Labels. If there’s one thing the flexible workspace has in abundance, that’s it.
From serviced offices and serviced workspaces to semi-serviced offices and executive office suites, not forgetting business centres (and centers), coworking (and hyphenated co-working) spaces, shared community spaces and makerspaces, with a hot desk here and a third space there… Is it any wonder clients and members are so often baffled?
To workspace operators, all these terms mean something slightly and subtly different. To members and clients however, they likely say the same thing: “I’m confused.”
No industry is immune to the terminology struggle, and confusion certainly isn’t the intention. Instead, our industry is working to find some common ground that will enable operators to communicate more clearly with prospective clients and members, and ultimately to market to them more effectively.
And, while in some ways new labels only muddy the terminology waters, they can also inject fresh perspective and insight to help first-time clients grasp the concept more swiftly, and more precisely.
Here’s an example that may have hit the nail on the head. In an interview with Chicago Inno, a city-focused publication covering all things lifestyle and business, COCO described parts of its West Loop space as ‘office campsites’:
The West Loop space, located at 1046 W. Kinzie, offers startup suites with private offices for teams up to 10 and office “campsites” which are dedicated, separated workspaces for four, six, and eight-person teams. The idea is to cater to those who like the community (and affordability) of coworking, but want space away from the hustle and bustle of a shared work environment.
“What this meant for our Chicago space, was introducing a product that didn’t previously exist in the Chicago coworking community–campsites,” Kyle Coolbroth, CEO and co-founder of COCO, explained to Chicago Inno over email. “These campsites–dedicated group spaces that are designed to open up to the collaborative coworking areas–have been extremely popular so far and are selling better than our suites. We’ve proven that these spaces can be dedicated and open, and still drive a collaborative community.”
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In this example, COCO has found a way to connect their product with the non-workspace-jargon outside world by expressing it through something that’s worlds away from a business workplace: a group of tents.
Do you love it or hate it?
Sure, as an operator, a ‘coworking campsite’ might not make any sense whatsoever. But through the eyes of a potential client, perhaps a fresh startup or a Gen Y entrepreneur who hasn’t heard of coworking or serviced offices (sadly, they exist), the visualisation of a ‘campsite’ might just click. (And let’s face it, you can’t get much closer to ‘community’ than singing songs around a campfire).
The really difficult part is putting yourself in your prospective client’s shoes and finding terms to bridge the gap. When you’re weighed down by familiar day-to-day workspace terminology, that’s incredibly challenging, particularly as you’ll never again experience your own ‘first impressions’ of flexible workspace.
It’s well worth stepping outside your industry circle from time to time and questioning the people who have only just discovered it. The best part is, they walk right into your workspace every week, perhaps every day. Every time you take a tour of your workspace or greet a walk-in, ask them how they came to know about flexible workspace.
Perhaps your first question should be, “How did you discover the concept of coworking / serviced offices?” or, “What’s your initial impression of coworking – does it live up to the name?” and so on.
What’s your preferential term for describing your workspace? And as for ‘campsites’, what’s your view? Is it one for the books or would you rather throw it on the campfire? Share your views on Twitter or Facebook.