improve our ability to focus, and be organised and productive. Do you have any recurring events? Creative Works in London hosts a brunch buffet that members can help themselves to every Thursday morning. 

4. Be a matchmaker

Some members will embed themselves into the community with ease while others will take a little longer to get to know their fellow members. Some will be incredibly busy and won’t necessarily have the time to initiate conversations in the breakout area.

Fortunately, your coworking software can play the role of matchmaker for you. With Nexudus’ Members Directory, you can enable members to find each other based on their skill sets, and allow them to communicate through Discussion Boards. 

Platforms like Slack are also effective for keeping members connected, and you can also use it to make announcements. Try not to use one channel for everything – if you do, people’s messages might get lost in the fray. Instead, create a channel for work-related matters, one for social chatter and another for events and general announcements. 

5. Offer mentoring

A mentor can help build an individual's professional network. They can also help them define and develop their goals and hold them accountable for reaching them. 

But as a small business owner or freelancer working on short-term projects, or someone working as an ‘outsourced’ team member, mentors aren’t always that easy to come by. 

Could you offer mentoring as a coworking benefit? One way to do this would be to team up with a professional business coach and invite them into your space, say one day a week. Then invite members to book sessions using your coworking software

6. Utilise social media

While you could argue that face-to-face interaction should be the focus of any successful community, social media can be an effective tool for promoting and cultivating it. To make people connect emotionally to your community, embrace storytelling elements. 

Better still, tell your members’ stories by interviewing them for features, including them in your newsletters and sharing their successes in your workshops and seminars. 

7. Be responsive 

Successful communities are built on trust. So when your members encounter a problem, you don’t want them to feel like they’re shouting into the void. Have a process in place that will enable you to listen to concerns and deal with issues promptly. 

Automating manual processes will free up time that can be reallocated to building your community. Coworking software can facilitate check-ins, meeting room bookings, membership payments and a host of other admin-related tasks. 

8. Don’t force it

Anderson from Kindred says their space has introduced measures to support an inclusive culture, such as assessing applications based on people’s desire for community and remaining visible and accessible to members at all times. 

However, she also recognises that some members will want to “just do the work”, which is why everyone is free to use the community in a way that suits them. 

9. Share the decision making

Even small decisions can impact members’ overall experience. In the spirit of connectivity and inclusivity, why not involve everyone in the decision-making process? For example, get people to vote for which local coffee to stock in the kitchen.

Consider sending out a questionnaire on a quarterly basis to gauge how people are faring in your coworking space. Ask them what’s working well and where they’d like to see improvements. Do they have any ideas for how you could move forward?

10. Share your vision 

Why does your coworking space exist? Is it to provide people with a desk, or does your vision extend further than this? Whether you want to provide local people with more career opportunities or become a hub for the wider community, let the world know!

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