GCUC 2018: 12 Key Takeaways From Day One

Top takeaways from Day 1 of the 2018 GCUC coworking conference, which took place at Convene in New York City (Image: GCUC).
  • Over 400 people convened in New York City for the first conference day of GCUC 2018.
  • ‘Human-centric’ workspaces and wellness dominated the GCUC stage.
  • Coworking operators must focus on its occupants health to achieve differentiation

Monday 23rd April 2018, GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) brought together over 400 people from the coworking industry for its first Conference Day in New York City.

Attendees from various corners of the world (Europe, Latin America, Asia, India, and the US) took a deep-dive into the changing world of flexible workspaces.

This year, GCUC presenters stepped up the game by challenging operators to think outside to box, to go beyond space as a service and view the industry from a more holistic, visionary point of view.

Liz Elam, Founder and Executive Director of GCUC started off the day by emphasizing why we as an industry need to focus more on wellness, and why we need to step up to the challenge and lead the way by creating more human workspaces.

“Humans are messy, it’s like running adult daycare some of the time. But we are all human, we have feelings and we need real things, albeit small things like a look in the eye or a smile. So instead of worrying too much about the ‘hardware’, focus more on the ‘software’.

“When you ask a human who they are, they don’t point to their head. They point to their heart.”

This is why flexible workspace operators need to find creative ways to address pressing mental and physical health issues. Coworking has always been at the front and center of creating a better way for people to work, but there is still much to be done. For example, creating spaces first and foremost to help us heal, and secondarily spaces that help us work.

Key Takeaways: it’s all about differentiation, and health can help you go a long way

  1. Healthy spaces: We spend 90% of our time indoors; we are shaped by the spaces we are in. Our cardiovascular activity is greatly affected by the quality of air we breathe, and lighting can directly affect our quality of sleep. Your members spend a significant amount of time inside your space, and you have the power to control how this affects their health and wellbeing, so start thinking about ways in which your space can help them be healthier.
  2. Location challenges: The top 5 problems operators experience when finding a location for their workspace are the following:
    • High investment in renovation is required
    • The rent is not affordable
    • The landlord does not understand the coworking concept
    • Lack of infrastructure nearby
    • Unfavorable position within a building
  3. Landlord partnership: The above is why one of the panelists suggested that when looking for a location, operators should start with the landlords and not with the physical space and location itself. These can help you negotiate a better deal, landlords have access to a lot of capital, and if you have a good relationship with your landlord, your life will be overall easier in dealing with the real estate asset.
  4. Differentiation: On this note, competition is increasing among operators both for attracting clients as well as landlords. You need to be able to differentiate yourself and be able to successfully communicate that differentiation to landlords, otherwise you will not be able to place yourself in front of the 3 or more operators competing for a particular location.
  5. War for talent: The office is not dead, it’s changing, and companies have realized this by now. Companies are exploring ideas and partnering with different groups to be able to cater to different office needs in different markets. The #1 threat companies have today is talent retention and management, and they know that the best way to address and combat that threat is through the use and design of real estate.
  6. Alternative commuting options: Commuting is really tough in corporate America, and operators need to understand this. Operators should try to find locations that make commuting easier and they should also offer services and amenities that will encourage and allow individuals to commute in different ways (such as bike storage, locker rooms, showers, etc.) Think of ways in which you can integrate wellness and fitness into the workplace.
  7. Design for health: Operators need to design for physical, social, and cognitive (emotional) health. You need to be able to create a rich workplace experience, and much of this experience has to do with wellness and how you integrate it into your space.
  8. Move away from “people storage”: “Real estate is people storage when it should be a delivering vehicle for health.” Instead of looking at health from the perspective of what you are providing (like treadmill desks or yoga rooms), focus more on what the actual physical and built environment is doing to our body at all times (air, lighting, water, nourishment, stress, etc).
  9. Interactive spaces: The main ingredient of a workplace is its collaboration element. A spectacular workplace experience is one where 1+1=3; in other words the experience should be energizing and inspirational, and it is all about how people feel in your space and how they interact with it.
  10. Evolve with your community: You need to understand how people use your space. The way a space is used is constantly changing and evolving, so you need to be on top of that and react accordingly.
  11. Combat loneliness and isolation: Community plays an essential role in terms of social wellbeing. People care about people and people go to coworking spaces because they want to make a connection. The industry is helping combat loneliness.
  12. Workspace flow: The most difficult part of building out a flexible workspace is understanding the A/V and IT and figuring out the workspace choreography (in other words, how people will move within your space from one area to the other).

Stay tuned for more GCUC coverage!

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