- To entice people to use coworking spaces, particularly during the ongoing uncertainties, operators realise that they need to offer much more than a desk and WiFi.
- During Cat Johnson’s latest Coworking Convo, a panel of experts shared strategies, tips, thoughts, and ideas on how to create a great member experience now, and in a post-Covid world.
- From vaccination policies to mask mandates, here’s how coworking spaces are helping members feel safe.
During the pandemic, people learned that their ‘working from’ capacity could be much more than the kitchen table or a spare bedroom. Working from home became working from a minivan, from the beach, from thousands of miles away… from virtually anywhere.
To entice people to use coworking spaces, particularly during the ongoing uncertainties, operators realise that they need to offer much more than a desk and WiFi. It’s about offering a great experience, too.
How do you do that?
To help answer that question, content marketer and coworking advocate Cat Johnson hosted an online discussion — part of her monthly ‘Coworking Convo’ series — featuring a panel of experts and a global community of workspace owners, operators, and enthusiasts. The panel featured:
- Rebecca Pan and Jason Pan – Trellis, San Francisco
- Wesley Alexander – CoBiz, Richmond
- Garrett Tichy – Hygge Coworking, Charlotte
Coworking Convos are a free and valuable resource for workspace operators. Learn about future Coworking Convos with Cat Johnson here.
Here are some of the top strategies, tips, thoughts, and ideas from the latest Convo, focusing on how to create a great member experience now, and in a post-Covid world.
Trellis Coworking: A great experience starts when members feel safe
After the pandemic forced Rebecca and Jason Pan to close their original space, Covo Coworking, they relaunched with a new mission and a new space in San Francisco: Trellis Coworking.
“We want everyone to feel included and welcome at the space,” said Rebecca Pan. “That carries through from our advertising to the moment you walk through the front door.”
However, they realised early on that to make people feel included, they had to make them feel safe.
This presented a difficult decision: do they exclude people who aren’t vaccinated in order to maintain that feeling of safety?
They decided that was the right decision for their community, and implemented a vaccination policy starting on June 15th. “We were so nervous about it,” said Jason Pan, as both he and Rebecca felt a vaccination policy was at odds with their focus on inclusivity. “It’s been tough. But we’ve had a great response from our members, thanking us every day, saying it makes them feel safer.”
Technology also helped them to navigate the pandemic. They developed an app which initially handled contract tracing and later, recorded proof of vaccination. This made entering the space easier, and it also meant staff didn’t have the unenviable task of asking for proof of vaccination, and policing it.
How does this improve the experience?
Above all, this makes people feel safer. It also gives staff the tools they need to create a more positive environment. “We are empowering staff to have information at their fingertips so they can interact with people in a more friendly way.”
Co-Biz: Reducing discrimination by providing flexibility and choice
Wesley Alexander launched CoBiz in an area of Richmond in which coworking isn’t well known, and had to educate members from scratch on the benefits and community values of coworking.
Add to that, the space launched in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit.
Their policy is, those who aren’t vaccinated must wear a mask. For those who are vaccinated, masks are optional. It’s a choice, and it means that no mask doesn’t automatically mean no vaccination.
“We find this helps reduce feelings of discrimination,” said Wesley. “It works well for us. Right now, we’re trying to facilitate an environment where people can have conversations and feel comfortable.”
This is important for CoBiz, which Wesley describes as an “inter-generational space” with members ranging from college students to people aged over 70, who each have unique needs.
To help address the different needs of people using the space, and concerns over the current situation, Wesley notes that “communication is really critical”, particularly as – like all spaces – they have had to make quick changes, such as spacing out desks, changing the layout, and implementing new protocols.
How does this improve the experience?
The priority for members is their own health and safety. “We communicate more rather than less. Rather than reacting, we’re demonstrating that everything we do is for our members’ wellness.”
Hygge Coworking: Ask for feedback to ‘meet people where they are’
Garrett Tichy launched Hygge Coworking six years ago and now has 4 locations in Charlotte. But the pandemic has changed everything, and, in many ways, Garrett feels like they are now starting again from day one.
“Coming out of Covid is fascinating,” he said, explaining that some members simply want the utility of space but “didn’t sign up for community”, while others are discovering coworking for the first time because their companies have switched to a remote or hybrid work policy.
“Now we have an even bigger responsibility to meet people where they are.” This is particularly challenging as the spaces are currently quiet, and there is a lack of people to connect with, which makes it difficult to promote the value of community.
However, this has created a new learning curve for Garrett as he is finding out the importance of member feedback. “Over the last year we’ve spent a lot of time listening. More than ever, people need to be heard. We’re going to get better at asking people what they like, what they don’t like.”
How does this improve the experience? Asking for feedback and listening to what people need enables Hygge “to make logical changes to improve the quality of the experience.”
As Cat Johnson concluded, from a member perspective and as a human, “We’re navigating the crazy, just as you are.”
Not for the first time, those taking part in the Convo emphasised the idea that “you cannot over-communicate” — this helps people to make sense of what is happening, and to take reassurance from decisions and changes that have to be made.
Garrett noted that “silence is a scary thing” and by communicating, and even by over-communicating, it helps to establish a two-way street between members and operators. Members can share what they need, and by meeting those needs, operators will provide an experience that doesn’t just bring people in, but keeps those people coming back.
Sign up for Cat’s next Convo on August 27: Member Communication Tools and Strategies. Convos are free to join and provide an invaluable opportunity to connect with other coworking and workspace operators, learn new ideas and strategies, and share knowledge.